Cognitive Linguistics 30 (2):305-325 (2019)

Verb tenses play an important role in managing deictic relations between the narrator, the audience and the events happening in the story world. Across languages, the Simple Past is considered the conventional story-telling tense, reflecting the prototypical deictic configuration of stories in which the narrator is positioned at some distance from the events unfolding in the story. The Simple Present, on the other hand, is considered a marked option for narration, assumed to automatically result in a shift to a subjective perspective. This paper reports on an analysis of a corpus made up of Dutch fictional short stories, news reports and feature articles. The results suggest that conventions for use and interpretation of verb tenses in narrative contexts are in fact genre-dependent. In the news genres, the Simple Present tense dominated in narration. This did not automatically result in a subjective mode or narration, but was naturally used to express a default narration of story events that temporally overlap with the temporal deictic center of the communicative ground. These findings suggest that previous analyses of verb tenses in relation to narration reflect an over-generalization based on the situational characteristics of prototypical narrative genres such as literary fiction and personal anecdotes.
Keywords discourse genre  literary short stories  narrative text strategies  news genres  time structure  verb tenses
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DOI 10.1515/cog-2018-0038
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Linguistic Semantics: An Introduction.John Lyons - 1995 - Cambridge University Press.
Subjectification.Ronald W. Langacker - 1990 - Cognitive Linguistics 1 (1):5-38.

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