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ERIC Number: ED176586
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1978
Pages: 14
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: 0
A Quantitative Analysis of the Historical Present Tense in Narrative.
Schiffrin, Deborah
This paper presents the results of a quantitative analysis of the historical present tense (HP) in English. The tokens of HP in narrative clauses, such as "he's smiling, an' he picks up the card," are referentially equivalent to their past tense alternants in the phrases, "he was smiling an' he picked up the card." Previous analysis of HP view it as an expressive and subjective device; for example, it is argued that the HP/past tense alternation marks important transitions between narrative events. It is also said to have social correlates, for example, social class and speaker-hearer intimacy. A variable rule analysis of data from narratives told by Philadelphians in sociolinguistic interviews provides empirical support for some of the suggestions of earlier analyses. It also shows that various grammatical and expressive constructions, which integrate the clause into the temporal frame of the narrative and thus avoid ambiguity in time reference, have a positive effect. The implications of the results for the study of narrative and discourse are noted. (Author/AMH)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Tense (Verbs)
Note: Paper presented at the meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (Boston, Massachusetts, December 28, 1978)