TEMPORAL EXPRESSIVENESS OF THE NARRATIVE


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УДК 81.37:811.11(045)

                                                                                                           Chugu S.D.

Vinnytsia Institute of Trade and Economics of Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics, Vinnytsia

TEMPORAL EXPRESSIVENESS OF THE NARRATIVE

The study of semantic and functional differences between temporal expressions and temporal markers of different levels proves their various characteristics in the textual continuum.  The research of the functions of temporal markers on the text level provides evidence of their importance for temporal cohesion, indexing and temporal framing of textual situations and events. The author analyzes semantic, compositional, and functional features of temporal markers to reveal their role in creating temporality of the text.

Key words: text temporality, textual function, temporal expression, temporal marker, textual continuum.

Вивчення семантичних і функційних відмінностей виразів з темпоральною семантикою та темпоральних маркерів різних рівнів доводить, що вони виконують у текстовій площині різні ролі. Результати дослідження функцій темпоральних маркерів рівня тексту підтверджують їх важливість для створення темпоральної когезії, індексування та оформлення текстових подій і ситуацій. Авторка аналізує семантичні, композиційні та функційні  особливості темпоральних маркерів для розкриття їх ролі у створенні темпоральності тексту.

Ключові слова: темпоральність тексту, текстова функція, темпоральний чинник, темпоральний маркер, площина тексту.

Изучение семантических и функциональных различий выражений темпоральной семантики и темпоральных маркеров  разных уровней  доказывает, что они выполняют в текстовом пространстве разные роли. Результаты исследования функций темпоральных маркеров текстового уровня подтверждают их важность для создания темпоральной когезии, индексации и оформления текстовых событий и ситуаций. Автор анализирует семантические, композиционные и функциональные особенности темпоральных маркеров для установления их роли в создании темпоральности текста.

Ключевые слова: темпоральность текста, текстовая функция, темпоральный показатель, темпоральный маркер, текстовое пространство.

Introduction. New developments in the fields of discourse studies and cognitive science resulted in the changes in the theoretical considerations within the framework of narrative analysis that shifted from traditional formal-structural to socio-cognitive perspective.

The new approach based on the implementation of integrated research of semantic, functional, cognitive and compositional characteristics of linguistic means in discourse and literary text outlines the topicality of the study that aims at  deepening the understanding of meanings and functions of language devices of temporal semantics in the narrative.

The fiction model of reality is created in the narrative in accordance with the world model each language community deals with as the result of cognition of the world.  Time and space as basic forms of existence of matter are obligatory essential parameters, present in the literary text continuum in the form of temporality and spatiality. Temporal expressions that function on the two major levels of the narrative (propositional and textual) demonstrate their features to the full in the text continuum.

Discussion. The study of the functions of temporal expressions reveals their vital role for indexing and coordinating text events and situations, in addition to their overall significance in creating text temporality through the use of a number of lexical units that convey temporal meanings. In the narrative that is characterized structurally as a linear arrangement of actions, situations, and events, situational events are commonly ordered in a temporal sequence and such sequences are expressed both explicitly and implicitly with the help of numerous temporal markers of different levels as well as combinations of temporal markers. As the narration does not necessarily develop chronologically in a linear order, situations and events in the literary text are represented in different ways, their temporal characteristics being revealed through a system of various linguistic devices: grammatical, lexical, and lexico-grammatical.

As to grammatical devices proper, in discourse studies tense is viewed as a temporal feature that locates an event occurrence in the past, present, or future and is usually oriented at a referential point that often coincides with the time of utterance/ narration.

Focus of grammar studies of tense forms is mostly on the differentiation of the notional category of temporality and the grammatical time proper (grammatical temporality). Languages were formerly believed to represent time through an elaborate system of grammatical tenses that can reflect real time in the actual speech time, when the departing point coincides with the very moment of speech or the moment of immediate perception. Besides, grammatical tenses express relative time in case when the departing point does not coincide with the moment of speech [2, 6, 7].

The event structure, conveyed commonly by lexical means, is processed in accordance with the temporal and contingency relations relative to the main event (or the initial one in a succession of events / situations / actions). This information is also derived from general world knowledge that is associated with the event or situation presented in the narrative. Functions of temporal expressions of various levels and structures are different: subordinating conjuncts are usually viewed as explicit expression means of ordering, while sequential occurrences of tense verb forms are believed to express coordinated event structures. As syntactic information and tense morphology are not specific enough to provide proper interpretation of temporal features of situations, the background of events world knowledge and lexical meanings are of special importance in the narrative.

Recent studies of linguistic means of temporal semantics in the language resulted in the convincing evidence of their complex functions in the temporal continuum of the narrative. It includes the spheres of anteriority, simultaneity and posteriority [3] as well as various overlapped aspects.

Studies of the ways to represent events and situations in narratives resulted in the fruitful framework of situation models, multidimensional ones in particular, that prove effective for language comprehension due to numerous theoretical and methodological developments which led to a deeper understanding of mental representations of events and the explication of the role of language devices in their verbalization [1, 10].

New approaches to the study of the text necessitate regarding textual events and situations in terms of framing and perspectivizing as these are significantly prevalent in discourse and text [12, 9]. Traditionally time is viewed mainly in terms of three distinct spheres of past, present and future, events and situations being regarded as ‘located’ on the temporal axis. The division between the spheres is connected with the moment of speech, which is not stable, as it constantly shifts (moves) in time, changing its place on the temporal axis. Moreover, the moment of speech serves a kind of borderline between the past and the future. Still narrative organization is characterized by temporal coherence, though so far linguistic research focused on text (discourse) markers whereas temporal markers need further study to reveal their semantic, pragmatic and syntactic features in the literary text to the full.

The cognitive function of temporal expressions in the narrative is to activate knowledge structures that help process and interpret situations and events correctly and consequently to maintain the ‘eventuality’ flow adequately [13].

Time in the narrative is an essential parameter of the model of the world created in accordance with the rules and laws similar to those of the real world, so the way they are perceived and processed by the human mind are the result of the collective cognitive experiences. Duran N.D., Mccarthy P.M., Gaesser A.C., Mcnamara D.S. [4] designed the framework in which three measures are considered to be motivated by a situational model that outlines a process by which readers make use of linguistic features, as well as background knowledge, to link incoming events to their shared event structures in working memory.  Readers construct a situation model by indexing the shared links between events as they encounter them in a text. With respect to time, shared information is based on three major processing cues: tense, aspect, and adverbial temporal phrases. These temporal features are regarded as processing instructions on how to integrate incoming information into prior event contexts, while temporal coherence emerges as temporal information that is consistently linked throughout discourse [15].

According to Gennari S.P., the event structure, it being either a state or an event, conveyed by the lexical meaning, is immediately processed with respect to the temporal and contingencies relations relative to the main event, so event structure becomes central in sentence interpretation [5], while tense is a temporal feature that locates an event occurrence in the past, present, or future, and is usually established around a referential point, namely time of utterance [11].

The category to represent objective time is a very complicated one, so languages have a system of lingual devices of different ontological status to reflect it adequately [8, 12]. Time denotation in the language is mostly expressed via lexical, lexico-grammatical and grammatical means, temporal expressions being traditionally divided into “present-oriented” or absolutive expressions of time which distribute human time perception into the spheres of the present, past, future and non-absolutive time denotators that are not connected with the present moment, but correlate events in terms of their precedence, simultaneousness or futurity.

In the narrative time denotation of the situation /event /situational event is represented in a number of ways. The finite verb forms usually signify more generalized characteristics of the reflected processes, while the lexical means convey more detailed descriptions like in the examples they met Tom and they met Tom yesterday at 5 p.m. Such temporal expressions are regarded as temporal indices. As to their structure temporal expressions are derivations of explicit elements that include specifiers and deictics, or combine absolutes, time of day, and time periods. Due to the semantic, pragmatic and structural characteristics temporal indices reflect evaluations of temporal coherence quite accurately. In addition they are believed to generate profiles of temporal cohesion corresponding to human interpretations of temporal coherence via the linguistic features of temporal dimension of the situation.

Information presented in the narrative is not only lexical in nature but also derived from general world knowledge that is associated with the events described and is based on particular expectations common to the language community. The role of world knowledge and lexical meanings is particularly relevant because tense morphology and syntactic information alone are not specific enough to provide proper interpretation as overlapping, anteriority and precedence are possible temporal occurrences. Thus discourse / narrative world model should be based on the recognition of framing that is viewed as the tool for setting boundaries to define text segments [9, 14]. We would argue that temporal framing is broad enough to extend over a number of segments, at times including the whole narration, though it is more likely to be composed of separate, often chronologically ‘distorted’, sequences of events and situations.

In the excerpt I was twenty-five, pregnant and on the brink of divorce. Five years earlier, life had seemed an endless passage of open doors; now I could hear them clanging shut, one by one: marriage, job, dreams. My one pleasure was the Botanical Gardens, with its mossy paths, its tangled walkways, its quiet avenues of oaks and lindens. It became my refuge, and when David was at work (which was almost all the time) I walked there, enjoying the scent of cut grass and the play of light through the tree branches. It was surprisingly quiet; I noticed few other visitors, and was glad of it. There was one exception, however: an elderly lady in a dark coat who always sat on the same bench under the trees, sketching. In rainy weather, she brought an umbrella; on sunny days, a hat. That was Josephine Clarke; and twenty years later, with one daughter married and the other still at school, I have never forgotten her, or the story she told me of her first and only love [16: 80-81] the departing point for the narration is located in the past. It is indicated by a number of temporal markers ‘was twenty-five’, ‘five years earlier’, ‘now’, ‘in rainy weather’, ‘on sunny days’, ’always’. Tense forms ‘had seemed’, ‘became’, ‘could hear’, ‘noticed’, ‘brought’, ‘was’, ‘have forgotten’ are not dynamic, their main function is to provide a detailed characterization of the temporality of actions that occurred at different times in the past.

The analysis of the structure of the temporal plane of the passage results in identifying several temporal layers and sublayers of the past of the narrative:

anterior past                                                       five years earlier

narration time               narration point              have never forgotten

narration period            always, on sunny days

posterior past                                                     became, was

Given the specificity of meanings and functions of the temporal markers under analysis it is necessary to note that another means of indication of the departing point is significant in the example analyzed, namely the word “now”, the lexical meaning of which is that of the present moment or period. The case is the illustration of grammatical transposition, that can be either regular (stylistically neutral) or stylistically marked.

Temporal boundaries do not necessarily coincide with the boundaries in the narrative as demonstrated by ‘now I could hear’ that refers not to the time of narration but to ‘five years earlier’. Moreover, the effect of temporal violations that result in readers’ anticipations of developments of certain events indicates that narratives as works of fiction do not comply with the rigid laws of progression from the past via the present into the future that are characteristic of the real world. In the make-believe world events and situations, though located at a definite point / period, still are free to be narrated whenever required by the author’s intentions and the plot development.

The time of the narrative precedes the time of text creation which explains the relative nature of verb forms used to locate textual events and situations in the temporal dimension of the literary text. Besides, the starting point for the events in the narrative are usually placed in a certain period in the past, which becomes the exact departing moment, particular time for the narration. The distinction between real/absolutive and relative/non-absolutive time denotation is not of much importancein the narrative, due to the fact that the same verb tense-forms are used to express both absolutive and non-absolutive time, but reference with the moment of speech or/ and point of narration is relevant for the verb forms expressing dynamic character of actions as there are verb-forms that focus more on the characterization of actions but not so much on their dynamism as on the detailed description of the action in a particular temporal sphere.

The main textual function of temporal markers is to order the events in terms of their anteriority, simultaneity or posteriority. Selecting an appropriate discourse marker is complicated, as one and the same tem­poral relation is verbalized differently depending on the syntactic and lexical properties of the clauses in the text. Besides, such broad categories as tense, aspect and syn­tactic structures are realized in the textual continuum simultaneously.

The temporal aspect of the world model of a work of art, though subjective and imaginary, gives a very vivid and convincing illusion of real, true-to-life and objectivized world parameter. Temporal expressions can be further interpreted in terms of their textual functions as they are involved in the temporal orientation of events and situations, the continuity /discontinuity function, text structuring, integration of several sentences into one structure within one temporal frame.

Theoretical considerations of various dimensions in the narrative, subjectivity of individual perception and consequent ‘individualized’ interpretation alongside other variables aid adequate interpretation within the framework of social-functional and cognitive approaches. In addition, narratives are a valuable source of cognitive patterns that reflect the peculiarities of perception of time and its metaphorical representations as well as numerous conceptual projections of two and three-dimension continuum that call for further study in the context of cross-cultural connections.

Conclusion. Modern linguistic studies offer theoretically well-founded assumptions that help integrate relevant concepts and findings from other fields. Recent findings might provide more insight into general mechanisms of event comprehension in terms of their role in the realization of temporality as one of significant characteristics of discourse / text.

Semantic properties of temporal expressions in the narrative are connected with the notions of simultaneity, anteriority and posteriority that are conveyed by temporal subordinating conjunctions, lexical units, temporal prepo­sitions as well as combinations of different devices. Their semantics is usually described by the kind of the temporal relation they establish between two events: they ei­ther overlap with (simultaneity), succeed (anteri­ority), or precede (posteriority) each other. Pragmatic features of temporal markers are related to style, mostly to the values (neutral or stylistically marked). In addition, their value in­dicates the speaker’s attitude (positive, negative, neutral) towards the kind of temporal relation between events. Structural (compositional) features of temporal markers are represented by prepositional phrases and subordinate clauses, both structures refer to the realization of the event that acts as a temporal reference point. Compositional features serve as signals of thematic shift or continuity in narratives and as segmentation markers that enhance comprehension.

Narratives are multi-dimensional world models that need complex research methodology of  study. Further studies of the role and functions of textual temporal markers are to focus on the research of the emotional dimension of the narrative that often is a demonstration of purposeful violations of spatial unity and temporal chronology of text events to create certain stylistic effects. The theoretical framework for further analysis of the functions of temporal expressions in the narrative should be based on the assumption of time as one of the key concepts of culture. Such an approach calls for valid research of the role of different linguistic means involved in the representation of temporal notions in the narrative and the use of specially devised approach with the elements of contextual, conceptual, semantic and structural methods integrated to get well-founded results.

 

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ILLUSTRATION MATERIAL

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