Topic 32 – Narrative texts. Structure and characteristics

Topic 32 – Narrative texts. Structure and characteristics



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. The notion of text linguistics: Discourse Analysis.

2.2. On defining text.

2.2.1. Textual features:texture and ties.

2.2.2. Textuality: the seven standards.

2.2.3. Intertextuality: text types.

2.2.4. Text typology. Text types: main criteria. Text types: narration.


3.1. On defining narrative texts.

3.2. Narrative texts: main ele ments.

3.2.1. Narrator: point of view and voice.

3.2.2. Character vs. characterization.

3.2.3. Theme: the story central idea.

3.2.4. Plot: sequence of events.

3.2.5. Setting: place, time and atmosphere.

3.3. Narrative texts: structure.

3.4. Narrative texts: textual features.

3.4.1. Cohesion. Grammatical devices. Lexical devices. Graphological devices.

3.4.2. Coherence.





1.1. Aims of the unit.

The main aim of Unit 32 is to present the issue of narrative texts in terms of structure and main features . Our aim is to offer a broad account of this type of texts and examine their structure and main features from a linguistic point of view. In order to do so, we shall divide our study in five chapters.

In Chapter 2 we shall offer a theoretical framework for the analysis of narrative texts since this concept is related to other key notions which prove essential in the understanding of its study. So we shall review (1) the notion of text linguistics since the analysis of narrative texts is discussed within the framework of Discourse Analysis. Accordingly then, we shall analyse (2) the definition of text and hence we shall examine (a) textual features such as texture and ties, (b) the seven standards of textuality within the notion of textuality, (c) the notion of intertextuality as the origin of text types, and then (d) the main text typology so as to analyse (i) the main criteria for classifying text types and (ii) the concept of narrative within text types.

Chapter 3 will offer then an insightful analysis and description of narrative texts in terms of (1) definition; (2) main narrative elements: (a) narrator, (b) characters vs. characterization, (c) theme, (d) plot and (e) the setting; (3) structure and (4) main literary  evices within narrative text types: (a) cohesion, (b) coherence and (c) other literary devices.

Chapter 4 will be devoted to present the main directions and educational implications in language teaching regarding narrative texts and Chapter 5 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study. Finally, Chapter 6 will include all the bibliographical references used in this study.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to the analysis of text is based on relevant works of Halliday and Hasan, Cohesion in English (1976); Brown and Yule, Discourse Analysis (1983); van Dijk, Text and Context (1984); and Beaugrande and Dressler, Introduction to Text Linguistics (1988). Classic works regarding the term ‘narrative’ include Scholes and Kellogg, The Nature of Narrative (1966), still indispensable; Barthes, Introduction to the structural analysis of narratives (1977); Traugott and Pratt, Linguistics for Students of Literature (1980); Genette, Noveau discours du récit (1983); Bal, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (1985); Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (1985); and Toolan, Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction (1988).

The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by Canale, From Communicative Competence to Communicative Language Pedagogy (1983); Hymes, On communicative competence (1972). In addition, the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by Jenni Conn, Choosing and Using Literature (1995), the guidelines in B.O.E. (2002) and the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998).


In Chapter 2 we shall offer a the oretical framework for the analysis of narrative texts since this concept is related to other key notions which prove essential in the understanding of its study. So we shall review (1) the notion of text linguistics since the analysis of narrative texts is discussed within the framework of Discourse Analysis. Accordingly then, we shall analyse (2) the definition of text and hence we shall examine (a) textual features such as texture and ties, (b) the seven standards of textuality within the notion of textuality, (c) the notion of intertextuality as the origin of text types, and then (d) the main text typology so as to analyse (i) the main criteria for classifying text types and (ii) the concept of narration within text types.

2.1. The notion of text linguistics: Discourse Analysis.

The notion of text linguistics designates ‘any work in language science devoted to the text as the primary object of inquiry’ (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). In fact, many fields have approached the study of texts, and in part icular, that of narrative texts through literary studies: linguistics (from grammar, morphology and phonology), anthropology (different speech acts in different cultures), psychology (speaker and hearer behaviour) and stylistics (correctness, clarity, elegance, appropriateness, style).

Yet, the oldest form of preoccupation with texts and the first foundation for the analysis of texts and its articulation is drawn from the notion of text linguistics which has its historical roots in rethoric , dating from Ancient Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages up to the present under the name of text linguistics or discourse. Traditional rethoricians were influenced by their major task of training public orators on the discovery of ideas (invention), the arrangement of ideas (disposition), the discovery of appropriate expressions for ideas (elocution), and memorization prior to delivery on the actual occasion of speaking.

In the Middle Ages, rethoric was based on grammar (on the study of formal language patterns in Greek and Latin) and logic (on the construction of arguments and proofs). Rethoric still shares several concerns with the kind of text linguistics we know today, for instance, the use of texts as vehicles of purposeful interaction (oral and written), the variety of texts which express a given configuration of ideas, the arranging of ideas and its disposition within the discourse and the judgement of texts which still depends on the effects upon the audience.

2.2. On defining text.

The definition of ‘text’ is quite relevant in our study since it will lead us straighforwardly to the notion of ‘ narrative text’ when reviewing text types. It will be from text typology that we shall get the notion of intertextuality and therefore, narrative texts. Following Halliday & Hasan (1976), “the word ‘text’ is used in linguistics to refer to any passage, spoken or written, of whatever length, that does form a unified whole”. As a general rule, we know whether an utterance or sequence of utterances constitute a text or not though it may be “spoken or written, prose or verse, dialogue or monologue, and also anything from a single proverb to a whole play, from a momentary cry for help to an all- day discussion on a committee”. In addition, a text is best regarded as a semantic unit and not a unit of form. Hence, we may establish its relation to the term ‘narration’ since it may be a short or long story, a proverb, a play, a joke in terms of narrating a fact.

2.2.1. Textual features: texture and ties.

Textual features such as texture and ties give a text the status of ‘being a text’. First of all, the concept of texture is defined as the textual resource that functions as a unity with respect to its environment and secondly, ties are defined as the resources that English has for creating texture so as to contribute to its total unity by means of cohesive relations (reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion). The concept of a tie makes it possible to analyse a text in terms of its cohesive properties and give a systematic account of its patterns of texture (Halliday & Hasan, 1976).

2.2.2. Textuality: the seven standards.

Perhaps the notion of textuality is the most relevant in our study since we reach the notion of narrative text through one of its seven standards: intertextuality. Actually, written texts conform to rules that most successful writers unconsciously follow and native readers unconsciously expect to find. It is relevant, then, to address the term textuality in written and oral texts as it is involved in rules governing written discourse (hence its relationship to narrative texts).

In the approach to text linguistics by de Beaugrande & Dressler (1988), a text, oral or printed, is established as a communicative occurrence, which has to meet seven standards of textuality : cohesion, coherence, intentionality and acceptability, informativity, situationality and finally, intertextuality. If any of these standards are not satisfied, the text is considered not to have fulfilled its function and not to be communicative.

We shall briefly review the first six standards of textuality so as to analyse the seventh one in next section:

(1) Cohesion is, as well as coherence, a text-centred notion which is related to the function of syntax and the components of the surface text. It also deals with cohesive ties as mentioned above (anaphora, cataphora, ellipsis, etc) and signalling relations (tense and aspect, modality, uptdating, junction, conjunction, disjunction and subordination).

(2) Coherence is “the outcome of actualizing meanings in order to make sense” (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). It concerns a set of relations subsumed under causality (cause, enablement, reason, purpose time) and global patterns responsible for making a text be “senseless’ or non-sensical” (frames, schemas, plans, and scripts). In other words, it gives sense to a text. (3) Intentionality subsumes the intentions of text producers, that is, their attitude. In the most immediate sense of the term, the producer ‘intends’ the language configuration under production to a cohesive and coherent text instrumental in fulfilling the writer intentions. This standard deals with the pragmatic perspective of discourse, that is, the conversational maxims of co-operation: quantity, quality, relation and manner on saying ‘be informative, be truthful, be relevant and be brief’

(4) Acceptability, on the other hand, concerns the receiver attitude. Here a set of occurrences should constitute a cohesive and coherent text having some use or relevance for the receiver in an appropriate context of communication.

(5) Informativity concerns the extent to which the occurrences of the text are expected vs. unexpected or known vs. unknown or uncertain by means of content words (verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs). Hence we expect different types of texts (poetic, scientific, literary, etc).

(6) Situationality concerns the factors which make a text “relevant to a current or recoverable situation of occurrence” (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). The effects of a situational setting are very rare when there is no mediation and therefore, t he extent to which one feeds one’s own beliefs and goals into one’s model of the current communicative situation (i.e. in dramatic texts, as a subclass of literary texts). There exist the prerogative of presenting alternative organizations for objects and events in live presentations (prologue, unusual frequency of events, actions with no reason, etc).

(7) And finally, intertextuality which will be reviewed in connection to text types and, therefore, the notion of narrative texts in next section.

2.3. Intertextuality: text types.

Intertextuality concerns the factors which make the use of one text dependent upon knowledge of one or more previously encountered texts, that is, the ways in which the production and reception of a given text depends upon the participants knowledge of other texts. The usual mediation is achieved by means of the development and use of text types, being classes of texts expected to have certain traits for certain purposes: descriptive, narrative , argumentative, literary and poetic, scientific and didactic.

For 2,400 years there have been two traditions of classifying texts. The first one, de riving from Aristotle’s Rethoric, where the term rethoric refers to the uses of language. More specific, it refers to modes of discourse realized through text types, thus narration, description, directive, exposition and argumentation. Within the second tradition, rethoric refers to communicative function as rethorical strategies in functional lines: descriptive: to enrich knowledge spaces; narrative: to arrange actions and events; argumentative: to promote the acceptance of certain beliefs; and so on.

2.4. Text typology.

In this section we shall approach the concept of text typology from two main perspectives: (1) the main criteria for text typology by means of which we review basic principles for all types of texts regarding literary devices, order and sequence elements and common text structures; and (2) a text type classification and description.

2.4.1. Text types: main criteria.

There are three main criteria when establishing a typology for texts: literary devices, order and sequence elements and common text structures for all types of texts.

(1) Regarding literary devices, we deal with literary texts which share specific conditions of production, contradictory cultural discourses, and intercultural processes. For such reasons, literary texts may be polysemous, having a range of interpretive possibilities. The main basic principles are considered to be literary elements and devices to evaluate how the form of a literary work and the use of literary elements and devices, such as setting, plot, theme, and many more to be mentioned, contribute to the work’s message and impact.

Among the basic principles of literature applied to all text types, we may find that the subject is expressed in terms of theme; the writer approaches this subject with a specific point of view, both physical and psychological, and from a definite perspective; the writer’s attitude toward a subject is expressed through his voice, real and assumed, which is marked by a distinctive tone. Satire, irony, and hyperbole are special attitudes and tones.

(2) Order and sequence . Moreover, basic to the concept of form is the notion of order and sequence, which can be logical, chronological, or psypchological; much of literature deals with storied elements which have their genesis in some type of conflict; plot, then, moves from complication, through conflict, to resolution where deeper levels of meaning are suggested through image, metaphor, and symbols; such storied literature takes place in a real or imagined setting, within a time and a place; and finally, participants are considered to be characters, and the reality they represent is characterization.

(3) Text structure. By studying the textual and lexical elements of text types, one can learn to regularly recognize the overall structure of a text. Following a general division of any kind of text we may sometimes begin with a brief heading or descriptive title, with or without a byline, an epigraph or brief quotation, or a salutation, such as we may find at the start of a letter. They may also conc lude with a brief trailer , byline, or signature . Elements which may appear in this way, either at the start or at the end of a text division proper, are regarded as forming a class, known as divtop or divbot respectively.

The following special purpose elements are provided to mark features which may appear only at the start of a division : the head, an epigraph an argumen and a salutation. The conclusion will be characterized by a brief trailer of the subject matter as a summary of facts. A byline or a signa ture may also conclude any piece of writing.

2.4.2. Text types: narration.

According to Trimble (1985) we may classify texts in two ways. Firstly, according to purpose , and secondly, according to type or mode. According to purpose, in terms of communicative functions, the discourse is intended to inform, express an attitude, persuade and create a debate. According to type or mode, the classification distinguishes among descriptive, narrative, expository, argumentative, and instrumental modes.

Hence, in this study we are dealing with narrative texts which, on the one hand, are intended to tell a story in terms of communicative functions and, on the other hand, according to the category or text types it is included within the type of narration, that is, the fact of narrating events, facts and situations. Now let us examine narrative texts more in depth regarding structure and main features.


The analysis of narration will be carried out in terms of (1) definition; (2) main narrative elements: (a) narrator, (b) characters vs. characterization, (c) theme, (d) plot and (e) the setting; (3) structure and (4) main literary devices within narrative text types: (a) cohesion, (b) coherence and (c) other literary devices.

3.1. On defining narrative texts.

A narrative text is usually defined as a type of discourse concerned with action, with events in time and with life in motion which answers the question “What happened?” in order to tell a story (Bal, 1985). Narrative is then a recounting of things distant in time and space (hence the different ways of telling events). As stated above, the purpose of a narrative text is to entertain, to tell a story, or to provide an aesthetic literary experience in fiction or real life.

Narrative text is based on life experiences and is person-oriented using dialogue and familiar language. Narrative text is organized using story grammar which give account of interesting events which constitute part of our daily life (jokes, personal el tters, e-mails, diaries, reports, school essays, curricula vitae, reviews, biography, autobiography, novels, thrillers, post- it notes among many others). The genres that fit the narrative text structure are folktales (wonder tales, fables, legends, myths, tall tales, and realistic tales); contemporary fiction; mysteries, science fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. So, narrative text may be either fiction or non-fiction. Examples of fiction include realistic fiction, science fiction, mysteries, folk tales, fairy tales, and myths whereas on-fiction is fact-based text such as reports, factual stories, and biographies.

3.2. Narrative texts: main elements.

We can distinguish two types of narrative elements depending on the type of narrative text:

common elements for all narrative text types and specific elements for literary texts. It must be borne in mind that in current society, narration is always present at different levels but it is perhaps in the domains of literature that narrative texts have been analysed in more detail.

So, first of all, for general narrative texts to exist, there must be three main elements: characters, plot and intention. The element ‘character’ gives coherence to the story and must undergo transformation changes. Secondly, the ‘plot’ is said to be a sequence of predictable events which must be altered so as to change the normal story line. Finally, the concept of ‘intention’ gives sense and orientation to the text and it may be explicit (off voice in advertisements) or inferred (the same news on two different newspapers).

On the other hand, literary texts are said to have five common elements (some of which coincide with the previous ones): narrator (point of view, voice); characters (people or animals in the story) vs. characterization (round vs. flat characters); theme (central ideal of the story); plot (sequence of events, conflicts which change the normal rhythm of the story) and setting (time and place, when or where the story takes place).

3.2.1. Narrator: point of view.

The narrator is defined as the voice that tells a story (not to be confused with ‘author’, the person who creates the story) . The n, the narrator is the author’s creation and belongs to the narrative world as well as characters (Rimmon-Kenan, 1985). He is defined as the person who bears some relation to the action, either as an observer or a participant who serves the reader as akind of guide to the action (Toolan, 1988). Yet, we may approach the figure of the narrator regarding (1) who the narrator is in the story (a main character, a secondary character, an invented narrator) depending on the relation they bear to the action, that is, how much they know about the story (omniscient vs. mere observer); (2) the point of view the story is told (first person, second person, third person, the narrator’s explicit address); and (3) the mode of presentation (telling vs. showing).

(1) Regarding who the narrator is and how much he knows about the story, we shall say that generally, the narrator may be a main character, a secondary character or an invented narrator. Often, secondary characters coincides with being mere observers and an invented narrator is used by the author to talk explicitly through the story. The narrators can be omniscient, if they know all the aspects of the plot, express the characters’ feelings and thoughts and even may anticipate actions; in contrast to non- omniscient narrators who are external observers and are objective. Hence they are compared with a cinema camera, which films facts, gestures and words).

(2) With respect to the point of view the story, that is, the relation the narrator keeps with the story, we distinguish the narration in (a) third person singular, (b) first person, (c) second person singular and (c) explicit address on the part of the narrator.

a. First, we examine narration in third person singular since it is the most usual form. It offers and impersonal point of view about the story. The narrator can have (i) an omniscient point of view (panoramic narrator) who reports all aspects of an action and may go into the head of any or all of the characters involved in the action. Also, we find (ii) a non-omniscient point of view (sharp focus) where the author does not sweep the entire field of the action but keeps his intention focused on one character and on that character’s relation to the action ((Toolan, 1988).

b. Secondly, the first person singular is used when the narrator is a character in the story and talks in first person singular. His knowledge on the story will depend on he being the main character or an internal observer. If he is the main or, at least, an important participant in the story, he will tell the story from his own point of view (main character). On the contrary, if the narrator (real or imaginary) recounts an action of which he is an external observer, we shall talk about a narrator-observer.

c. Thirdly, although quite rare, the author can make the narrator speak in second person singular when he wants to transmit the feeling of confession or internal story facts.

d. Finally, the author can also invent a narrator so as to offer his point of view about the story.

(3) Finally, we can talk about the mode of the story, which can be ‘telling’ or ‘showing’ depending on the intention of the narrator. If the narrator reports actions from his own point of view, we talk about ‘telling’; in contrast, if the narrator reports actions from an objective point of view, we talk about ‘showing’.

3.2.2. Character vs. characterization.

Characters are necessary to maintain coherence and consistency in a story and they are defined as the people (or animals) that perform actions in narrative texts. We can distinguish three main types:

(1) the main characters, who participate most in the plot, (2) secondary characters, who are actually a support for the main characters and (3) juncture characters, who are not even introduced as individuals (extras).

According to the way participants are characterized (or introduced in the plot), characters are classified into (1) characters as individuals (round characters) and (2) characters and stereotypes (flat characters). It must be borne in mind that there are two main ways of characterization: direct and indirectly. In direct characterization, the narrator describes the person’s physical appearance and also accounts for his personality (attitudes, thoughts, behaviour) whereas in indirect characterization, all we know about characters is drawn from actions, not from their personal description.

Then, (1) regarding round characters , we may say that the plot is organized around them, their feelings, thoughts, conflicts, and life in general. They are presented as individuals which have real existence and they attract all the narrator’s attention. (2) On the other hand, flat characters are presented as stereotypes, that is, representing conventional attitudes or ideas about human behaviour. They represent stereotypes of personality, attitudes, thoughts, physical appearance, and so on but they are not considered to be relevant in the plot.

3.2.3. Theme: the story central idea.

The theme is the central idea of the story which can be directly stated or through use of story elements, namely characters. When we express the theme through use of the story, the aim is (1) to make readers infere the ending of the story; sometimes (2) it involves a lesson to be learned from the story; or (3) the author wants the readers to get the theme because of the way characters’s actions affect the story by means of a particular sentence or main topic.

3.2.4. Plot: sequence of events.

The plot of the story is defined as the story grammar, that is, the knowledge of how stories are organized with the beginning of the story containing the setting, the characters, and the characters’ problem(s). In fact, the plot is causally related to actions which, as single episodes, merely add up to a loosely knit story. This story telling may be chronological or reverted (flashbacks or foreshadowings). So, we can say that narrative texts are organized around a plot and that the us er guides the plot structures through character interactions. As a result, characters and the environment influence the narrative.

Then the plot involves a problem or a conflict which is presented in the story in a specific order of events and sets the action in motion. The plot includes a series of episodes that are written by the author to hold our attention and build excitement as the story progresses. Included in these events may be some roadblocks (setbacks) that the character encounters while attempting to solve the problem. During these events the excitement of the story builds as the character goes about solving the problem. The ending of the story contains the resolution (the solving of the proble m) and the ending to the story.

Therefore the story grammar or structure of a narrative piece would contain these components:

(1) beginning, that is, an initiating event that starts the main character off on a series of events to solve the problem and in a specific setting (time and place). We may say it is the open beginning or exposition of the story.

(2) middle, that is, a series of subsequent events that the character encounters , called roadblocks, which are setbacks for him when attempting to solve the problem. During these events the excitement of the story builds as the character goes about trying to find a solution.

(3) End, that is, the last sequence in which the author brings the story to a resolution (open ending) and the problem is solved. Hence, the ending of the story and the ending to the story. The main solutions to a problem are:

twist endings. In this type of endings, the writers (usually suspense and mystery ones) often end the story in a way that the reader does not expect.

Flashback. The story begin s with an event and then goes back in time allowing the reader to understand previous events.

3.2.5. Setting: space, time and atmosphere.

The setting of a story is defined as the environment of the action as constituted by time, space and atmosphere (Scholes and Kellogg, 1966). So, space, time reference and atmosphere refers respectively to where or when the story takes place and the general effect produced by these two concepts. Authors may tell the reader the exact time or place of the story, but often these must be inferred by the reader. The time and place are usually important to the plot of the story when the details of the setting have metaphorical significance (i.e. furnishment of a room, a house structure). Actually, these details can help the reader answer questions about the plot or character actions in the story.

With respect to ‘space’, some stories are set in faraway lands or imaginary places, others are set in familiar places. It may also be a universal place (the Universe, South Africa, the ocean) or a specific place (London, a little village on the highest mountain). Regarding number, the action may take place in only one setting (inside a cabin during all the film) or in more places (different cities like James Bond’s films). Moreover, we may find indoor scenes (a house, a palace, a castle) or outdoor (a meadow, a football pitch). Finally, the place may have a symbolic meaning (love stories in Paris; ghost stories in English castles). Regarding ‘time reference’, a story can be set in the present, past, or the future. The relationship between the acting time and narrated time will give us four different subclassifications of time: historical, internal, verbal and rhythmic. First, historical time is set up in the time of the action (Viking Age, Victorian Age, XXth century); secondly, internaltime frames the story (one day in James Joyce’s Ulises, 100 Years War); third, verbal time is usually presented in past tense although the simple present is used to give a feeling of lively actions; finally, the narrative rhythm is independent from the chronological setting the story has since the author may slow the pace (in the sense of a longer temporal scope) by means of descriptions or, on the contrary, may summarise the pass of several years in a few sentences.

Another important element in the setting of a story is the atmosphere, that is, the general effect or feeling produced by the theme, the characters, the place, etc. of the story (i.e. the atmosphere produced in Edgar Allan Poe’s stories by the strange doings of some characters, mistery places, a dark and gloomy setting).

3.3. Narrative texts: structure.

The structure of narrative texts has been already presented when we examined ‘the plot’ since it is the order of events that are structured by time, rather than space, what marks a text as narrative. The order is given by the focus on the story ending. Therefore, as stated, we may find three types of narrative developments:

1. Firstly, in order to know the ending of the story, we shall find a linear development which follows a chronological order from the beginning to the end of the story.

2. Secondly, if the focus is not on the ending but on the circumstances leading to the ending, events may start at the end of the story and be described, then, in terms of flash-backs in order to attract the reader’s attention.

3. Thirdly, if the focus is on both the beginning and the ending, the telling may start at an intermediate point within the story for events to be described in terms of backwards and forwards movements. This technique is to be called in medias res narration .

By studying the textual and lexical elements of text types, one can learn to regularly recognize the overall structure of a text. For example, if one finds lexical signals that indicate situation-problem- response-result, we can know with some certainty that we are dealing with a Problem-Solution test. When one identifies vocabulary items that signal doubt or skepticism, (words such as appear, suggests, speculation, etc.), we know we are dealing with a Claim-Counterclaim structure. In fact, while the sequence of these structures may be varied, we should always find all the elements we are looking for in a well-formed text. So, let us examine which textual and lexical elements there are in narrative texts.

3.4. Narrative texts: main literary devices.

The main textual features in narrative texts are given by textual and lexical items, that is, literary devices which are words used to enrich the understanding of the story (i.e. dynamic and static verbs, common and concrete nouns, quantity and quality adjectives, time and place adverbs, etc). Yet, these and other literary devices may be stated indirectly and reflect the author’s style of writing word choice. In addition, the author may use a wide range of word choice for different purposes, thus to entertain, to inform and to persuade the reader about the telling.

The author uses vocabulary to enhance the reader’s understanding of characters and events in the story. In addition, the author’s choice of vocabulary produces the mood and tone of the story. Readers must understand the meaning of vocabula ry as used in the story context, for instance, the meaning a word has in the story (i.e. ‘A ring’ in ‘The Lord of the Rings’), the clues that are given in the text toward understanding of the word (i.e. the action around the ring), the synonyms that can be used in place of that word (i.e. My treasure), and finally, what that word suggests (i.e. The power and control of the reign).

So, let us analyse the basic language structures in narrative texts regarding the articulation of written discourse devices where we shall approach literary devices in narrative texts from the disciplines of syntax, pragmatics and namely semantics, together with a grammatical approach. Hence we shall analyse cohesion, coherence and other literary devices. We shall start by offering (1) an analysis of cohesion where we shall include the concepts of anaphora, cataphora, connectors and deixis (following Halliday & Hassan, 1976); (2) a brief analysis of coherence; and finally , (3) other literary devices (stream of consciousness and free indirect style).

3.4.1. Cohesion.

The term ‘cohesion’ concerns the ways in which the components of the surface text (the actual words we hear or see) are mutually connected within a sequence of utterances (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988), that is, intra-text linking devices are connected to extra -textual reference. The notion of ‘cohesion’ is expressed through the stratal organization of language which can be explained as a multiple coding system comprising three levels of coding: the semantic one (meanings), the lexicogrammatical (forms: grammar and vocabulary) and the phonological and orthographic one (expressions: sounding and writing).

Cohesion has been a most popular target for research, and it is well known its relation to the second of the textuality standards, coherence. Since cohesive markers are important for the understanding of narrative texts, all speakers make extensive use of them, for example in order to enhance coherence, but also for reasons of economy (e.g. saving time and alleviating conceptual work load by using anaphoric devices like generalisations and pro-forms).

Since cohesion is expressed partly through the grammar and partly through the vocabulary, we find two main types of cohesive devices considered as general categories of cohesion: grammatical cohesion (substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, reference) and lexical cohesion (reiteration, collocation). Yet, we shall include in our study a third type that, although last is not the least. We refer to graphological devices (orthography, punctuation, headings, foot notes, tables of contents and indexes) since most of them deal with form and structure of narrative texts, and are part of the semantic relations established in a text. Grammatical cohesion.

Thus the concept of cohesion accounts for the essential semantic relations whereby any story is enabled to function as text. It is within grammatical cohesion that we find different types of relations: substitution, ellipsis, conjunction and reference. Note that the first two items are not included in the title of this study, but the rest makes reference to the terms ‘anaphora and cataphora, connectors and deixis’. It is relevant to mention first that anaphora and cataphora will be examined under the heading of reference, connectors under the heading of conjunction and finally, deixis as a subtype of reference and ellipsis.

The cohesive device of ‘substitution’ is very similar to that of ‘ellipsis’. These two cohesive relations are thought of as processes within the text: substitution as ‘the replacement of one item by another’, and ellipsis as the omission of an item. Essentially the two are the same process since ellipsis can be interpreted as ‘that form of substitution in which the item is replaced by nothing’, that is, simply ‘substitution by zero’ (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). However, the mechanisms involved in the two are rather different, and also, at least in the case of ellipsis, fairly complex, so we shall devote a section to each. Similarly, ‘substitution’ is different from ‘reference’ in that the former is a grammatical relation whereas the latter is a semantic one. We may find three different types of substitution which are defined in grammatical terms rather than semantically: nominal (one, ones, same), verbal (do), and clausal (so, not).

As stated above, the cohesive device of ‘ellipsis’ is very similar to that of ‘substitution’ and, therefore, is considered as a process. It is defined as ‘the omission of an item’ or ‘that form of substitution in which the item is replaced by nothing’, that is, simply ‘substitution by zero’ (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). The structural mechanisms involved in ellipsis are fairly complex and hence, it shows different patterns from those of substitution. The discussion of ellipsis is related to the notion that it is ‘something left unsaid’ where there is no implication that what is unsaid is not understood; on the contrary, ‘unsaid’ implies ‘but understood nevertheless’, and another way of referring to ellipsis is in fact as ‘something understood’ meaning ‘going without saying’ (i.e. She brought some biscuits, and Cristine some fruit).

Like substitution, ellipsis is a relation within the text, and in the great majority of instances the presupposed item is present in the preceding text, that is, in anaphoric relation. We may distinguish two different structural possibilities in which ellipsis is a form of relation between sentences by means of: first, nominal ellipsis, that is, ellipsis within the nominal group (i.e. He ate four oysters and yet another four) where the modifying elements include some which precede the head and some which follow it, as premodifier and postmodifier respectively (i.e. How did you enjoy the show?-A lot (of the show); and econdly, verbal ellipsis, that is ellipsis within the verbal group (i.e. Have you been running?-Yes, I have). An elliptical verbal group presupposes one or more words from a previous verbal group. In technical terms, it is defined as ‘a verba l group whose structure does not fully express its systemic features (finiteness: finite vs. non-finite, polarity: positive vs. negative, voice: active vs. passive, tense: present vs. past vs. future).

The third type of grammatical cohesion is reference , which is another well researched area within linguistics. It is defined by Halliday & Hasan (1976) as ‘the case where the information to be retrieved is the referential meaning, the identity of the particular thing or class of things that is being referred to; and the cohesion lies in the continuity of reference, whereby the same thing enters into the discourse a second time’ (i.e. See how they eat! =where ‘they’ may be three children, four horses, etc).

There is a logical continuity from naming through situational reference (referring to a thing as identified in the context of situation) to textual reference (referring to a thing as identified in the surrounding text) and hence a significant opposition in the system between pointing back (anaphora) and pointing forwards (cataphora): thus the direction may be anaphoric (with the presupposed element preceding) or cataphoric (with the presupposed element following). The typical direction as we shall see later is the anaphoric one. It is natural after all, to presuppose what has already gone rather than what is to follow. Hence, in this case, situational reference would be the prior form.

As stated before, reference is the relation between an element of the text and something else by reference to which it is interpreted in the given instance. The interpretation may take two forms: either the reference item is interpreted through being identified with the referent in question; or it is interpreted through being compared with the referent. In the former case, where the interpretation involves identifying, the reference item functions as a deictic item which is always specific.

Deixis is defined as ‘the identifying function in the nominal group; and for cohesive purposes the identification must be specific’ (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988). Hence the set of reference items includes all the specific deictics (pronouns and determiners) except the interrogatives. The interrogatives (who, what, whose, which, what) cannot be cohesive since they contain only a request for specification, not the specification itself.

Thus deixis is achieved by means of the following types of reference in nominal groups (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988): personal, demonstrative and comparative. First, personal reference is ‘reference by means of function in the speech situation, throught the category of person’ (nouns, pronouns, determiners that refer to the speaker, the addressee, other persons or objects, or an object or unit of text); secondly, demonstrative reference is ‘reference by means of location, on a scale of proximity’ (determiners or adverbs that refer to locative or temporal proximity or distance, or that are neutral); and finally, comparative reference which is ‘indirect reference by means of identity or  similarity’ (adjectives or verbs expressing a general comparison based on identity, or difference, or express a particular comparison).

Conjunction is a relationship which indicates how the subsequent sentence or clause should be linked to the preceding or the following sentence or pa rts of sentence. This is usually achieved by the use of conjunctions (included in the title of the unit). Frequently occurring relationships are addition, causality and temporality. Subordination links works when the status of one depends on that of the ot her, by means of a large number of conjunctive expressions: because, since, as, thus, while , or therefore.

We may distinguish three varieties of presenting conjunctions in a text. First, conjunctive expressions, second conjunctive relations and finally, other conjunctive items called continuatives.

o First of all, conjunctive expressions involve the presence of a preposition which governs the reference item (i.e. instead of, as a result of, in consequence). The resulting prepositional group will then function as a cohesive adjunct and hence we distinguish three types of conjunctive adjuncts: first, adverbs: simple adverbs (but, so, then, next), compound adverbs (ending in –ly: accordingly, actually) and compound adverbs (there/where -: therefore, whereat); secondly, other compound adverbs (furthermore, anyway, besides, instead) and prepositional phrases (on the contrary, as a result, in addition to); and finally, prepositional expressions with ‘that’ or other reference item (as a result of that, instead of that, in addition to that). o Secondly, conjunctive relations involve the phenomena we group under the heading of conjunctions. There is no uniquely correct inventory of the different types of conjunctive relations; on the contrary, different classifications are possible, each of which would highlight different aspects of the facts grouped in four categories: additive (i.e. And in all this time he said nothing), adversative (i.e. Yet he was aware of his own mistake), causal (i.e. So he tried to apologize) and temporal (i.e. Then, as he thought, she didn’t forgive him) (Beaugrande & Dressler, 1988).

o Finally, there are other ways of expressing conjunctive relations called continuatives . Although these items do not express any particular conjunctive relation are nevertheless used with a cohesive force in the text. They are grouped according to their particular external relation (adversative, temporal and so on) or their internal relation (closely linked to the external one). We refer to items such as: now, of course, well, anyway, surely, after all. Lexical cohesion.

Lexical cohesion does not deal with grammatical or semantic connections but with connections based on the words used. It is achieved by selection of vocabulary, using semantically close items.

Because lexical cohesion in itself carries no indication whether it is functioning cohesively or not, it always requires reference to the text, to some other lexical item to be interpreted correctly. There are two types of lexical cohesion: reiteration and collocation.

First of all, reiteration includes repetition, synonymy, hyponymy, metonymy (part vs. whole), antonymy whereas collocation is any pair of lexical items that stand to each other in some recognisable lexico-semantic relation, e.g. “sheep” and “wool”, “congress” and “politician”, and “college” and “study”.

Like in the case of synonymous reference, collocational relation exists without any explicit reference to another item, but now the nature of relation is different: it is indirect, more difficult to define and based on associations in the reader mind. The interpreter sometimes adds coherence to the text by adding cohesion markers. Graphological devices

With respect to graphological resources, we are mainly dealing with visual devices as we make reference to orthography, punctuation, headings, foot notes, tables of contents and indexes. As most of them deal with form and structure of different types of texts, and will be further developed as part of a subsequent section, we sha ll primarily deal with orthography and punctuation in this section.

Firstly, orthography is related to a correct spelling, and in relation to this term, Byrne (1979) states that the mastery of the writing system includes the ability to spell. This device covers different word categories, but mainly, rules of suffixation, prefixation, and addition of verbal markers as gerunds, past tenses or third person singular in present tenses. Moreover, Byrne claims for the use of the dictionary as the relationship between sound and symbol in English is a complex one, and spelling becomes a problem for many users of the language, native and non-native speakers alike. The importance of correct spelling is highlighted when Byrne says that most of us are obliged to consult a dictionary from time to time so as not to be indifferent to misspelling. Therefore, students are encouraged to acquire the habit of consulting a dictionary in order to ensure an adequate mastery of spelling.

Secondly, according to Quirk et al (1972) punctuation serves two main functions. Firstly, the separation of successive units (such as sentences by periods, or items in a list by commas), and secondly, the specification of language function (as when an apostrophe indicates that an inflection is genitive). Moreover, punctuation is concerned with purely visual devices , such as capital letters, full stops, commas, inverted commas, semicolons, hyphens, brackets and the use of interrogative and exclamative marks. It is worth noting that punctuation has never been standardised to the same extent as spelling, and as a result, learners tend to overlook the relevance of punctuation when producing a text. Learners must be encouraged to pay attention to the few areas where conventions governing the use of the visual devices as fairly well established, among which we may mention letters and filling in forms as part of a sociocultural educational aim. Thus, students must try to understand the relevance of the use of capital letters as a mark of sentence boundary, the use of commas to enumerate a sequence of items, the use of question and exclamation marks to express requests or attitudes, and the use of inverted commas to highlight a word or sentence.

3.4.3. Other literary devices.

Other two main literary devices are those of ‘stream of consciousness’ and ‘free indirect style’ by means of which the narrator reports the character’s thoughts or speech. Regarding the ‘stream of consciousness’, we must say it is an ambiguous form of narration in which the characters’s thoughts are introduced in an immediate manner, literally as a copy of the thoughts itself, rather than a ‘reported thought’. This way of reporting what the character was thinking is quite complex.On the other hand, the ‘free indirect style’ is used when the narrator reports the characters’s thoughts or speech directly, that is, with no accompanying reporting clause (i.e. He said) as in direct speech. These two devices approach the mind of characters by getting fused with them and not by sta nding outside the character. This choice in narrative texts makes the story lively and quite dynamic (Bal, 1985).


But how do narrative texts tie in with the new curriculums? As we stated above, one of the pleasures of teaching the written language is that it is so easy to provide good models of almost any kind of writing. We may find models of texts and models of sentences created for different purposes.

Thus, according to Jenni Conn (1995), the model of narrative texts provides students the opportunity to write narrative essays using appropriate linguistic elements and also, to connect real- life experiences.

With so much writing in foreign language classes over so many years, one would expect to find highly effective methods for teaching this skill and marked success in learning it. Unfortunately, examination papers in composition the world over are, with few exceptions, disappointing. Many college and university students with four, five, even six or more years of study of anothe r language behind them are still unable to express themselves in a clear, correct, and comprehensible manner in writing.

Following van Ek & Trim (2001), ‘the learners can perform, within the limits of the resources available to them, those writing tasks which adult citizens in general may wish, or be called upon, to carry out in their private capacity or as members of the general public’ when dealing with filling in forms, writing letters (formal, informal), e-mails, taking notes at school, making summaries, and so on. On the whole, the completion of those forms that the learners are most likely to have deals with their personal or professional life: letters to authorities, companies, service departments, shops, businesses, with enquiries, requests, complaints, proposals, confirmations, reports on accidents, insurance claims, or simply telling a joke.

Moreover, nowadays new technologies may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate context for students to experience the targe t culture. Present-day approaches deal with a communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies. Regarding writing skills, there is a need to create classrooms conditions which match those in real life and foster acquisition, encouraging reading and writing, and within this latter one, to distinguish text types and its main characteristics, and in particular, narrative texts.

The success partly lies in the way the language becomes real to the users, feeling themselves really in the language. Some of this motivational force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom. This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals within specific contexts and registers. Thus, foreign language activities are provided within the framework of social interaction, personal, professional and educational fields.

Writing skills are mentioned as one of the aims of our current educational system (B.O.E. 2002) and in particular, for students of E.S.O. and Bachillerato about how to write a narration , argumentation or description. Actually, Bachillerato students are asked to structure narrative texts into beginning, middle and end’ by using narrative structure and textual features (lexical devices: conjunctions, nouns, adjectives, etc). It is stated that students will make use of this competence in a natural and systematic way in order to achieve the effectiveness of communication through the different communication skills, thus, productive (oral and written communication), receptive (oral and written comprehension within verbal and non-verbal codes), and interactional role of a foreign language as a multilingual and multicultural identity.

Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2002). There are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual, or ecological. The literary student has to discover these, and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. Interpreting a literary text thus calls for a fundamental interest in making discoveries, and in asking questions. The main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within the European framework.


In this study narrative texts have been approached in terms of elements, main textual features and structure. We may observe that dealing with narrative style is not just a linguistic matte r to be developed in the classroom setting; on the contrary, writing or reading stories enables us to carry out everyday tasks which prove essential in our current society, for instance, a complaint letter, reporting an accident to the police, taking notes or writing an essay.

Conn (1995) considers that stories offer us images to think with, other worlds to describe, and the capacity to deal in images since the symbol is at the heart of being human. In a literary society, she adds, books remain a major source of the history we can offer our children. In fact, telling stories satisfies a psychological need since written work serves to provide the learners with some evidence that they are making progress in the language.

The role of writing or telling storie s in present society is emphasized by the increasing necessity of learning a foreign language as we are now members of the European Community, and as such, we need to communicate with other countries at oral and written levels. Written patterns are given an important role when language learners face the monumental task of acquiring not only new vocabulary, syntactic patterns, and phonology, but also discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence, strategic competence, and interactional competence.

By exploring natural language use in authentic environments, learners gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the discourse patterns associated with a given event (narration: TV news, a joke, a gossip) as well as the sociolinguistic factors that contribute to linguistic variation across settings and contexts (the setting for a novel, in Spain vs. in London, that is, sunny vs. rainy).

To sum up, we may say that language is where culture impinges on form and where second language speakers find their confidence thre atened through the diversity of registers, genres and text types, in particular, narrative texts that make up the first language speaker’s day to day interaction. Language represents the deepest manifestation of a culture, and people’s values systems, including those taken over from the group of which they are part, play a substantial role in the way they use not only their first language but also subsequently acquired ones.


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