The Nature of Narratives (Discourse Analysis)

…narratives are not simply a linear string of sentences or clauses but are in fact hierarchically organized such that some parts of the text are subordinate to others…

Do you agree or disagree with this? This statement is from a recent book on Linguistics.

The question regards narratives. Narratives are what might be described as stories. But any time you are describing any sort of sequence of events to someone else, no doubt you are engaging in a narrative. When someone asks you, “What happened yesterday?” generally you will respond with a “story” or a narrative if you will.

So the question is, when we humans recite ordinary narratives, not structured novels or short stories mind you, but the narratives that we tell in day to day life, do we simply usher forth a string of sentences that have no particular relation to each other or do we instead arrange the sentences in some sort of a hierarchy where some of the text is subordinate or superordinate to others.

I would say that narratives have a hierarchical structure where some of the text is subordinate to other parts of the text, but it might be hard to describe this sort of thing exactly.

I think everyone agrees that novels and short stories are designed hierarchically so that some of the text is subordinate to other parts of the text. This is interesting because it implies that anytime you tell a narrative in day to day life about whatever mundane thing you are describing, you may be in effect writing a little novel or short story in your head, which is probably exactly what you are doing. So we are probably all creative writers writing little literary texts in our minds and speech all through our lives.

This branch of Linguistics is called Discourse Analysis and it’s a lot more complicated than you might think. They study this sort of thing and write up some pretty hard to understand papers along these lines.

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