ERIC Number: ED395527
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1992
The Telling of a Tale: Discourse Structure and Tense Use in Learners' Narratives.
Pragmatics and Language Learning, v3 p144-161 1992
A study investigated the use of verb tense by learners of English as a Second Language (ESL) from the perspective of narrative structure. Subjects were 16 adult intermediate-level ESL learners of varied linguistic backgrounds and 24 native speakers of English. All attended an oral telling of a Hawaiian trickster tale, with a brief introduction, using pictures for some key words and proper and place names written on a blackboard. The presentation was also tape-recorded and played back. Each subject then retold the story to an interviewer and wrote it out in class. Use of verb tense in the narratives was then analyzed, first by describing tense distribution and then by examining tense use in context. Results show that the ESL learners used past tense to mark foreground clauses and non-past to mark background clauses, unlike native speakers who do not rely primarily on tense or aspect markers to distinguish foreground from background. This suggests that ESL learners are likely to have to abandon this apparently functional and systematic use of tense in order to produce native-like discourse. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative; Journal Articles
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: For complete volume, see FL 023 890.