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An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: van der Auwera, Johan

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Moving on and off the timeline in narratives of personal experience written in three languages: A form-function developmental study

Judy R. Kupersmitt
  • Department of Communication Disorders, Hadassah Academic College, Jerusalem, Israel
  • :
Published Online: 2015-10-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2015-0033


This paper explores the construal of temporality in personal narratives written in English, Spanish, and Hebrew, three languages that differ in their morphological marking of tense-aspect. Participants were native speakers of each language in four different age groups from middle childhood across adolescence into adulthood, so taking into account developmental facets of narrative temporality in each language. Focus is on distribution of situations on and off the timeline of the story from the point of view of the linguistic configurations employed by narrators to express the temporal domains of tense and aspect in the three languages at both the intra-clausal and inter-clausal levels. Hebrew was found to differ from Spanish and English, both of which have more enriched system of grammaticized aspect, in the distribution of situations on and off the timeline both developmentally across age groups and in the linguistic means conflated in expression of temporality. The more impoverished system of grammatical aspect in Hebrew led narrators writing in Hebrew to prefer a more linear temporal organization than their counterparts in Spanish and English. The study distinguishes between shared versus language-particular patterns of narrative-embedded temporality from the point of view of linguistic forms and their temporal functions in the context of extended discourse. Results of the study shed light on the interrelations between local linguistic means and the discourse-embedded expression of temporality in narrative development.

Keywords: temporality; personal narrative; tense-aspect; development

Published Online: 2015-10-27

Published in Print: 2015-11-01

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 53, Issue 6, Pages 1303–1339, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2015-0033, October 2015

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