As readers approach a new text they need to gather and maintain information about who the participants are and where and when the events take place. This information plays a central role in understanding the narrative. The editors claim that readers maintain this information without explicit textual reminders by including it in their mental model of the story world.
Because of the centrality of the temporal, spatial, and character information in narratives, they developed their notion of a DC as a crucial part of the reader's mental model of the narrative. The events that carry the temporal and spatial core of the narrative are linguistically and conceptually constrained according to certain principles that can be relatively well defined. A narrative obviously unfolds one word, or one sentence, at a time. This volume suggests that cognitively a narrative usually unfolds one place and time at a time. This spatio-temporal location functions as part of the DC of the narrative. It is the "here" and "now" of the reader's "mind's eye" in the world of the story.
Organized into seven parts, this book describes the goal of the cognitive science project resulting in this volume, the methodological approaches taken, and the history of the collaborative effort. It provides a historical and theoretical background underlying the DC theory, including discussions of deixis in language and the nature of fiction. It goes on to outline the computational framework and how it is used to represent deixis in narrative, and details the linguistic devices implicated in the DC theory. Other subjects covered include: crosslinguistic indicators of subjectivity, psychological investigations of the use of deixis by children and adults as they process narratives, conversation, direction giving, implications for emerging literacy, and a narrator's experience in writing a short story. (Excerpted from Erlbaum's presentation (external).)
Prologue: A simple exercise in narrative understanding. Judith F. Duchan, Gail A. Bruder and Lynne E. Hewitt.
Part I: Deictic theory
Segal, Erwin M. Narrative comprehension and the role of deictic shift theory. Duchan, Bruder, & Hewitt (1995), pp. 3-17.
Abstract: This chapter reviews some ideas relating to discourse comprehension and production and narrative interpretation that have influenced our research. It presents a brief overview of Deictic Shift Theory (DST), which underlies the research of most of the contributors to this volume. DST, a model of narrative structuring, argues that the metaphor of the reader getting inside of a story is cognitively valid. The reader often takes a cognitive stance within the world of the narrative and interprets the text from that perspective.
Abstract: In this chapter we describe the SNePS knowledge-representation and reasoning system. We look at how SNePS is used for cognitive modeling and natural language competence; it has proven particularly useful in our investigations of narrative understanding. Several later chapters in this book (Rapaport & Shapiro; Almeida; Yuhan & Shapiro) use SNePS to discuss specific issues in areas relevant to narrative understanding.
Abstract: We discuss issues in the representation of fictional entities and the representation of propositions from fiction, using the SNePS propositional knowledge-representation and reasoning system. We briefly survey four philosophical ontological theories of fiction and sketch an epistemological theory of fiction using a story operator and rules for allowing propositions to "migrate" into and out of story "spaces". An implementation of the theory in SNePS is presented.
Abstract: The chapter examines children's use of deictic terms in (oral) stories in order to determine whether children's stories have deictic structuring. It looks at how often these six terms (came, went, there, then, here and now) occur in contexts of character introduction, how the clauses introducing characters were shaped, and where such introductions occurred in the story. Our hope was that children's use of these terms would give insight into the ways they are conceiving of the deictic organization of their oral stories. Stories were volunteered by 22 verbally precocious middle- to upper-class 2- to 5-yr-olds who were enrolled in a preschool or public school in New York City.
Bruder, Gail A. Psychological evidence that linguistic devices are used by readers to understand spatial deixis in narrative text. Duchan, Bruder, & Hewitt (1995), pp. 243-260.
Abstract: This chapter reviews the psychological literature relevant to spatial tracking in narratives. It describes some linguistic devices that D. Zubin (Zubin et al, this volume, section 1.6) has suggested serve to introduce, maintain or shift the Deictic Center (a structure which lends coherence to a text when that coherence is not directly represented in the syntax or lexicon) in narrative. It describes psychological studies conducted to test the validity of these devices. The main focus of the studies was to assess readers' abilities to track the spatial component of the Deictic Center, or the WHERE narrative.
Hewitt, Lynne E. Anaphor in subjective contexts in narrative fiction. Duchan, Bruder, & Hewitt (1995), pp. 325-339.
Abstract: This chapter offers evidence for the importance of subjectivity in structuring the language of narrative fiction. Using a quantitative text linguistic approach, Hewitt investigates anaphoric referencing in subjective contexts. She uses her results to argue for a model of psychological processing of text in which the subjective character is the most activated, and hence, most available for reduced anaphoric evocation.
Bruder, Gail A. and Janyce M. Wiebe. Recognizing subjectivity and identifying subjective characters in third-person fictional narrative. Duchan, Bruder, & Hewitt (1995), pp. 341-356.
Abstract: This chapter discusses the importance of the distinction between subjective and objective sentences. It gives an overview of an algorithm of recognizing subjective sentences in continuous narrative and identifying their subjective character. It also presents a general description of our approach to psychological testing of discourse features used by the algorithm, and describes the results of a series of six studies testing these features.
Mark, David M. and Michael D. Gould. Wayfinding directions as discourse: Verbal directions in English and Spanish. Duchan, Bruder, & Hewitt (1995), pp. 387-405.
Abstract: This chapter reports some aspects of our studies of verbal directions for wayfinding (in Spanish and English speaking 17-70 yr olds). Included is a consideration of deictic terms and their relationship to the use of such terms in fictional narrative as deixis, deictic references, reference frames, distance and direction, repetition as an indication of distance, description of turns, style of presentation, and conventional metaphors. The summary discusses the relation of these findings to narrative understanding, to models of spatial cognition, to vehicle navigation aid systems, and to cognitive linguistics.
Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles