Mixed points of view in narrative

ICLC theme session 2013: Linguistic manifestations of mixed points of view in narratives – Cognitive and typological perspectives

Barbara Dancygier (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Louis Wei-lun-Lu (Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands)
Arie Verhagen (Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands)

In 2013, at ICLC 12, we organized a theme session addressing the interaction of cognition and pragmatics with lexical semantics and grammar in the narrative representation of points of view, in a cross-linguistic, cross-cultural and historical perspective. This session included scholars interested in linguistics, cognitive science, narratology, psychology, philosophy of mind, communication studies and stylistics, studying a of languages, as well as multimodal communication.


Original call for papers

‘Reported Speech’, including Free Indirect Discourse (FID), identified by Jakobson (1957) as one of the four crucial duplex structures in language, has been a locus of attention in various linguistic, narratological and stylistic studies since the middle of the 19th century. In these studies, tense, modality and deixis have been identified as three major ‘parameters’ of FID. Even the early studies, however, (including, in fact, Jakobson 1957) have pointed out that languages need not converge on the repertoire of linguistic resources they make available for construing mixed points of view (PoV) in narratives. For instance, whereas Russian, as Jakobson points out, lacks a verbal grammatical category of evidentiality, this is obligatory in many other languages; on the other hand, some languages may lack a clear syntactic distinction between main and ‘subordinate’ clauses used in the definition of direct as opposed to indirect speech. Overall, partly as a result of its breadth, the category of FID has so far escaped a rigorous definition.

Recent work has identified important avenues in the investigations of mixed PoV. Verhagen’s (2005) view of intersubjectivity in grammar opened the issue of reported discourse to a new set of questions. Also, constructional-functional approaches (see Vandelanotte 2009) have offered new views on the specificity of the FID category. At the same time, Sanders (2010) identifies a broader range of PoV markers in use. Finally, recent work on viewpoint in language (Dancygier and Sweetser 2012) suggests the existence of more general strategies of viewpoint allocation, maintenance or shift. These studies offer an additional set of tools which can be used to elucidate mixed viewpoint phenomena, but there has been little work thus far to clarify the potential of such approaches. Broad linguistic and cognitive strategies of mixed viewpoint allocation need to be considered afresh.

At the same time, the cross-linguistic diversity, and possibly inconsistency, of the span of linguistic means that define forms of reported speech and thought has not been a central focus of research. As a result, the potential of linguistic and cultural diversity for understanding both universal and culture specific features of the construal of reported speech and thought, and for the interaction between grammar and cognition in this domain, has, at a minimum, remained under-exploited (cf. Evans 2010). It is all the more important for cognitive science to redress this situation in view of the interaction between the development of social cognition (understanding the inner life and thoughts of others, ‘Theory of Mind’) and narrative.

The present theme session proposes to involve the cognitive linguistics community in a broader discussion of such issues. In particular, the session will be concerned with queries like the following:

- What are the linguistic resources employed in a given language to construe the mixing of PoV, and what is the role of cultural norms, cognitive strategies and of pragmatics?
– In cases where a given language has some grammatical feature of FID not found in other ones, how would that reshape our understanding of FID (or other mixed construals of PoV)?
– How have mixed construals of points of view in narratives developed historically? What have been the conditions for the emergence of new forms of speech and thought representation, which elements served as the basis for such new forms and why?
– What are the cognitive prerequisites for acquiring the ability to process mixed construals of PoV and how does this experience in turn affect (social) cognition?
– How can the question of mixed PoV be treated within Construction Grammar models?

With the above pursuits of the theme session, issues to be addressed in submissions are encouraged to include (without being limited to), the following:

- The definition of FID across languages (as opposed to direct and indirect discourse)
– Mixed PoV in authentic spoken or written narratives
– Linguistic manifestations of mixed PoV across languages
– The interpersonal and communicative functions of mixed PoV
– Conceptual and cognitive significance of mixed PoV
– Typology and cultural evolution of mixed construals of PoV
– Interaction of mixing of PoV with other stylistic or grammatical strategies
– Construction Grammar implications of the study of mixed PoV
– Cognitive underpinnings and possible consequences of linguistic forms of viewpoint allocation and maintenance

We are pleased to have found prof. Nicholas Evans (Australian National University) willing to act as a discussant in this theme session.


Dancygier, Barbara, and Sweetser, Eve (eds.) (2012). Viewpoint in Language. A Multimodal Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Evans, Nicholas (2010), Dying Words. Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us. New York: Wiley-Blackwell [Chapter 4, ‘Your Mind in Mine: Social Cognition in Grammar’, pp.69–80].

Jakobson, Roman (1957), ‘Shifters, verbal categories and the Russian verb’, Russian language project, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literature, Harvard; repr. in R. Jakobson, Selected Writings, ii. Word and Language. The Hague: Mouton, 1971, 130–47.

Sanders, José (2010), ‘Intertwined voices: Journalists’ modes of representing source information in journalistic subgenres’. English Text Construction 3: 226–249.

Vandelanotte, Lieven (2009), Speech and Thought Representation in English: A Cognitive-Functional Approach. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Verhagen, Arie (2005), Constructions of Intersubjectivity. Discourse, Syntax, and Cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.