The Grammar of Autobiography: A Developmental Account

By Jean Quigley | Go to book overview

7
Evaluating Oneself: The Discourse of Morality

INTERPERSONAL NARRATING FUNCTIONS

This category consists of those metacommentary type uses of modalized utterances, whether direct performative uses or more negatively nuanced affairs. Even in a monologic narrative there's a listener and meaning is interactively constituted. For the modal auxiliaries the interpersonal function precedes the informational one ( Guo, 1994). The functions of boasting, showing off, and responding to perceived or anticipated challenges were included in this category as they were considered to be directed specifically at the listener, that is, to be occasioned by the discourse context and to be both outside, yet remaining part of, the events taking place within the narrative.1 This category of discourse functions represents about 9% of the overall modal utterances. There is a small, steady increase in these types of utterances with age, but all the children make fairly good use of this function of the modal auxiliaries. The 5-year-old speakers do the most boasting, which fits well with their preoccupation with possessions. Th8-year-olds also engage in boasting and showing off but are beginning to use some types of discourse markers fairly well. Once more, we could interpret this movement in the direction of a more adult model, a more conventional model that is.


Modal Auxiliaries as Discourse Markers

The 8- and 12-year-olds use the most discourse markers (for example, "CAN'T remember" used apologetically or dismissively) showing they are more aware of narrative conventions, of recipient design than the younger children. Also they seem to have more of an idea of what should be included in an autobiography, the type of information and stories generally offered as autobiographical discourse.

____________________
1
Fox ( 1994, pp. 30-31): "the study of grammar in use, in conversation, is the study of grammar in social interaction in socially organised contexts. Utterances are produced in real time for particular local interactional reasons. In a common misinterpretation, interaction is heard as referring to only the most obviously social phenomena, such as turn-taking and maybe adjacency pairs. But interactional motivations can be much less obviously social than these phenomena. All utterances created are recipient designed, that is, specifically constructed for a particular listener (or group of listeners) on a particular occasion of listening".

-172-

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