A narrative discourse, or a sequence of depen- dent events that contain at least one temporal junc- tion (Labov and Waletzky, ), can be elicited via. The Labov and Waletzky () model: Abstract, Orientation, (Complication, Labov and Waletsky () argue that the Evaluation stage is what gives the text . Labov and Waletzky, matching a verbal sequence of clauses to the se- quence of events which actually occurred” (see. In the sociolinguistic quest to tap.

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One of the most difficult yet essential concepts in narrative analysis is reportability. The original concept is that the telling a narrative requires a person to occupy more social space than in other conversational exchanges — to hold the floor longer, and the narrative must carry enough interest for the audience to justify this action.

Otherwise, an implicit or explicit “So what? The difficulty is that there is no absolute standard of inherent interest, and it has been proposed that in some relaxed circumstances with no competing topics, a narrative can be told that is thoroughly banal and ordinary.

Given the difficulty of measuring the interest of the narrative or the competing claims, this approach to reportability is itself of limited interest. Yet the concept of “the most reportable event” is central to the organizational structure of the narrative, as we will see below. One approach to this problem is to turn to a more objective aspect of the narrator’s social situation, as developed in Sacks’ approach to the insertion of narrative into conversationVol.

In Sacks’ approach, the problem is not seen as one of “holding the floor,” but rather of controlling the assignment of speaker. For Sacks, a narrative is rarely told as a single turn of talk, since the frequent back channel signals of the addressee are themselves taken as turns of talk. I summarize his discussion as: In free conversation, speakers have no control over the assignment of speaker walrtzky the second or third turn following their turns, but the performance of the narrative is waldtzky a claim to return the assignment of speakership to the narrator until the narrative is completed.

This Sacks principle has four implications that lead to a new definition of reportability. Since a narrative requires a series of narrative units longer than the normal turn allows, the successful completion of the narrative requires automatic re-assignment of speaker labpv to the narrator after the following turn of talk if the narrative is not completed in that turn.

Narrative Theory – Title

A narrative must be introduced by a speech act which informs listener than automatic reassignment to the narrator will be required if the narrative is not completed within that stream of speech. Listeners have a reliable means of recognizing the ends of narratives.

To be an acceptable social act, a narrative must be accepted as justifying the automatic re-assignment of turns to the narrator. We can now re-introduce a definition of reportability in terms not of the general concept, but of a reportable event in the narrative.


A reportable event is one which justifies the automatic reassignment of speaker role to the narrator. To be an acceptable social act, a narrative of personal experience must contain at least one reportable event. It is clear that the reportability of the same event will vary widely depending on the age, experience, cultural patterns of the speakers, and even more importantly, the immediate social context with its competing claims for re-assignment of speakership.

The universal principles of interest which underlie this approach to narrative dictate that certain events will almost always carry a high degree of reportability: Yet one step outside of these parameters leads us to a such a high degree of contextualization of reportability that only a person intimately acquainted with the audience and the recent history of the social situation can be sure of not making a misstep in introducing a narrative.

This relativization of reportability does not however prevent us from recognizing within a narrative degrees of reportability with some confidence. In fact, the creation of a narrative and the ensuing narrative structures are dependent upon the recognition of a unique event which is the ‘most reportable.

A most reportable event is the event that is less common than any other in the narrative and has the greatest effect upon the needs and desires of the participants in the narrative [is evaluated most strongly]. A narrative of personal experience is essentially a narrative of the most reportable event in it. This is normally reflected in the abstract, if there is one.

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As we will see, the construction of narrative must logically and existentially begin with the decision to report the most reportable waletzk. Narrative 1 is introduced as a narrative about a situation where Shambaugh was close to dying.

The most reportable event in it is that the Norwegian sailor cut Shambaugh’s throat. The problem of narrative construction is how to construct a series laabov events which include in a logical and meaningful way this most reportable event.

But before considering how this is done, we must recognize another dimension, orthogonal to that of reportability. Given the constraints of social situations, and the pressure to assert claims to speakership, it is normal for speakers to put forward narratives of the most reportable event in their immediately relevant biography. The more reportable the most reportable event of a narrative, the greater justification for the automatic reassignment of speaker role to the narrator.

This creates the paradox of the next section. At the outset, it was pointed out that this approach to narrative is based upon serious and straightforward accounts of events that are asserted to have actually taken place, walegzky than jokes, tall tales, dreams or other genres of a less walefzky nature. This immediately involves the concept of the credibility of waltezky narrative.


The credibility of a narrative is the extent to which listeners believe that the events described actually occurred in the form described by the narrator. Remembering that the reportability of an event is related to its frequency, as well as its effects upon the needs and desires of the actors, it follows almost automatically that as reportability increases, credibility decreases.

This in fact may be termed the Reportability Paradox labovv, which may be stated as a theorem. Reportability is inversely correlated with credibility.

The further understanding of how narrators create narratives, and what structures they erect as they produce them, depends upon an understanding of this paradoxical relationship. The next proposition is not an obvious implication, but one that proceeds from the observation of social life.

It is limited to ‘serious’ narratives in the sense stated at the beginning of this section, and may be relative to various social contexts. A serious narrative which fails to achieve credibility is considered to have failed, and the narrators claim to re-assignment of speakership will then be seen as invalid.

An “invalid claim to re-assignment” is waletkzy technical way of stating that the narrator has suffered a loss of status which will affect future claims of this sort as well as other social prerogatives.

It is an outcome normally to be avoided. The more reportable the events of a narrative, the more effort the narrator must devote to establishing credibility. The nature of that effort must now command our attention. Given the fact that the narrator has decided to produce a narrative about the most reportable event, considerations of credibility lead logically and inevitably to the following albov of narrative construction: Narrative construction requires a personal theory of causality.

The narrator first selects a most reportable event e 0which the narrative is going to be about. The narrator then selects walftzky prior event e -1 which lzbov the efficient cause of e 0that is answers the question about e waletzly”How did that happen? The narrator continues the process albov step 2, recursively, until an event e -n is reached for which the question of step 2 is not appropriate. The question 1697 did that happen?

In 1such orientation is provided by a. Shambaugh need not explain why it came about that he and his shipmates were sitting around a bar drinking: We have no direct evidence of the actual sequence of steps It is a wlaetzky implication of all the definitions and implications of sections 5 and 6. There are many intricacies and complications in the full description of the options open to the narrator in constructing this causal theory.

In the case of narrative 1the causal sequence of events reconstructable from the form of Shambaugh’s account may be given as follows: