Accounting for oneself: The Discourse of Agency
This discourse category comprises those cases in which the modal auxiliaries seem to be performing a descriptive function without, for the main part, any explicit expression of personal affect toward what is being described, overt assessment or evaluation of the event or situation, and in the absence of explicitly reflective elements. Of course the fact that an event or situation is being described or reported on at all means it cannot be neutrally charged in this context.1 However this category is trying to account for those cases in which the speaker appears to adopt the role of a reporter laying out the facts in order to make a later commentary.
It has been established that when modal forms are involved, it is not a straightforward mapping of words to world but reporting in order to recast, showing different levels of involvement, taking different measures of distance in relation to what one is reporting (e.g., perfective or imperfective statements) and taking up of different positions in relation to your narratives. In reporting, you are always in essence constructing the event or scenario for the listener.2 In the very process of singling out and ordering events, you are at the same time conveying how they are related or relevant to the present discourse experience, where they fit into your autobiography.3
Overall, this category accounts for 23% of all modal utterances, which is possibly much less straightforward reporting than would be expected of this discourse type. Even within a monological autobiographical context, the descriptive function is less important than the indexical instrumental function, the speaker is still trying to do or to effect something, not just to tell something.
One point of interest here is the children's reporting of happenings or events____________________