The Pragmatics of Tense and Aspect in Narratives: A Linguistic Analysis of Indo-Aryan Texts
Chandekar, Amruta Mahesh
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Abstract Amruta M. Chandekar This dissertation investigates the role of tense and tense and aspect in the creation and reception of structure and meaning of a narrative discourse. It does so by proposing an analytical framework to explain the grammatical principles underlying various pragmatic and textual functions attributed to tense and aspect that create various narrative effects. The proposed linguistic framework, founded on the Reichenbachian temporal primitives of Event Time (E), Reference Time (R) and Speech Time (S) and relations among these primitives, originates from the sentence-internal grammar of tense and aspect. This dissertation investigates several questions associated with tense and aspect combinations in narratives: How tenses are embedded in narratives? What is the narrative function of historical present tense? How does grammatical aspect contribute to explain narrator’s perspective on events? What is the contribution of tense- aspect in foregrounding- backgrounding of narrative events? It attempts to explain larger discourse structure with sentence–level grammatical principles by developing linguistic tools that explain pragmatic elements such as speaker’s attitude, distance and viewpoint when describing an event. The syntactic, semantic and pragmatic interface of this dissertation intersects the boundaries of linguistic analysis and literary analysis to show that there is a single grammatical system underlying both the narrative and non-narrative use of language. By so doing, it significantly advances the understanding of narrative structure, meaning and interpretation by providing grammatically meaningful explanation of the so-called “metaphorical” use of tense and aspect and their “shift.” A consequence of this approach is that it eliminates the need to postulate two separate rule systems governing the sentence level and discourse level structures as proposed in the narratological analyses. The unification of the grammatical principles underlying the non-narrative and narrative temporal structures is proposed here by borrowing theoretical insights from neo-Reichenbachian approaches to tense and aspect. The linguistic framework founded on the inherent properties of tense and aspect categories develops analytical devices to explain the specimen Indo-Aryan narrative texts and strongly predicts that similar issues in narratives across languages can be explained with the framework developed here.