LINGUIST List 21.4291

Thu Oct 28 2010

Diss: Disc Analysis: Nir: 'Clause Packages as Constructions in ...'

Editor for this issue: Mfon Udoinyang <>

        1.     Bracha Nir , Clause Packages as Constructions in Developing Narrative Discourse

Message 1: Clause Packages as Constructions in Developing Narrative Discourse
Date: 26-Oct-2010
From: Bracha Nir <>
Subject: Clause Packages as Constructions in Developing Narrative Discourse
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Institution: Tel-Aviv University Program: Department of Linguistics Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2008

Author: Bracha Nir

Dissertation Title: Clause Packages as Constructions in Developing Narrative Discourse

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

Subject Language(s): English (eng) Hebrew (heb)

Dissertation Director(s): Ruth A. Berman

Dissertation Abstract:

The study investigates the interaction between form and function in constructing the cohesive texture of personal-experience narrative texts from a multi-faceted perspective. To this end, quantitative, functionally-motivated analyses are applied to the linguistic domains of referential choice, syntactic connectivity, temporal organization, and narrative informativeness. Each of the four domains is analyzed within and across the boundaries of 'Clause Packages', detailed and specified as an innovative unit of discourse segmentation. The Clause Package is a discourse construct evolving out of Berman and Slobin's (1994) insight that 'a skillful narrative does not simply consist of a linear chain of successive events? Rather, events must be packaged into hierarchical constructions' (p. 13). In my analysis, the Clause Package constitutes a holistic unit of text that reflects both the syntactic and logico-temporal relations between clauses - as clearly defined units of semantic content and syntactic structure - as well as how information is packaged in a given piece of discourse.

The study devolves around an extensive database of 312 authentic (unpublished and non-edited) personal-experience narrative texts. Carefully controlled methods of data elicitation focused the entire database of texts around the shared, socially relevant discourse topic of 'problems between people'. These features of the corpus used for analysis yielded a database that enabled detailed empirical examination of the key research questions confronted in the study. This took the form of qualitative, functionally motivated analyses supported by extensive quantitative investigations, which were applied to parallel corpora of speaker-writers in two different languages (Hebrew and English) and four different age-groups (from middle childhood to adulthood). Importantly, the study employs these carefully comparable language samples as a basis for application of psycholinguistically motivated, explicit, and operationalizable criteria for the conceptual units of analysis.

The segments of text specified in this study include two major units of analysis: the clause as previously shown to be a viable element for linguistic analysis in different languages, genres, and modalities - here re-analyzed and re-defined in fully explicit terms for both Hebrew and English; and the Clause Package as a unit devised and motivated specifically in the present context. The notion of Clause Packages is based on an innovative typology of clause-combining relations, taking into account criteria of levels of assertion (Cristofaro, 2003), dependency (Lyons, 1968; Halliday, 1994), and integration (Givón, 1980; 1990). A range of analyses across the domains focused on in the study reveal these criteria as both cross-modally and cross-linguistically robust elements of analysis.

The study characterizes these units of discourse as 'constructions', in the sense this term is used in current advances in the framework of Construction Grammar, relating them to patterns of usage in text-embedded contexts. The analyses it provides of form-function patterns of usage reveal consistent relationships between clauses and between Clause Packages. Taken together, they motivate a particularly challenging proposal emerging from this study: that Clause Packages are themselves constituents of an even larger construction - the (narrative) text as a whole.

Page Updated: 28-Oct-2010