According to Peter Hartmann (1970: 91), every text essentially functions as a
contribution to a dialogue (see also Coulthard 1977: 100). For various text
types, the dialogue between producer and receiver is carried out with a greater
or lesser MEDIATION in regard to SITUATIONALITY (I.4.11.5; cf. Beaugrande &
Dressler 1970: Ch. VIII). In conversation,. mediation is not extensive, due to
mutual awareness of participants, usually (except via telephone or the like)
supported by physical presence. The immediacy of the communicative situation
leads to heavy reliance on INTERTEXTUALITY (184.108.40.206; Beaugrande & Dressler
1978: Ch. IX), the principle whereby the textuality of any one text arises from
interaction with other texts. What is cohesive, coherent, and acceptable in
conversation may be quite different from what meets those standards in other
modes of communication.
In VI.4.2 I noted the dual status of texts in discourse as both action and
meta-action, i.e. verbal monitoring of actions and situations. These two
outlooks can lead to different research methods for the study of conversation:
The action-oriented perspective began with the behaviorist definition of
conversation as a pairing of stimulus and response (Ruesch 1957: 189). This
narrow approach was replaced by the investigation of TURN-TAKING, in which a
discourse action and reaction are seen as constituents of a “speech exchange
system” (Sacks, Schegloff, & Jefferson 1974: 696). Here, sociologists have
undertaken to define the ways people select or delegate speaking turns in a
conversation. Most recently, conversational actions have been probed from the
standpoint of how people plan to attain goals (Winograd 1977a; Allen &
Perrault 1978; Cohen 1978; McCalla 1978a, 1978b; Allen 1979; cf. VI.A).
The meta-action-oriented perspective is obliged to deal with content and topic,
issues pursued at first with hesitation (Sacks 1968, cited in Coulthard 1977:
75) in absence of general methods to deal with meaning. Little can be gained by
the common linguistic procedure of assigning structural descriptions to abstract
sentences. However, advances have been forthcoming from disciplines besides
linguistics: sociology (Sacks, Schlegloff), discourse analysis (Sinclair,
Coulthard),1 [1. Many early the papers on conversational analysis were circulated as
mimeographs and were difficult to obtain. The situation worsened after the
sudden death of Harvey Sacks in 1975, whose collected papers were published only
many years later.]
and artificial intelligence (Grosz 1977; Schank
1977; Lehnert 1978),” so that topic and content are gradually becoming more
thoroughly explored in this domain.
Earlier work on conversation understandably preferred to address relatively
restricted domains. The study of comparatively stabilized communicative
situations, such as rituals (Salmond 1974), verbal duels (Dundes, Leach, &
Ozkõk 1972; Labov 1972a, 1972c), litigation (Frake 1972; Leodolter 1975), and
chanting (Scherzer 1974), is concemed with a limited range of conventional
topics and actions. The study of “registers”
(characteristic styles of text production in typical situations or among certain
groups, e.g. dialect options, (cf. Blom & Gumperz 1972; Ervin-Tripp 1972),
focuses more on the variations within the virtual systems of sound and
grammar/syntax than on topic or action.
Harvey Sacks (cited in Coulthard 1977: 75) states as a “general rule about
convetsation that it is your business not to tell people what you can suppose
they know.” It might be more accurate to state that a great deal of
conversational material is indeed already known to all participants, but that
the particular configuration of text-world models in discourse is not
known as such or in the conscious mind, due to new combinations, limitations,
modifications, or directions (see IV.3.14). We could say that the DISCOURSE
MODEL which conversational participants co-operate in building (cf. Reichman
1978; Rubin 1978b; Webber 1978) often fails to provide a complete or exact match
with the stored knowledge of those who enter the receiver role. This partial
match is especially attributable to the enormous diversity of sources for
conversational materials, such as the following:
Typical and determinate concepts and relations in world knowledge can safely
be taken to be accessible to conversational participants at large, e.g. that the
sky is blue, water boils and freezes, humans live in houses, and so on. Such
knowledge is therefore too trite for conversing even with strangers.
Cultural and social attitudes, such as conventions of politeness or
standards of desirability and value (cf. VI.A.10), can be presupposed to apply
in most situations, unless signals are given to the contrary.
Conventional scripts and goals serve to alert conversationalists to what
people are expected to say, and why, in familiar situations. In the enactment of
scripts, e.g., going to a restaurant, participants need not provide explanation
of why they are speaking, as long as they are conforming to expectations.
Apperceivable traits of the current situation are presumably known to all
participants present or can be pointed out with little difficulty. The countless
conversations about weather fall under this heading, aided by the social
convention that weather is a universally acceptable topic.
Episodic knowledge of shared experiences among participants applies when
some past situation involved the presence of people in the current conversation.
This knowledge contributes to the speaker’s internal model of the hearer (cf.
I.6.1), and extends the store of shared situations
(cf. Clark & Marshall 1978). The speaker may assign as defaults and
preferences the components of his or her own self-model to the hearer-model
(Cohen 1978: 93; cf. VIII.1.14).
Conversation differs from other text types especially in its greater reliance
on SITUATIONALITY (VIII.1.1 ), whether current or shared in the past.
This factor allows rich UPDATING of expectations and steady FEEDBACK about the
effects of utterances (cf. Rubin
1978b). The participants’ plans and goals will be more directly evident or
firmly established in prior knowledge (cf. the notion of “life themes” in
Schank & Abelson 1977).
This immediate situationality lends conversation an enormous range and
flexibility. Paul Grice (1975, 1978) has undertaken to systemize conversation
somewhat by formulating some “conversational maxims” with the status of
preferences or defaults. In comparing his maxims to my own model, I noticed what
seemed to be some unclearness and overlap in his definitions. I accordingly
asked Grice himself about the disputed points, and my discussion below
incorporates the explanations he kindly afforded (for a more detailed treatment,
cf. Beaugrande & Dressler 1980: Ch. VI).
The principle of CO-OPERATION is cited as: “Make your conversational
contribution such as is required, at the state at which it occurs, by the
accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged”
(Grice 1975: 45; cf. Clark & C1ark 1977: 122ff.). My own criteria of
INTENTIONALITY and ACCEPTABILITY (I.4.11.3f.) seem applicable here in regard to
participant attitudes, and that of SITUATIONALITY in regard to “direction and
purpose.” I cited some examples of deliberately unco-operative utterances in
II.1.8 and IV.3.7.
The principle of QUANTITY is cited as: “Make your contribution as informative
as (but not more informative than) is required” (Grice 1975: 45). This
principle concerns the amount of content presented, and seems related to my
notion of RELEVANCE to communicative plans (cf.
I.4.14; VII.2.8). I would not equate the principle with my own notion of
informativity as expounded in Chapter IV, because I am concerned more with
knownness and expectedness than with volume. A text which is “more informative
than is required” would, in my model, be too discontinuous or discrepant (cf.
IV.l.12); for Grice, such a text could be merely too extensive.
The principle of QUALITY is concerned with truthfulness: “Do not say what you
believe to be false, or that for which you lack adequate evidence” (Grice
1975: 46). The expectation that a textual world ought to match at least the
determinate elements and configurations of a corresponding world knowledge
pattern is, I suspect, stronger for text types other than conversation (e.g.
science texts, cf. VII.1.8.6). Indeed, conversation often demands false
assertions for the sake of social conventions, e.g., insincere praise of other
people’s appearance or possessions. Also, the pursuit of a plan may require
false assertions for motives such as we saw in the stage play in VI.4. Still,
these usages are probably parasitic on a principle such as Grice has proposed,
or else they would not be effective.
The principle of RELATION is cited simply as “be relevant” (Grice 1975: 46).
Grice’s notion subsumes at least some factors of my notions of relevance
(oriented toward a plan or goal) and knowledge access (what kind of contents are
in principle related to each other). One could devise cases where these two
notions of mine come into conflict, for example, when someone’s plan calls for
a sudden change of content to a topic not accessible from the previous one (e.g.
Mrs. Haggett’s attempt to stall in (86) of sample (188); or the mother’s
change of song in (15) of sample (247). But these cases could plausibly be seen
as violations of normal conversation.
The principle of MANNER is rather diverse: (1) “be perspicuous”; (2)
“avoid obscurity of expression “; (3) “avoid ambiguity”; (4) “be
brief”; and (5) “be orderly” (Grice 1975: 46). In a recent presentation at
the University of Bielefeld Symposium on Theories of Language Use (June 1979),
Grice also proposed to state this maxim as “Frame whatever you say such as to
be appropriate to a reply.” These notions can be clarified as follows (I rely
here again on Grice’s explanations). Be perspicuous would yield this
maxim: “Be such that the intentions you have for what you say are plainly
served.” Avoid obscurity could be stated as: “Do not be difficult to
understand.” Avoid ambiguity can be rephrased as: “Do not express
yourself such that your audience will take meanings other than what you
intend.” Be brief could be: “Do not use more time than necessary to
make your contribution”; hence, “quantity” concerns how much you say, and
“brevity” concerns how much you take to say it. Be orderly could be
restated as: “Present your materials in the order in which they are
required.” Grice’s illustration of appropriateness to a rep/y was the
use of formats suitable for a denial.
Grice also has introduced the notion of IMPLICATURE (not a maxim) for
utterances whose intended utilization is recoverable from their conceptual
content only via social conventions (cf. also McCawley 1978; Sadock 1978). A
well-known illustration is the utterance:
(208) Can you pass the salt?
where a request is presented like an inquiry about someone’s abilities. The need for implicature arises from the ASYMMETRY between the connectivities of concepts/relations and those of planning. My notion of RELEVANCE might account for how implicatures are created and recovered.
The principles suggested by Grice and others exert powerful controls on
expectations, defaults, and preferences in conversation. Their violation may elicit regulative utterances such as:
So what? [violation: co-operation]
Big deal! [violation: quantity]
Why are you telling me this? [violation: perspicuity]
I don’t know what you’re talking about! [violation: obscurity]
These signals cannot be used freely on participants with pronounced social dominance over the speaker. Also, some social situations require people to converse in absence of materials needed to live up to Grice’s principles. In many discussions of the weather, (209) through (212) would not be usabIe responses.
We can distinguish between the DISCOURSE ACTIONS of INVOKING: calling up
material presumed to be known to participants; and INFORMING: modifying known
material or presenting new material (cf. VI.4.14). The distinction is one of
degree rather than opposition, and exists not in the material as such, but in
the participants’ outlook on material and on each other. Invoking is a good
means for maintaining the desirable social states of acceptance and solidarity
(VI.4.10), and thus accounts for many conversations of low informativity.
Invoking can serve for exploring the attitudes of certain other people whose
co-operation is needed for the speaker’s plans.
1.9 I have proposed to define TOPIC with reference to the density of conceptual-relational configurations in text-world models (e.g. in III.4.27). A single utterance in conversation might not have its own topic, but might rather present material which would become topical if developed in follow-up utterances (Schank 1977: 424). Hence, topic is a dynamic aspect of the flow and shift of knowledge drawn from the various sources enumerated in VIII.1.4ff. Topic shifts/are especialIy pronounced among participants with rich knowledge stores regarding each other’s personal histories. An illustration would be this dialogue I overheard on the University of Florida campus: .
Hey, what’s happening?
Keeping busy. You going to the game Saturday?
If I get the physics paper done. Your brother back yet?
Sometime next week. Got hung up somehow.
(213.5) Sounds just like him.
Without a context of shared experience, these utterances would hardly occur together. Conversely, unco-operative speakers can deflect interaction by deliberately discontinuous shifts, as in this recent campus exchange:
BIBLE EVANGELIST: It’s a fearful thing to meet with God the King!
STUDENT: Like when Godzilla meets King Kong?
The student used superficial similarities among expressions to move the topic from religion to a monster movie made some years ago.
1.10 If one participant has the initiative, others can restrict their contributions to simple feedback-”commentation” in the sense of Roland Posner (1972) (cf. IV.3.8). Consider this exchange between Sam Weller and another servant in the Pickwick Papers (Dickens 1836-37: 547):2 [2. For the sake of illustration, I omit the cues such as ‘said so-and-so; in these passages, unless—as in (237)—they are relevant to the discussion. I have normalized a few dialect spellings for the ease of non-English readers.]
I’m afraid I’ve been dissipating.
That’s a very bad complaint that.
And yet the temptation, you see, Mr. Weller.
Ah, to be sure.
Plunged into the very vortex of society, you know, Mr. Weller.
(215.6) Dreadful indeed.
Sam’s (ironic) contributions display his solidarity without affecting topic flow. This type of response can extend back further than to a previous utterance, though clarification may be needed (Dickens 1836-37: 552):
What a lucky fellow you are!
How do you mean?
That there young lady. She knows what’s what, she does. [Mr.
Weller closed one eye, and shook his head from side to side.]
I’m afraid you’re a cunning fellow, Mr. Weller.
first remark looks back to a topic raised some time before — the youngest
daughter of the footman’s master “leaning heavily on his shoulder’ —
so that its motivation is not at once obvious. The final remark (216.4) of the footman
Sam’s feedback as grounds for inferring his mental abilities.
1.11 It should be possible to state some strategies for generating feedback. Like many other issues, topic flow depends on how knowledge is acquired, stored, and utilized (cf. III.3.7). First, participants should know what elements of knowledge are connected to each other, for example, by appealing to global patterns like frames, schemas, plans, and scripts. Second, participants should distinguish what elements are INTERESTING because they involve possible PROBLEMS, that is, uncertainty of access or variability of node content in either real-world events and situations, or internal knowledge stores, e.g., how something is to be obtained or achieved, or how improbable or infrequent something is. By focusing on such problems, one can respond to many conversational contributions with follow-up questions via the LINK TYPES proposed in III.4.7ff.:
Why did you do that? [reason-of]
What happened then? [proximity in time-to]
How did you manage that? [enablement-of, instrument-of]
Why did you do that? [purpose-of]
What brought that on? [reason-of]
When did that happen? [time-of]
Where did that happen? [location-of]
What’s it made of? [substance-of]
How did you find out? [apperception-of]
How did you think that up? [cognition-of]
Where did you get it from? [entry-into-possession-of]
To use these questions, participants would search the applicable knowledge
pattern for problematic entries (cf. examples
in Schank 1977). The acceptability of a question rises with the uncertainty of
the elements in its focus, and with their relevance to an event, action, object,
or situation involved. A statement like:
I fell in love last night.
could sensibly be responded to with (218), (221), (222), or (223), but hardly with (217), (219), (220), and (224) would be less likely: falling in love is popularly supposed not to be guided by reason or purpose, nor to have substance. A good test for problematic and interesting aspects of some assertion is to try the effects of these various follow-up questions upon it. Put into a quasi-Gricean maxim, but with my terms, we obtain: “Select an active node of the discourse world and pursue from it a pathway whose linkage or goal node is problematic or variable.”
1.13 The relevance of such linkages directs the course of conversation in many ways. Here Mr. Pickwick is hearing one of Sam WelIer’ piquant stories (Dickens 1836-37: 651):
(229.1) ‘Next morning he gets up, has a fire lit, orders in three shillings worth of crumpets, toasts them all, eats them all, and blows his brains out’.
(229.2) ‘What did he do that for?, inquired Mr. Pickwick abruptly; for he was considerably startled by this tragical termination of the narrative.
Although the pro-form ‘that’ is itself non-determinate, there is no doubt that Mr. Pickwick’s follow-up question (229.2) is directed only toward the final action of ‘blowing one’s brains out’, normally requiring an unusually powerful “reason-of’ linkage. People ‘get up’, ‘light fires’, ‘eat crumpets’, etc. in the normal course of life.
Actions of some participant that appear unique or without reason are likely
topics for the conversation (Dickens 1836-37: 651):
Will you allow me to inquire why you make up your bed under
that there deal table?
Cause I was always used to a four-poster afore I came here, and I find the legs
of the table answer as well.
A speaker can encourage conversation by withholding some problematic knowledge and allowing others to make guesses. A cobbler Sam meets in debtors’ prison turns out to have a very informative reason for his arrest (Dickens 1836-37: 653) (231.1-5) This reason is so non-expected that a regulatory interchange concerning believability ensues (231.6-7):
What do you suppose ruined me now?
Why, I suppose the beginning was that you got into debt.
Never owed a farthing. Try again.
You didn’t go to law, I hope?
Never in my life. The fact is, I was ruined by having money left me.
Come, come, that won’t do.
Oh I daresay you don’t believe it. I wouldn’t if I was you; but it’s true
all the same.
The final remark (231.7) clearly signals how participants project their own knowledge and beliefs onto others in conversation (VIII.1.4.5).
Topic flow can also move along links of class inclusion. The conversation
may be directed toward a class or superclass from which an instance or subclass
has been mentioned. In the following exchange between Sam WelIer and his father,
the discussion of the situation drifts onto a SUPERTOPIC (cf. Schank 1977) about
a prototype of the class of ‘prophets’ (Dickens 1836-37: 641) (232.1-2) :3
. To the extent that the elder Mr. Weller is himseIf included under the
heading ‘prophet’ by METACLASS INCLUSION (cf. IlI.3.20), we might have here
an example of a METATOPIC (cf. Schank 1977).
(232.1) WelI now, you ‘ve been a-prophesying away very fine, like a redfaced Nixon as the sixpenny books gives pictures on.
Who was he, Sammy?
This here gentleman was a prophet.
What’s a prophet?
Why, a man as tell what’s a-going to happen.
(232.6) I wish I’d known him, Sammy. Perhaps he might have throwed a small light on that here liver complaint as we was a-speaking of just now. Howsoever, if he’s dead and ain’t left the business to nobody, there’s an end on it. Go on, Sammy.
The elder Mr. Weller steers the topic back to an earlier one (the ‘liver complaint’ of his wife’s pastor) and then signals, with ‘go on’, a return to the previous point (232.1), where the digression occurred (232.6).
1.16 The flow of topic can also be guided by traits or objects of the current situation (VIII.l.4.4). When Mr. Pickwick is driven by the elder Weller to ‘the turnpike at Mile-End’, this topic shifts to the ‘pike-keeper’ (i.e. toll taker) (Dickens 1836-37: 318):
Very queer life is a pike-keeper’s, sir.
Yes; very curious life--very uncomfortable.
There alI on ‘em men as has met with some disappointment in life.
(233.5) Yes. Consequence of which they retires from the world and shuts themselves up in pikes; partly with the view of being solitary, and partly to revenge themselves on mankind by taking tolls.
These examples illustrate conversations whose components are less goal-directed
than those we looked at in the stage play in VI.4. They are typical of
situations where people are motivated by social factors to uphold a continuity
of communication. That continuity requires a corresponding continuity of topic,
but shifts may pursue a wide variety of links. Situational settings and
participants’ episodic apperception and know ledge can readily be used, since
they rest upon experiential continuity.
The question of how SPEAKING TURNS are allotted is correlated both with topic
flow and with participant roles. Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson (1974)
distinguish two groups of conventions: (1) the current speaker selects the next
one, for instance, by direct address; and (2) the next speaker
“self-selects” by beginning to speak at an available utterance boundary.
Conversations contain remarkably few long silences, and little overlap among
utterances. Participants must have powerful and efficient strategies for
introducing their contributions at the opportune instant. Sacks et al. (1974:
709) note the heuristic role of the sentence as an indicator of completing
utterances (cf. III.4.26), though sentences provide options for continuation in
many cases (cf. Coulthard 1977: 59). To retain the turn and discourage
interruptions, people can insert cues of incompleteness, such as ‘however’,
‘and then too’, so that the intention to continue is evident (cf. Sacks’
notion of “utterance incompletor” cited in Coulthard 1977: 57). The speaker
can also announce a forthcoming series of contributions, e.g. these utterances
at a (yawn) recent university meeting:
I’d like to say three things about that.
(235) There are several points we’re overlooking here.
The speaker hopes that no reply will come except at most an encouragement to continue. Anything else would be considered as clear an interruption as breaking into the midst of a half-uttered sentence.
1.19 The assignment of turns can also depend on the distribution of knowledge among participants. Someone reputed to be very knowledgeable on a topic has a right to be heard if the topic comes up in conversation. Such is the case with Mr.Pickwick’s remark made ‘hoping to start a subject which all the company could take a part in discussing’ (Dickens 1836-37: 293):
Curious little nooks in a great place like London these old inns are.
(236.2) By Jove, you have hit upon something that one of us at least would talk upon forever. You’ll draw old Jack Bamber out.
And Jack Bamber was indeed ‘the figure that now started forward and burst into an animated torrent of words’. Similarly, people encourage conversation by searching memory for a special topic that a given participant, especially a socially important personage, should know about (Dickens 1836-37: 530):
“Have you seen his lordship’s mail cart, Bantam?” inquired the Honourable
Mr. Crushton after a short pause, during which […] Mr. Crushton had been
reflecting upon what subject his lordship could talk about best.
“Dear me, no,” replied the M.C .; “a mail-cart! What an excellent
(237.3) “Gwacious heavens!” said his lordship, “I though evewebody had seen the new mail cart; it’s the neatest, pwettiest, gwacefulIest tbing that ever wan upon wheels. Painted wed, with cweam piebald. [etc.]”4 [4. His lordship has an infantile speech habit of replacing [r] with [w].]
This ‘gwacious’ conversationalist was ‘the richest young man in Bath’.
1.20 Prior knowledge among participants also plays a part in QUESTION ANSWERING. Truthful answers that fail to account for the questioner’s purpose may not be appropriate, as in Lehnert’s (1978: 5) samples:
Do you drink?
Of course. AlI humans drink.
Who wasn’t in class today?
George Washington and Moby Dick.
Would you like to dance?
Sure. You know anyone who wants to?
The questioner of (238.1) and (240.1) presumably wants to offer drinking and dancing to the addressee, and the answer violates the principle of cooperation (VIII. 1.6. 1). The questioner of (239.1) doubtless wishes to learn the identity of those members of the class who should have been present, but weren’t, so that the answer violates the principle of quantity (VIII.I.6.2).
1.21 Shared procedures for maintaining coherence allow considerable economy in exchanges like this (Ortony 1978b):
Would like a piece of cake?
(241.2) I’m on a diet.
Ortony argues that the coherence of the answer rests on an underlying chain of inferences such as the following:
People on diets ought not to eat fattening things.
Cake is fattening.
I ought not to eat any cake.
(241.2d) I will not eat any cake.
points out (1978b: 76) that any of these steps in the chain of reasoning could
also be mapped onto a surface utterance instead of (241.2). These steps must all
be available anyway for the discourse action of (241.2) to take effect.
1.22 Participants may be under a social obligation to correct inferable prior knowledge. In an exchange like the following (cf. Kaplan 1978: 204):
Which students got a grade of F in CIS 500 in Spring 1977?
(242.2b) CIS 500 was not given in Spring 1977.
the response (242.2a) is literally true if the computer science course was not given, but it is misleading, whereas (242.2b) is helpful in correcting a wrong presupposition. Answerers might, of course, have reasons for encouraging wrong presuppositions, as in the soldiers’ reply (Carrol 1860: 110):
(243.1) “You shan’t be beheaded!” said Alice, and she put them (the gardeners] into a large flower-pot that stood near. The three soldiers wandered about for a minute or two, looking for them, and then quietly marched off after the others.
“Are their heads off?” shouted the Queen.
“Their heads are gone, if it please your majesty!” the soldiers shouted in
1.23 By the same token, questioners can influence the answerer’s state by deploying strategic phrasing. Since the question action indicates that reason for doubt exists, positives encourage negative responses and vice-versa:
Do you think you ought to go?
(244b) Don’t you think you ought to go?
(244a), the hearer could infer the speaker’s belief that ‘going’ is
inadvisable, and from (244b) just the opposite (cf. Fillenbaum 1968). The
question format interacts with the conventions for negation. If negation is
typically used for material that might otherwise be believed (ef. IV.1.25), the
question countermands that setting by implying that the addressee has doubtful
grounds for disbelief. Elizabeth Loftus (1975) explores a number of ways in
which question formats set up expectations in eliciting eyewitness reports. When
test subjects were asked (246) after (245a), 53% said yes, but only 35% said yes
How fast was Car A going when it ran the stop sign?
How fast was Car A going when it turned right?
(246) Did you see a stop sign?
yet there was no stop sign shown in the film of the accident!
Rachael Reichman (1978) has undertaken to describe the mechanisms of topic flow
and shift across the various turns of entire conversations: using actually
recorded sample conversations, she argues that coherence relations can obtain
between chunks of discourse in which topic appears to change over considerable
distance. She proposes a distinction between issues spaces (“a general
issue of concern” plus the agents, affected entities, and times, etc.
involved) and event spaces (“a particular episode and the events that
occurred therein” plus agents, affected entities, times, locations, etc.
involved) (Reichman 1978: 291f.). The coherence of conversation depends on how
these space types are related. An illustrative or restatement relation
obtains when an event space is adduced to demonstrate or clarify what has been
asserted in an issue space. Conversely, a generalization relation obtains
if an event space is followed up with a discussion of the “general activity”
to which the event belongs. If an issue space or event space is temporarily
abandoned in favor of an unrelated one and then resumed, we have interruption
and return relations. If an event space is used to show that two
issue spaces are contingent upon each other (e.g., via causality), we have a subissue
relation; if the two issue spaces are merged into “one composite issue,”
we have a joining relation. A respecification relation obtains if
an event or issue already fully discussed is rediscussed in a different
perspective. A total shift relation obtains if the new discourse chunk is
not at all related to its predecessor. Reichman shows that these various
discourse relations are frequently accompanied by surface signals such as
‘like’ and ‘like when’ (illustrative), ‘by the way’ (interruption),
‘anyway’ (return), and so forth.
The mechanisms of conversation are undeniably complex. Nonetheless, the work I
have reviewed in this section promises to reveal at least some of the major
factors worthy of exploration. There is a pronounced interaction among sources
of knowledge, organization of topics, participant roles, and criteria for
considering what is interesting and worth talking about. An entire discourse
must have textuality, even when the textuality of its component texts is not
obvious in isolation (cf. VIII.1.1; Beaugrande & Dressler 1980). Clearly,
the study of conversation must be carried out with cooperation among the
various disciplines—linguistics, psychology, sociology, anthropology,
computation—that will profit from insights into this versatile and vital
The investigation of stories prefigures the general trend to which this book
also belongs. Early methods inspired by linguistic structuralism sought to
isolate standard units in chains (cf. Propp 1928; Dundes 1962; Bremond 1964).
Later on, transformational grammar became the source of inspiration (e.g.
Greimas 1967; Zolkovskij & Sceglov 1967). Recently, however, attention has
been directed away from abstract units and forms toward cognitive
processes in the comprehension of stories (e.g. Charniak 1972;
Kintsch 1974, 1977b, 1979a; Rumelhart 1975, 1977b, 1978; Mandler & Johnson
1977; Schank & Abelson 1977; Thorndyke 1977; Cullingford 1978; Rieger 1978;
Wilensky 1978; Beaugrande & Colby 1979; Beaugrande & Miller 1980). The
trend is thus away from abstractions upon surface artefacts and their features
toward human activities of utilizing texts. Whereas the former are often
specific to a language, a topic, or a cultural and historical domain, the latter
may be UNIVERSAL (cf. IV.3.17.ff.).
One major consequence has been the realization of how much prior knowledge is
deployed by the understander. The effects of SCHEMAS as global knowledge
patterns applied to stories have been irrefutably demonstrated. Readers can put
scrambled stories back into the proper order (Kintsch 1977b; Kintsch, Mandel,
& Kozminsky 1977; Stein & Nezworski 1978). The removal of material
needed to match important schema elements interferes with comprehension and
recall (Thorndyke 1977). Stories in which events of different sequences are so
interlaced that concurrent schemas must be maintained for each sequence are
rearranged so as to separate the schemas (J. Mandler 1978).
Despite its recognized importance, the schema appears in very diverse formats in
research. Some investigators envision a set of REWRITE RULES of the familiar
transformational type, in which large story components are “rewritten” as
smaller ones (e.g. Rumelhart 1975; Mandler & Johnson 1977; Simmons 1978).
Others make use of TREES in which story constituents are arranged in a hierarchy
of size, containment, or importance (cf. Bower 1976; Rumelhart 1977b; Thorndyke
1977). These two formats are essentially equivalent, because the rewriting, in
effect, acts as a parent node descending to offspring nodes (hence Mandler &
Johnson use both formats). However, the cognitive implications of formatting
have often been glossed over. Where do the story components actually come from?
Are they (1) segments of supersegments, (2) instances of a class, (3) elements
of an unordered set, or (4) products of transformational derivation? These
relationships would have significantly different impacts on actual processing.
Ideally, hierarchical structuring ought to reflect cognitive priorities. The
higher-up components should be noticed and recalled better than the lower-down
ones (Meyer 1975, 1977). However, the data I reviewed for the ‘rocket’ text
suggest that recall is more diffuse and topographical in nature as documented by
the contrast between our protocols in VII.3.32ff. and the idealized hierarchical
summaries generated by Simmons’ computer simulation in the Appendix. People
apparently retain quite a lot of material that would figure as lower-down
components in a hierarchy. Their recall manifests the priority of connectivity
and continuity more than that of height in tree structures.
To clarify issues of topography vs. hierarchy, we could explore the effects of
BOTTOM-UP input on the TOP-DOWN input during story comprehension (cf. I.6.5).
During the PROCEDURAL ATTACHMENT of a story schema to an actual story text, the
schema is evidently specified and modified as occasion arises (Beaugrande &
Miller 1980). The enduring qualities of great folktales must depend upon the
processing of their inherent structures in interaction with schemas. By the
standards of informativity and interestingness proposed in chapter IV, it
follows that these famous tales cannot be a perfect match for the stored schema
pattern: some uncertainties, alternatives, and surprises are, I suspect,
virtually obligatory for the actualization of interesting and enduring stories.
Indeed, one might want to insert such a requirement into the story schemas
themselves (cf. Beaugrande & Colby 1979).
A minimal STORY-WORLD must contain at least a pair of states linked by an action
or event. But to be interesting, the story-world needs a structure in which the
progression from the INITIAL to the FINAL state is not so obvious that it would
happen on its own in the normal course of things. For a story-world fraught with
alternative pathways, the narrator and the readers engage in joint
PROBLEM-SOLVING in which the narrator’s solution eludes that of the readers at
least some of the time.
Narrators can create uncertainty by using CHARACTERS (story-world persons)
with opposing PERSPECTIVES. A given character is assigned a particular goal to
seek in the course of events (cf. the notions of “objective” and
“achievement” in Bremond 1973). If the reader audience sees that goal with
positive values, the character will be a PROTAGONIST; for negatively valued
goals, the role is that of ANTAGONIST.5
[5. Like language regularities in general (cf. note 14 to Chapter I), this
one can be turned around for special effect, e.g. in the “picaresque”
narrative where the protagonist’s goals violate official standards of conduct,
though readers may still find them positive in context. A completely goalless
neutral protagonist such as that in Camus’ L’étranger is both hard
to present and not especially convincing, to me at least.]
The interaction of characters appears as a pursuit and mutual blocking of goals
(cf. Wilensky 1978; compare the notion of “polemics” in Greimas 1970).
Goal-blocking readily upholds uncertainty, especially when the narrator creates
a powerful and resourceful antagonist. The event or action which makes a main
goal decisively attainable or non-attainable is a TURNING POINT. In terms of the
drama, a positive turning point for the protagonist is the conventional mark of
“comedy,” and a negative one the mark of “tragedy.”
These considerations might be used to formulate some STORYTELLING STRATEGIES
(rather than abstract rewrite roles) such as the following (cf. Beaugrande &
Colby 1979: 45f.):
Create a STORY-WORLD with at least one CHARACTER.
Identify an INITIAL STATE, a PROBLEM, and a GOAL STATE for the character.
Initiate a pathway that attempts to resolve the problem and attain the goal
Block or postpone the attainment of the goal state.
Mark one event or action as a TURNING POINT.
Create a FINAL ST ATE identified as matching or not matching the goal state.
These strategies can be applied recursively, generating STORY EPISODES of
varying complexity or number. My own definition of “episode” is that of a
space in a story-world with an initial state, a problem, a turning point, and a
goal state (but compare the definitions in Rumelhart 1975, 1977b; Kintsch 1977b;
Simmons 1978). A frequent demand for recursion arises from having a story-world
with multiple main characters, each of them assigned actions and goals. The
story-world with PROTAGONIST and ANTAGONIST could be governed by a role set like
this (cf. Beaugrande & Colby 1979: 46):
Create a story-world with two characters, the PROTAGONIST P and the ANTAGONIST
Create a PROBLEM for P that is caused or desired by A, and a goal state desired
by P and opposed by A.
Initiate a pathway that attempts to resolve P’s problem and attain P’s goal
Create actions of A to block P’s solution and goaI.
Mark one action or event as a turning point in which either P’s or A’s plans
and values win out.
Create a final state identifiable as matching or being relevant to either P’s
or A’s goal state.
If the narrator makes the antagonist extremely powerful, a compensatory strategy
may be required:
Introduce one or more HELPING CHARACTERS to create ENABLEMENTS or to block
DISENABLEMENTS of P’s actions and goals.
The traditional categories of the narrative (cited in Kintseh 1977b) could be
viewed as clusterings of realizations for these various strategies. The
EXPOSITION would include 2.8.1 through 2.8.3; the COMPLICATlON would be in
2.8.4; and the RESOLUTION in 2.8.5 and 2.8.6. The realization of the strategies
is flexible in many ways. By adding more characters, the narrator has the
options of making their goals in COMPETITION or in CONCORD (Wilensky 1978). For competition, Wilensky (1978) discusses various means of “anti-planning”
including sabotage, concealment, distraction, removing enablements, and
overpowering. Also, a single character may have different goals in conflict with
each other (cf. VI.4.11; Wilensky 1978: ch. 6). Even just one goal may raise
formidable problems if its attainment is difficult enough. Wilensky (1978: 253)
cites typical circumstances of difficult plans:
2.11.1 if the plan requires exceptionally great RESOURCES, such as are probably not available;
if the plan leads to UNSTABLE GOALS (cf. VIII.2.22).
All of the participants in narrating-narrator, audience, and the story-world
characters are engaged in activities of planning and predicting. The narrator
must: (1) plan out coherent tracks of states and actions for each character; (2)
relate narrated actions to recoverable plans of the agent character; and (3) anticipate
and monitor how the audience recovers or reconstructs characters’
plans and predicts upcoming actions and events. The narrator needs to outplan the
audience at least sometimes to keep the story interesting. The narrator can
achieve this effect in several ways:
by selecting a rather improbable pathway to follow in the story line, e.g. by
having characters make bad or unreasonable selections and decisions;
by introducing unforeseeable interactions among events, e.g. by having
independent characters suddenly happen to come into contact or conflict;
by purposefully withholding knowledge that would otherwise render upcoming
events predictable, e.g., by failing to identify someone’s true goals;
by introducing apparently impossible events, e.g., magical occurrences that
cause or enable states which could never be attained in the normal organization
of the real world.
The narrator must be careful not to destroy connectivity with such tactics.
Events and actions should be linked with cause, enablement, reason, or purpose
(cf. Stein & Glenn 1979). This linkage may often be concealed or unexpected,
but it must be there. For instance, a story-world governed by magic would appear
to make anything possible. Yet there is nearly always some kind of modified but
stable causality after alI. A magic spell does not have random effects, even if
its user may not be able to predict them. We see once again the regulatory
nature of text-worlds as systems. Modifications are always allowable, but under
control and subject to compensation. If new connections of causality are
introduced, they are explicitly stated and stand in analogy to accepted
causality. Consider, for instance, how many folktales contain passages in which
some helper-figure explains magical causalities to the protagonist. Another
tactic is to use recursions, such that the first event sequence serves as a
model of the special causalities for the others (e.g. the many folktales where
the same task. is undertaken by one brother or sister after another, — textinternal
pattern-matching (cf. IV.4.5; V.7.1; VII.2.36; VIII.2.29).
The narrator’s tactics outlined above are grounds for looking at the narrating
and understanding of stories as problem-solving (VIII.2.6). The harder a
narrator strives to make the problem solution difficult and unexpected, the
deeper the audience’s processing will be (cf. IV .1.6). The users
It might be objected that people enjoy hearing the same story over again even
though they know the solution and thus cannot be out-planned. Beaugrande and
Colby (1979: 49f.) propose two accounts for this phenomenon. According to the
first, knowledge of global structures (VI.1.1ff.) or macro-structures (II.2.9;
III.4.27) might not be at the same processing depth as that of local or
micro-structures. Interest is upheld during repeated narrations because the
audience recovers only global knowledge and rediscovers local knowledge each
time. Enduring narratives—and perhaps enduring human artifacts at
large—would then have to manifest inherent structural complexities whose
demands upon processing, despite repeated encounters, remain above the
capabilities for total storage, and yet below the threshold where processing
simply breaks down. The notions of processing limitations expounded by Norman
and Bobrow (1975) could apply here. On the one hand, the storage of both global
and local knowledge could be too much for the mind to manage because of the
diverse elements and linkages needed to hold everything in place, resulting in
“data limitations” which practising cannot overcome. On the other hand, the
allotment of attention during story comprehension to the global signals that
match the schema draws attention away from the local data, so that the latter is
discovered rather than predicted; this effect is due to cognitive “resource
2.16 The other account might well interact with the first. If people process story-worlds in terms of state-event pathways with branching alternatives, then each repeated narration obliges them to compute the series of possible events all over again. Especially at turning points, audiences keep envisioning the alternatives that the pathways inherently suggest, even though it is known which alternatives will not be used. A highly probable disaster can awaken anxiety over and over in the same way as remembering narrow escapes in real life. The story-reader’s experience is detached from the expenditure of material resources.
The combination of the two accounts suggests that the distinction between STORED
KNOWLEDGE and EXPERIENTIAL IMMEDIACY may be extremely important. The
actualization of knowledge in producing and understanding texts may always exert
higher demands on processing than even highly detailed storage can record and
match. Hence, the experience of a story being told at a given moment exceeds the
mere matching of the most accurate patterns acquired in the past. Hearers may
record and reuse the story as knowledge; but the ongoing actualization is
dynamic to a degree that cannot become stabilized in storage.
In this regard, the activities of narrating may come to be a model for textual
processing (and even information processing) overall. At this time, narration is
certainly the most thoroughly explored utilization of texts. The candidates
suggested in IV.3.17 as possible UNIVERSALS do appear to be emerging from the
experiments with stories. Future research will reveal how far-reaching those
“universals” may be and whether they can be applied to natural-language
communication of all kinds (cf. IX.1.4ff.).
Each specific story ought to manifest an organization and surface format that
allow general (or universal) strategies to be applied via PROCEDURAL ATTACHMENT.
I shall investigate a sample folktale from that standpoint, noting how the
narrator actualizes the general story-telling strategies in such a way as to
create an interesting and effective text. Due to the age and wide geographical
distribution of this tale and its variants, we presumably have a collective
narrator rather than an individual one. If so, repeated retellings may tend to
tighten up the structure to a high degree of internal order, economy, and impact
(cf. Mandler & Johnson 1977). The ratings for the design criteria of efficiency,
effectiveness, and appropriateness are therefore strong.
2.20 The sample was presented as “an old Suffolk Folk-tale” in the Ipswich
Journal on January 12, 1878 and was included as the opening piece in a
collection of tales gathered by Joseph Jacobs (1891).6 [6. I
am most grateful to G. P. Putnam’s Sons of New York for the generous
permission to reprint this story. Prof. Robert Thomson pointed out to me that
this tale was much studied by 19th century British folklorists; e.g.
Edward Clodd, Tom Tit Tot: An Essay on Savage Philosophy (London:
Duckworth, 1898).] My version is a compromise between the strong dialect of the 1878
version and the standardized 1891 version. I adhere to the 1878 grammar and
vocabu1ary, but use conventional spellings for the convenience of the
non-English reader. (For an earlier discussion, see Beaugrande and Colby (1979).
TOM TIT TOT
(1) Well, once upon a time there were a woman and she
baked five pies. And when they come out of the oven, they was that overbaked,
the crust were too hard to eat. So she says to her darter:
(2) “Darter,” says she, “put you them
there pies on the shelf an’ leave ‘em
(3) But the gal, she7 [7. These
redundant subjects, as I mentioned in V.5.8, are socially or regionally marked,
but they separate topic announcement from grammatical subject. The original text
is inconsistent as to whether a comma should be placed before the pronoun.] says to herself, “Well, if they’ll come agin, I’ll ate ‘em
now.” And she set to work and ate ‘em all, first and last.
(4) Well, come supper time the woman she said:
“Go you and git one o’ them
(5) The gal she went an’ she looked, and
there weren‘t nothin’ but the dishes. So back she come and says she, “Noo,
they ain’t come agin.”
(6) “Not none on ‘em?” says the mother.
(7) “Not none on ‘em,” says she.
(8) “Well, come agin or not come agin,” says the woman, “I’ll have one for supper."
(9) “But you can’t, if they ain’t come,” says
(10) “But I can,” says she, “Go you and bring
the best of ’em.”
(11) “Best or worst,” says the gal, “I’ve ate
‘em all, and you can’t have one till that’s come agin.”
(12) Well, the woman she were wholly beat, and
she took her spinnin’ to the door to spin and as she span she sang:
“My darter ha’ ate five, five pies today.
darter ha’ ate five, five pies today.”
(13) The king he were a-comin’ down the
street an’ he heard her sing, but
(14) “What were that you was a-singin’ of, mum?”
(15) The woman, she were ashamed to let him hear what
her darter had been
a-doin, so she sang, ‘stead o’ that:
a-doin, so she sang, ‘stead o’ that:
“My darter ha’ spun five, five skeins today.
darter ha’ spun five, five skeins today.”
(16) “Stars o’ mine!” said the king, “I never
heerd tell of anyone as could do that!”
Then he said: “Look you here, I want a wife and I’ll marry your darter. But
look you here, “ says he, “eleven months out o’ the year she shall have
all the vittles she likes to eat, and all the gowns she likes to git, and all
the company she likes to have; but the last month o’ the year she’ll have to
spin five skeins every day, an’ if she doon’t, I shall kill her.”
“All right,”“ says the woman: for she thought what a grand marriage that
was. And as for them five skeins, when th’ time come to it, there’d be
plenty o’ ways o’ gettin’ out of it, and likeliest, he’d have forgot
Well, so they was married. An’ for eleven months the gal had all the vittles
she liked to eat and all the gowns she liked to git, an’ all the company she
liked to have.
But when the time was gettin’ over, she began to think about them there skeins
an’ to wonder if he had ‘em in mind. But not one word did he say about ‘em
an’ she wholly thought he’d forgot ‘em.
Howsoever, the last day o’ the last month, he takes her to a room she’d
never set eyes on afore. There weren’t nothin’ in it but a spinnin’
wheel and a stool. An’ says he, “Now me dear, here you’ll be shut in
to-morrow with some vittles and some flax, and if you ain‘t spun five skeins
by the night, your head’ll go off.”
(22) An’ away he went about his business.
(23) Well, she were that frightened. She’d always
been such a gatless gal, that she didn’t so much as know how to spin, and what
were she to do tomorrow, with no one to come nigh her to help her? She sat down
on a stool in the kitchen, and lork! how she did cry!
Howsoever, all on a sudden she heerd a sort of knockin ‘low down on the door.
She upped and oped it, an’ what should she see but a small little black thing
with a long tail. That9 [9. The
form ‘that’ as a pronoun is typical of the dialect; perhaps it also stresses
the unknown status of the ‘little black thing’.]
looked up at her right curious, an’ that said:
(25) “What are you a-cryin’ for?”
(26) “What’s that to you?” says she.
(27) “Never you mind,” that said, “but tell me
what you’re a-cryin’ for.”
(28) “That woon’t do
me noo good if I do,” says she.
(29) “You doon’t know that,” that said an’
twirled that’s tail round.
(30) “Well, “says she, “that woon’t do me noo
harm, if that doon’t do me noo good,” and she upped and told about the pies
an’ the skeins an’ everything.
“This is what I’ll do,” says the little black thing, I’ll come to your
window every mornin’ an’ take the flax an’ bring it spun at night.”
“What’s your pay?” says she.
That looked out o’ the corners o’ that’s eyes an’ that said: “I’ll
give you three guesses every night to guess my name, an’ if you ain’t
guessed it afare the month’s up, you shall be mine.”
(34) Well, she thought she’d be sure to guess
that’s name afore the month was up. “All right,” says she, “I agree.”
(35) “All right,” that says, an’ lork!
how that twirled that’s tail.
(36) Well, the next day her husband
he took her
into the room an’ there wuz
(37) “Now there’s the flax,” says he,
“an’ if that ain’t spun up this night, off goes your head.” An’ then
he went out an’ locked the door.
(38) He’d barely gone, when there was a
knockin’ agin the window.
(39) She upped and she oped it, an’ there
sure enough was the little old thing a-settin’ on the ledge.
(40) “Where’s the flax?” says he.
(41) “Here it be,” says she. And she gave it to
(42) Well, come the evenin’, a knockin’ come agin
to the window. She upped
and she oped it and there were the little old thing,
with the five skeins of flax on his arm.
and she oped it and there were the little old thing,
with the five skeins of flax on his arm.
(43) “Here it be,” says he, an’ he gave it to
(44) “Now, what’s my name?” says he.
(45) “What, is that
BiIl?” says she.
(46) “Noo, that ain’t,” says he. An’ he
twirled his tail.
(47) “Is that Ned?” says she.
(48) “Noo, that ain’t,” says he. An’ he
twirled his tail.
(49) “Well is that Mark?” says she.
(50) “Noo, that ain’t,” says he, and he twirled
his tail harder, and away he flew.
(51) Well, when her husband he come in: there was the
five skeins ready for him. “I see I shan’t have for to kill you tonight, me
dear,” says he. “You‘ll have your vittles and your flax in the mornin’,”
says he, an’ away he goes.
WelI, every day the flax an’ the vittles, they was brought, an’ every day
that there little black impet used for to come mornings an’ evenings. An’
all the day the gal she set a-trying’ for to think of names to say to it when
it came at night. But she never hit on the right one. An’ as it got toward the
end of the month, the impet began to look so maliceful, and that twirled
that’s tail faster and faster each time she gave a guess.
At last it come to the last day
but one. The impet that come at night along of the five skeins, an’ that said:
(54) “What, ain’t you got my name yet?”
(55) “Is that Nicodemus?” says she.
(56) “Noo, t’ain’t,” that says.
(57) “Is that Sammle?” says she.
(58) “No, t’ain’t,” that says.
is that Metbusalem?” says she.
(60) “Noo, t’ain’t that neither,” that says.
(61) Then that looks at her with that’s eyes like a
coal o’ fire, and that says:
“Woman, there’s only to-morrow night, and then
you’ll be mine!” An’ away it flew.
“Woman, there’s only to-morrow night, and then
you’ll be mine!” An’ away it flew.
(62) Well, she felt that horrid. Howsoever, she heerd
the king a-comin’ along the passage. In he came, an’ when he see the five
skeins he says, says he:
“Well, my dear,” says he, “I don’t see but what you’ll have your
skeins ready to-morrow night as well, an’ as I reckon I shan’t have to kill
you, I’Il have supper in here to-night.” So they brought supper, and another
stool for him, an’ down the two they set.
Well, he hadn’t eat but a mouthful or so, when he stops and begins to laugh.
“What is it?” says she.
(66) “A-why,” says he, “I was out a-huntin’
to-day, an’ I got away to a place in the wood I’d never seen afore. An’
there was an old chalk-pit. An’ I heerd a sort of a humming, kind of. So I got
off my hobby an’ I went right quiet to the pit, an’ I looked down. Well,
what should there be but the funniest little black thing you ever set eyes on.
An’ what was that a-doin’ on, but that had a little spinnin’ wheel an’
that were a-spinnin’ wonderful fast, an’ a-twirling that’s tail. An’ as
that span that sang:
‘Nimmy nimmy not
My name’s Tom Tit Tot.’’’
(67) W ell, when the gal heerd this, she fared
as if she could have jumped outer
(68) Next day, that there little black thing looked so
maliceful when he come for the flax. An’ when night come she heerd that a-knockin’
agin the window panes.
(69) She oped the window, an’ that come right
in on the ledge. That were grinnin’ from ear to ear an’ Lo! that’s tail
were twirlin’ round so fast.
(70) “What’s my name?” that says, as that gave
her the skeins.
(71) “Is that Solomon?” she says, pretendin’ to
(72) “Noo, t’ain’t,” that says, an’ that
come further into the room.
(73) “Well, is that Zebedee?” says she agin.
(74) “Noo, t’ain’t,” says the impet. An’
then that laughed and twirled that’s tail till you couldn’t hardly see it.
(75) “Take time, woman,” that says; “next
guess, an’ you’re mine.” An’ that stretched out that’s black hands at
(76) Well, she backed a step or two, an’ she
looked at it, and then she laughed out, an’ says she, a-pointin’ of her
finger at it:
“‘Nimmy nimmy not
name’s Tom Tit Tot.’’’
(77) Well, when that heerd her, that shrieked
awful an’ away that flew into the dark, an’ she never saw it no more.
To parallel the story-telling strategies suggested in VIII.2.8f., we could
envision story-understanding strategies intended to recover the structure of
events and situations and build a model of the story-world. I shall expand upon
the story-telling outlook somewhat by extracting some further aspects from our
sample. The understanding strategies include (cf. Beaugrande & Colby 1979:
Notice the MAIN CHARACTERS, and their PROBLEMS and GOALS.
Relate the characters’ ACTIONS to PLANS for SOLVING PROBLEMS and ATTAINING
Recover the CONNECTIVITY of SITUATIONS and EVENTS with linkages of CAUSE,
ENABLEMENT, REASON, and PURPOSE.
2.21.4 Notice MOTIVATIONAL STATEMENTS.
2.21.5 Notice VALUE ASSIGNMENTS.
2.21.6 Notice indicators of TIME, LOCATION, and
2.21.7 Notice TURNING POINTS.
2.21.8 Match the FINAL STATE against the
characters’ GOAL STATES.
The highest priority presumably goes to identifying the various STORY EPISODES
by noticing when a cycle of story-telling rules has been traversed. The
essential components are the problem, the turning point, and a final state
related to characters’ goals (VIII.2.9). Our sample has three episodes: (a) an
opening span running from the initial baking to the royal marriage (paragraphs
1-19); (b) a problem-to-goal sequence with a spinning task (20-34); and (3) a
problem-to-goal sequence with a name-guessing task (33-77). The goal for the
spinning task, i.e., the delegation of agency to someone else, is UNSTABLE,
because it creates a new problem (cf. VIII.2.11.2). The goal for the
name-guessing task, on the other hand, is a stable one, and the narrator in fact
ends the story at that point without further elaboration. The potential problem
of the same spinning task being demanded again in eleven months is not even
raised.10 [10. One
of our test subjects for this
story who heard the normal version (cf. VIII.2,42ff.) remarked that ‘the story
had one thing wrong with it’, namely that it didn’t say what would happen
after another eleven months; the daughter had ‘exploited the black guy and
couldn’t use him again’.]
To get the story moving, the narrator faces the problem of leading from a
commonplace situation of housekeeping and a trivial event of baking up to a
momentous marriage with a sinister BARGAIN FAVOR (VI.4.l4) involved: or, the
exchange: vittles/gowns/company for skeins of spun flax would indicate BARGAIN
OBJECT). In one variant of this tale, the well-known German version about
‘Rumpelstiltskin’ — the German
name is could be read as ‘little person with long crooked legs’—
the daughter is precipitated into her disastrous bargain by her father’s
incautious boasting. Our narrator uses a different pathway with a greater number
of small steps. To assist coherence and connectivity, the narrator supplies
numerous MOTIVATIONAL STATEMENTS: explicit announcements of the reasons, causes,
enablements, and purposes that lead to events and actions. The pies are not
eaten right away because ‘they was that overbaked, the crust were too hard to
eat’ (I). The state of the pies in turn motivates the mother’s ambiguously
formulated request (2). Notice that the narrator stops to explain to the
audience what ‘she meant, you know’ (2)—an illustration of how a
potentially ambiguous instability in the systemic text-world is regulated by
explicit signaling. The ambiguity is instrumental in the daughter’s reason for
overeating, as her utterances reveal (3, 5, 7, 9,11). To spread the knowledge of
the daughter’s action within the textual world, the narrator sends the mother
‘to the door’ to spin and sing (12), and then has the ‘king’a-comin’
down the street’ (13). (The notions of a king traveling alone on foot,
marrying someone he hasn’t even seen, speaking the regional dialect, and
wanting huge quantities of flax for no reason, all
contribute to the fantasy-world flavour of the tale.) The king’s inquiry is
motivated because ‘what she sang he couldn‘t hear’ (13), and the
mother’s change of the song because she ‘were ashamed to let him hear what
her darter had been a-doin’ (15). The king’s radical reaction follows
because he ‘never heerd tell of anyone as could do that’ (16) and because he
‘wants a wife’ (17). The mother accepts his offer because she ‘thought
what a grand marriage that was’ (18).
This care in providing motivational statements is undoubtedly encouraged by the
large mismatch between the initial and final states and events of the opening
episode. The narrator adopts a strategy of bridging the gap with local
dependencies of small events that gradually add up to the total outcome.
Accordingly, there is a diversity of small problems rather than one main one in
this episode: hunger—a default problem arising automatically in the course of
time (Meehan 1976) — an ambiguous instruction, no supper, a partially
inaudible song, and the mother’s embarrassment. The solutions adopted at each
phase happen to direct the progression of the story in a way that the mother and
daughter could not have foreseen. The king applies a literal understanding to
the altered song text, and as a ruler, his mistakes have “the force of legal
authority” (Charniak 1975b: 10).12
[12. Perhaps in some
earlier cultural setting, the song had the function of an incantation that makes
true what it says. The spinning song used to defeat Tom certainly acts like an
exorcism; his recitation of it while spinning might conceivably have served as a
spell to make the spinning faster.]
I draw two conclusions from these considerations:
First, we can distill out another story-telling strategy: for episodes with a
large mismatch between initial and final states, build a pathway of LOCAL
actions and supply frequent MOTIVATIONAL STATEMENTS.
Second, the STORY-TREE of the usual format fails to capture some important
factors (cf. VIII.2.3). I propose instead an ACTION-STATE NETWORK with a track
for each character. To capture MOTIVATIONS, I show alternative paths as
branchings (dotted lines) that lead the agent to UNDESIRABLE STATES (ef.
VI.4.10). Figure 37 shows the results for the opening span of our story. All
links are labeled: cause, enablement, reason, purpose, or proximity in time (the
last being the weakest link and not to be overused in story-telling). We obtain
a visual MACRO-STRUCTURE whose elements provide the MINIMAL CONNECTIVITY needed
to render the story-world coherent.
The ominous BARGAIN FAVOR and the conditions upon failure (17) allow the
understander to recognize a new initial state (eleven months of marriage)
followed by a severe problem (spin an impossible amount) and a goal (stay
alive—the most desirable goal, according to Pugh 1977). This configuration
triggers a recognition of a new episode with high probability of a negative
ending. The only chance for a positive outcome appears to be the shared
expectation of mother and daughter that the king will ‘forget about’ the
five skeins (18,20). This hope is blocked when the king rehearses the bargain at
the stipulated time (21). The element of ANTAGONISM enters the story with its
first real strength at this point: the king blocks the daughter’s plan and
endangers her positively valued goal of staying alive (cf. VIII.2.9.4); his
later action of locking her in furthers the antagonist role by precluding
obvious solutions like escape or outside help. Accordingly, the understander
should assign the ANTAGONIST role to the king for this episode by noticing the
rea1izations of strategy 2.9.4. The PROTAGONIST is the daughter, since the
audience will accept her stay-alive goal over the king’s have-flax-spun goal.
Her problem is intensified by her own state of not even knowing how to spin.
Against the combined odds, strategy 2.9.3 (initiate a pathway to solve the
problem) cannot be realized for the daughter’s action track, and she can only
cry over the final state she must expect (23). We note here an illustration of
how actua1ization affects the attachment of a basic story schema (cf. VIII.2.S).
The story line is suspended here with all probabilities pointing to disaster.
However, strategy 2.10.1 should become active upon noticing the overbalance of
the antagonist’s power over that of the protagonist. The understander should
react to the ‘knocking’ on the door (24) by predicting a HELPER CHARACTER
and classifying the ‘small little black thing’ (24) accordingly in that
role. To enable the helping action, the narrator first navigates the problem of
making knowledge accessible (ef. VIII.2.23): there is a brief exchange of
Tom’s ASK and the daughter’s INFORM REASON that telling him ‘woon’t do
noo harm’ (30). When Tom’s offer (31) opens a pathway to the
daughter-protagonist’s goal, the understander should recognize a TURNING POINT
as defined in VIII.2.7. The daughter’s decision is therefore crucial, and the
narrator justifies it with the motivational statement: ‘she thought she’d be
sure to guess that’s name afore the month was up’ (34).
Tom’s BARGAIN FAVOR matches the pattern established previously by the
king’s. The attainment of one goal entails a new problem, whose solution
becomes a new goal. This time, the protagonist’s problem is to find missing
knowledge in a limited number of trials (we see the dismal inefficiency of
trial-and error as a model of action, cf. VI.4.6). Because this new problem
involves a goal conflict also, the antagonist role must be shifted from the king
to Tom. This particular role transfer is a delicate matter, as the king’s
dangerous bargain must be kept in force to keep motivating the new bargain and
maintaining suspense. The narrator adopts the expedient of restricting the
realization of the antagonist strategies. The king does not set up the
daughter’s beheading as a planned goal, nor would his plans be defeated if she
succeeded. This weakening of strategies 2.9.2 and 2.9 5-6 leaves the king in an
ambivalent role of mixed intentions, so that he can become a helper character
himself later on (66). We might distill from these considerations a further
If the antagonist character for one episode is to enter a helper role for a
later episode, restrict the realization of the antagonist strategies for that
This strategy again illustrates the attachment of global procedures in response
to local requirements. By the same token, Tom’s role evolves from helper into
antagonist. He appears in the story-world as an agent who enables the
daughter’s stay-alive goal, but a conflict of his own goals with hers becomes
steadily more distinct. The narrator pursues this evolution by negative value
assignments as well, suggesting a complementary story-telling strategy to
If the helper character is to enter an antagonist role later, develop a conflict
of goals with the protagonist and assign negative values to the helper at
Just before proposing what he knows to be an imbalanced bargain. Tom ‘looks
out o’ the corners o’ that’s eyes’ (33) — a culturally determined
signal of the intention to deceive. The fairly neutral, though not flattering,
expression ‘thing’ for Tom (24, 31, 39, 42) is soon replaced by the clearly
negative ‘impet’ (small demon) (52, 53, 74). Tom’s facial characterization
is at first ‘right curious’ (24), but later changes to ‘so maliceful’
(52, 68). The daughter goes from being ‘that frightened’ (23) over the
king’s demands to feeling relieved at the prospect of help; yet she evolves
again into feeling ‘that horrid’—a recurring state that shows how the
antagonist role has been reassigned via text-internal pattern-matching (cf.
VIII.2.III). Her state changes only when a new pathway of solution is opened by
the revelation of the name, whereupon she ‘fared as if she could have jumped
outer her skin for joy’. But since getting outside help signifies breaking the
king’s bargain, she cannot share her relief and doesn’t ‘say a word’
The negative tendencies in describing Tom are reinforced by the narrator’s
attention to details. Tom ‘s ‘long tail’ signifies his semi-human status,
the other half being animal or devil (cf. VIII.2.29). The cue for recognizing
actions and events that advance Tom’s plan to gain control of the daughter is
the arbitrary, but contextually determined action of tail-twirling. Hardly has
the bargain been concluded when ‘lork! how that twirled that’s tail’ (35).
Wrong guesses elicit steadily faster twirling (46, 48, 50, 52). The final
situation, in which cues are very densely clustered, introduces Tom with ‘oo!
that’s tail were a-twirlin’ round so fast’ (69). The penultimate guess
brings Tom the closest he ever comes to his goal, and we are accordingly cued
with: he ‘twirled that’s tail till you couldn’t hardly see it’ (74). The
narrator has modified the systems for social interaction by creating a totally
new action; as a regulatory compensation, its contextual position is made
clearly determinate and recurrent. The activity serves to mark both goal pursuit
and Tom’s semi-human status that invites us to reject his goal of obtaining
the daughter. A nobly depicted, marriageable young man in his role as
flax-spinner would make the story values disturbingly ambivalent, though at
least it would be clear what he plans to do with her if she become ‘his’,
whereas the impet might…erm…well…flog her with his tail, perhaps?
We can conclude that a major portion of story understanding is the noticing of
cues that render the underlying story schema discoverable for procedural
attachment. Value assignments are clustered around tuming points (cf. Labov
& Waletzky 1967). The initial episode is neutral about the actions until
need arises to motivate the mother’s alteration of the song, whereupon she is
‘ashamed’ (15). To motivate her acceptance of the king’s offer, the
narrator terms the resulting marriage ‘grand’ (18). The second episode
demands an explanation why the daughter does not try herself to solve the
problem, and only then are we told she is ‘gatless’ (lazy, gormless). The
turning point of the final episode shows Tom ‘grinning from ear to ear’ (a
difficult feat for a human), which hardly renders his goals attractive. At the
second wrong guess, he ‘laughs’ at his opponent’s misfortune (74),
foreshadowing her echoing laugh at his defeat, accompanied by her echoing his
song (76). The almost triumphant Tom ‘stretches out that’s black hands at
her’ (75) (compare the expression of the same action as ‘he held out his
hand to her’), and she ‘backs a step or two’ in revulsion (76). Her
delivery of the name chant is introduced with the socially stigmatizing action
of ‘pointin’ of her finger at it’ (76). Even pronouns are pressed into
service to reify Tom: ‘it’ and ‘that’ are used throughout the final
scene as opposed to ‘he’ in the first round of guesses (43-50).
The later episodes also contain motivational statements. The daughter’s
distress and fright arise from not knowing how to spin and having ‘no one to
come nigh to help her’ (23). Before accepting the bargain, she reasons that
‘she’d be sure to guess that’s name’ (34). To intensify her danger
later, we are told how Tom delivers his prediction ‘with eyes like a coal o’
fire’ (61). The king’s presence in the room, where he will inadvertently
solve the daughter’s problem, is motivated by his statement: ‘as I reckon I
shan’t have to kill you, I’ll have supper in here to-night’ (63). To lead
up to the story, the king’s dinner must be interrupted by a laugh and a
request for explanation (64-66).
The interaction between motivation and value assignment is manifest. The
story-world should appear plausible to the audience even when the course of
events takes unexpected or disadvantageous pathways. At major or minor turning
points, the narrator guides the audience’s outlook with the two kinds of
signals just illustrated. We could distill out another story-telling strategy:
When a character makes a
decision that leads to a new problem state, give material that suggests why the
selected path is better than it seems, and the discarded path(s) not so good.
The narrator weights the probabilities for outcomes in such a way that no one
pathway can be distinctly superior. The mother and the daughter concluded their
disastrous bargains in hoping to ‘get out of’ them (18, 34). Failing that,
chances of spinning an impossible amount or guessing a unique name
in 30 x 3
tries are dishearteningly slight. The event progression is therefore
informative and interesting by the standard of problematic access.
I have diagrammed the second and the final episodes of the story as a network in
Whereas the mother had the densest track in the opening span (cf. Figure 37), the daughter’s track is the densest here. Her actions, however, are largely re-actions to the impulses from the tracks for the king K and Tom T. As in Figure 37, I show the alternative paths for events which might have but did not occur at turning points. These alternative form the context for fully understanding the actually selected pathways.13 [13. This format reflects the disjunction of alternative events, which I noted as a parallel between textuality and interaction (note 14 to Chapter VI).] This additional knowledge is unfortunately suppressed by the usual story trees which include only actualized events. Yet some occurrences lose their impact unless the audience knows what might happen otherwise.
2.36 The interactive tracks show a characteristic
looping in the latter part of the story. Each day, Tom fetches the flax (TA3),
spins it (TA4), and brings it back (TA5). The daughter gets the flax (DA8), and
guesses wrong names (DA91). Tom gleefulIy loops back. The king comes in (KA7),
finds the flax (KA81), and reprieves the daughter (KA91), whereupon both loop
back. The looping contingency, in effect, requires the daughter to guess wrong
every day but the last: a right guess before then would deprive Tom of a reason
to continue spinning, and the king’s bargain would bring her downfall.
Significantly, the narrator passes over all guessing rounds but the first
(44-50), next to last (54-60), and the last (70-76). There is actually no
freedom of alternatives for the rest, and to recount any more could destroy
interest through predictability. The narrator simply suggests the continued
guessing by moving from the common names of the opening round to the uncommon
ones of the last two.
It might escape notice that the event-action-state progressions are subtly
marked in the surface text by junctives. When events follow closely on each
other, ‘and’ (or ‘an’ is regularly inserted, even where it is otherwise
dispensable (e.g. in 12 and 66). The inclusion of the ‘baking’ action in the
opening sentence via ‘and’-conjunction signals that a topic element is being
introduced (van Dijk 1977a: 150). If causality (cause, reason, etc.) is in
focus, ‘so’ is used (e.g. I, 5, 13, 15). If there are small discrepancies or
discontinuities, we find ‘but’ (e.g. 3, 13, 20). A larger discrepancy or
discontinuity is marked by ‘howsoever’ (e.g. 21,24, 62), when a new
direction of the event sequence begins. If there is relative consistency, but a
lapse of time or an indirect causality, ‘well’ is inserted (4,
12,19,23,36,42,51). On three occasions, ‘well’ marks the transition from an
external event to a mental reaction (34, 62, 67). A typical function of
‘well’ in dialogue is similarly to signal that the speaker will express an
inner reaction to an event (8, 30, 63). In the guessing dialogue, ‘well’
precedes the final guess in the first two rounds (49,59); but in the last round,
where the pattern will be broken, ‘well’ is moved up to the second guess
When Tom and the king want to direct attention to their bargains with the
daughter, they begin their utterances with ‘now’ (21, 37,44). The bargains
themselves are stated in the format of negated ‘or-clauses followed by a
statement of what happens (17, 21, 33, 37). When Tom is feeling confident, he
shifts to ‘and’, the usual marker of close junction: ‘there’s only
to-morrow night, and you’ll be mine’(61}; ‘next guess, and you’re
mine’ (75). These consistent uses of junctives are an economic support for the
tightly organized story-world.
The ECONOMY of the story-world regarding LOCATION, TIME, and MATERIAL RESOURCES
is an important contributor to the text’s EFFICIENCY (greatest amount of
knowledge transmitted with the least means). These aspects are stipulated only
as required directly for continuity of events. For instance, the only mention of
location concerns: the whereabouts of the pies, which come ‘out of the oven’
(1) and never arrive ‘on the shelf’ (2); the motion of the mother ‘to the
door’ (12), so the king can ‘come down the street’ and enter the action;
the ‘kitchen’ to cry in (23); an unused ‘room’ for the ordeal (21,36),
equipped with a ‘door’ (24) for the king and daughter, and a ‘window’
plus ‘ledge’ (38, 42, 68,69) to get Tom in and out; and ‘an old chalk
pit’ away ‘in the wood’ (66) as a location for the discovery of the name.
All other possible locations, such as where the mother and daughter live or what
other rooms the king’s palace has, are not mentioned.
Time figures chiefly (aside from the default of folktales, ‘once upon a
time’) in the daily rhythm of spinning and guessing. The greater density of
pointers to ‘evening’
or ‘night’ (31,33,42, 51,52,61,63,68) in comparison to’ morning’ (31, SI,
52) reflects the distribution of potential turning points and possible
Material resources (cf. Wilensky 1978: ch. 11 on “functional and consumable
objects”) are sparse as well: one ‘spinning wheel’ each for the daughter
and Tom (21,66); three ‘stools’ as the only furniture (21, 23, 63); a
‘hobby’ (horse) to get the king to the scene for learning the name
(66); ‘pies’ with ‘hard crusts’, which
the daughter is evidently better than the mother at devouring, to
get the whole story going (1-2); an unlimited quantity of ‘vittles’ and
‘gowns’ for the ‘eleven months’ (19), and whatever ‘vittles’ and are
needed for the daughter’s spinning ordeal. It seems noteworthy that ‘flax’
and ‘vittIes’ are so topicaIly intertwined throughout. The actions are chained
so that overconsumption of food leads to spinning; a song about eating becomes a
song about spinning flax ; the king’s offer provides immense food in return
for spinning; and the spinning ordeal is resolved by knowledge imparted over a
dinner. This powerful balance may have inspired the pattern of formal reversaIs:
‘some vittles and some fax’(21), ‘the flax an’ the day’s
vittles’(36), ‘your vittles and your flax’ (51), and ‘the flax and the
2.42 Such tight organization as I have pointed out is plausibly the result of skilful and repeated narrating. In experimenting with story recall, we must bear in mind that our test subjects might well not command the skills needed to retell a story in its original design. To point up this difficulty, our sample (247) was used in recall tests with University of Florida students. On the first run, we accidentally obtained an intriguing set of responses to a discrepant story: the experimenter, Nathan Robinson, pronounced ‘skeins’ as ‘skins’ due to dialect, and did not explain the object to the test persons. Consequently, a second run taken by Patsy Lynn was prefaced by elucidation of this unfamiliar word. We were interested to see evidence of intense disorientation on the first run, but not on the second. Among the subjects on the first, 3 simply left the ‘spinning of skins’ as such. One changed to ‘sewing skins’ (e.g. animal skins?), and another into ‘collecting skins’. More remote rearrangements involved ‘spinning five skilIs’, ‘spinning five spuns of spin’, and even ‘spinning pies’ (like pizzas?). The other two subjects eliminated the trouble altogether by recounting a story only about baking, for example:
This story retlects how a woman started off baking five pies. Then she ate them
All. She was then told by a man to bake five more or it would mean her death. I
believe that the baker’s problem was that every time pies were baked, she
would eat them.
protocol suggests how a macro-structure can stilI be used in procedural
attachment, even when a substantial amount of the originally presented content
is missing. The other baking-world story introduced a woman whose failure at
baking is cured by the intervention of a mysterious lady arriving to give
lessons in cookery; the results are so miraculous that ‘in the last part of
the story […] all the woman wanted to do was bake pies’.
The story protocols support the storage and recall processes I postulated in
VII.3.29 concerning the interaction of text knowledge with stored knowledge.
When the spinning was explained in the second test run, the corresponding
entries in the textual world were brought into focus, and recall of the spinning
task was extremely accurate-—evidence that material matching prior knowledge
is indeed privileged (VII.3.29.1). The subjects who reported recognizing the
story as a variant of the ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ tale recalled the name-guessing
The alterations to produce a better match with stored knowledge (VII.3.29.3)
arose noticeably from differences between a contemporary American audience and a
nineteenth-century Suffolk one. The unfamiliar ‘flax’ was often replaced
with better-known materials: ‘wool’, ‘yam’, and ‘cloth’. Subjects
recalled that the marriage was proposed to and accepted by the daughter herself;
that the pies were for dessert (as in the US), not supper; and that the king
arrived at the woman’s residence on a horse rather than walking (6
protocols)—more dignified. Instances of conflation via world-knowledge
(VII.3.29.4) included remembering both mother and daughter baking together;
having the daughter spinning at the door; and confusing Tom’s spinning with
his tail-twirling, e.g.:
a little black creature that helped her simply by spinning his tail
Each time that he came to visit he would spin faster and faster
conflation occurring in the group who heard the discrepant version. Decay of
accidental knowledge (VII.3.29.5) was documented by the treatment of Tom’s
name. 3 students remembered it accurately; 16 recovered no name at all. The new
versions among the remainder included: ‘Tom Thompkin’, ‘Dit Dot’, ‘Tom
Tick Tock’, and this valiant or sarcastic attempt to reconstruct the song:
Ippity oppity dot,
name is Tiny Tim the Snot.
unclear status led people to recall him as an ‘animal’, a ‘black nymph’,
a ‘lady’ (huh?), and a ‘black cat’ (because of color plus tail?).
Due to the ECONOMY noted in VIII.2.39, subjects were prone to enrich the textual
world with inferencing and spreading activation. Two subjects
remembered the mother and daughter inhabiting a ‘little village house’
(“location-of” spreading). The dispute over the pies was given a “time”,
e.g. ‘later in the afternoon’ or ‘later that night’. The mother was
repeatedly described as ‘mad’ or ‘beside herself’ over the loss of pies
The centrality of story-world characters solving their problems (VIII.2.14)
is well established (cf. Meehan 1976; Rumelhart & Ortony 1977; Wilensky
1978). Even the confused subject who wrote a story only on baking (248)
mentioned the protagonist’s ‘problem’. We obtained some evidence of
subjects’ thinking in terms of characters’ PLANS, such as:
She sang low so the king wouldn’t hear her.
The lady was embarrassed and covered up for her daughter’s immaturity.
When the black thing came back with the skeins of flax, he was ready to take the
daughter with him.
the other hand, much less investigation has been concerned with how narrators
solve the problems of story-world connectivity. In the ‘Tom-TitTot
‘-world, the narrator confronts the problem of getting the opening episode
from a trivial baking event to a momentous royal marriage (VIII.2.23). If
subjects have forgotten how the original narrator proceeded, they use their own
methods. For instance, the word-play with ‘come again’ as ‘get soft’ was
lost, so that our students reasoned about the daughter’s motives for
overeating in these ways:
The girl couldn’t wait so she ate the five pies.
The daughter decided that the crusts would never become soft so she sat and ate
all five pies.
subjects simply had the daughter eat the pies out of hand; sometimes she was
recalled as a ‘little girl’ to suggest lack of self-control.
The subjects who forgot the circumstances of the king’s entry deployed
considerable ingenuity in solving the problem of how to introduce him. One had
him just ‘drop in’; another had the mother address the passing ‘king and
his troop’ with a deliberate ‘boasting’; four sent the mother out on a
walk through the village, singing to herself; two had the furious mother
‘yell’ her daughter’s misdeed out the door. The following protocol
excerpts illustrate how people strive for continuity despite very incomplete
Being irate and upset, she spun [!] to the doorway and yelled, “My daughter
has eaten all five pies’” It was quite a coincidence, because as she yelled
the king was passing by and asked her to repeat
The mother got screaming mad and yelled out the door. While she looked out the
front door, she heard a man singing along in the street and joined in.
(259) After she had eaten the pies, she began to sing a strange song. The mother sought help for her daughter by asking the king to marry her and take care of her. He agreed to do so if she would collect five skins for him each day.
The conclusion to be drawn from the assembled evidence on the recall of stories
is clear. Like all texts, stories are not just sequences of sentences or
propositions, but also cohesive systems of expression and coherent systems of knowledge.
However much or however little of the originally presented material
is processed, stored, and recovered, story receivers will make sense out of what
is available by working for sequential, conceptual, and planning connectivity.
To tabulate accuracy of recall is to look at only a fraction of the total
picture. The abstraction of traces or the analysis of surface features cannot be
the highest priority for communicative activities such as narration. All
participants-story tellers, story receivers, characters in story worlds utilize
whatever is necessary and accessible to solve their problems and attain their
goals in a co-operative enterprise whose texts, though highly varied and
flexible, are suitably designed for those tasks.
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