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Folia Linguistica

Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae

Editor-in-Chief: Fischer, Olga / Norde, Muriel

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Folia Linguistica
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Folia Linguistica Historica
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Volume 34, Issue 1


Participant continuity and narrative structure: Defining discourse marker functions in Old English

Brita Wårvik
Published Online: 2013-10-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flih.2013.008


The system of participant reference allows narrators not only to keep track of who is who, but it also serves to reveal the structure of the text and the ranking of the participants in the text. As narratives are typically built around storylines, participant reference systems interact and participate in signalling text structure and storylines in narrative texts. The aim of this article is to study the interaction of þa ‘then’ and participant continuity in structuring Old English narratives. In Old English narratives the adverb þa serves several discourse functions, which are related to the core function of foregrounding, or signalling the main line of narrative. However, it has been argued that þa is a signal of discontinuity, whose main function is to mark discourse-unit boundaries. On the basis of co-occurrence patterns of þa and signals of participant continuity in a sample of Alfrician sermons, I wish to argue that, at the intersection of participant continuity and foregrounding, þa has the function of reintroducing major participants into the story, simultaneously signalling text structure and continuity and cohesion in the text, and that the discontinuity associated with þa arises from its interaction with other structuring signals.

Keywords: Narrative structure; grounding (foreground-background distinction); participant continuity; participant rank; Old English; discourse marker

About the article

Published Online: 2013-10-16

Published in Print: 2013-10-01

Citation Information: Folia Linguistica Historica, Volume 34, Issue 1, Pages 209–242, ISSN (Online) 1614-7316, ISSN (Print) 0168-647X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flih.2013.008.

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