The Grammar of Autobiography: A Developmental Account

By Jean Quigley | Go to book overview
Save to active project

I
Modal Grammar in the Construction of the Self

The philosophical problem "What is the self?" comes close to being definitively solved by attacking it from a linguistic point of view. Harré ( 1993a, p. 111)

There has been a tendency to take as metaphysical and/or empirical matters that are in a broad sense grammatical, for instance, the self, agency, intention and so on. Harré ( 1989, p. 24)

This section looks closely at the range of meanings and functions associated with the use of modal auxiliaries, at how they are used to frame actions, events, and perspectives in the children's autobiographical narratives. How do the children relate the "landscape of action," their agentive selves, to the "landscape of consciousness," their epistemic selves? Bruner ( 1995) describes how Greimas ( 1983) proposes an axis:

extending from inwardness to outwardness, from the subjective to the objective linguistically memorialised in the primitive system of the modal verbs. To desire is to implicate little in the world; to know what ones desires moves one outward toward the world; to feel one is able to achieve what one desires is yet another step outward. To be able, of course, implies both senses of the term: epistemic and deontic, what one is able or not able to do by virtue of skill and knowledge and what one is permitted or not permitted to do by virtue of the social world. Finally, one acts or does, and impinges directly upon the world. Self-accounting must exploit the full axis from desire to action if it is to bridge the gap between the subjective and the objective, between inner and outer. (p. 166)

Self-accounting is the main work of autobiographical discourse. The situations in which speakers manipulate perspective are those in which actions, consequences, and responsibility are at issue. These concepts are centrally at issue as we construct autobiographical narrative and are manipulated and constructed in English largely via the modal auxiliaries. The modal auxiliaries are identified as critical points in the children's life stories, which means it is also necessary to establish the other linguistic forms1 the children use at these points

____________________
1
This is a very difficult area. See Aarts and Meyer ( 1995) for a selection of different approaches to the analysis of constructions involving auxiliary verbs.

-64-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Grammar of Autobiography: A Developmental Account
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 232

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?