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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2013

2 - Narrative analysis


It is generally agreed that a narrative is the presentation in discourse of a sequence of past events. In discussions of fiction and drama, this sequence is often referred to as the plot. Dating from Aristotle's definition of the plot of a tragedy, it is also agreed that this sequence does not begin or end by chance, but has a beginning, a middle and an end recognized by some principle, so that the listener knows when a narrative has begun and when it has ended. This chapter will develop a tool kit for the analysis of oral narratives of personal experience. It builds upon the foundation laid in L&W in 1967 as well as the work of other narratologists, with an eye to answering the questions raised in Chapter 1. One might work towards a theory of narrative construction founded on formal syntactic analysis, but that is not the goal here. Many of the questions that are raised are issues of human values, involving concepts like reportability, tellability, credibility, objectivity, polarization and integration. In building this foundation, I will be drawing upon a number of grammatical distinctions that are rarely recognized in the narratological literature: the difference between coordinate and subordinate conjunctions; between realis and irrealis moods; between progressive and punctual aspects. The comparative and the negative will play a major role in this analysis, and the semantics of many verbs peculiar to English. Since many of my readers will be drawn from the humanities and social sciences outside of linguistics, I will try to define and exemplify each of these as they are introduced, hoping that linguists will be willing to pass over material that is second nature to them.