Discourse reporting

in African storytelling


The project explores the role of discourse reporting in West African storytelling and the grammatical strategies used by storytellers to achieve their goals. It focuses on three phenomena characteristic of the narrative grammar of a number of West African languages:

  • logophoricity, or the use of special markers to signal self-reference by characters other than the current narrator;
  • the use of quotative markers (commonly described as "epistemic validators");
  • the use of foreign language or modified versions of the native language to represent the speech of certain characters.

These different phenomena often serve the same purpose: they help speakers manage the distance between the role of the current narrator and the roles of story characters that the same speaker performs. The use of specific discourse reporting strategies is therefore closely related to the modes of textual production and performance in the culture-specific narrative genres, and to the construction of deixis in relation to the event of narration.

The project considers the grammar of storytelling in a comparative context. In particular, it juxtaposes the ways discourse reporting functions in West African cultures with similar data from an unrelated cultural area: the Turkic-speaking areas of Central Russia. The comparison of the organization of the same functional domain in two culturally distinct areas will assist in advancing our knowledge of universal structural and cognitive motivations underlying typologically diverse and culture-specific systems of discourse reporting.

For more information, read the project description.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 758232)