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ELSEVIER Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

Pragmatic constraints on narrative processing:

Actants and anaphora resolution in a corpus of
North Carolina ghost stories
David Herman*
Department of English~Box 8105, North Carolina State University,
Rah~igh, NC 27695-8105, USA

Received 16 July 1998; revised version 23 May 1999


Recent work on narrative has begun to rethink the functions of characters in stories.
Research on life stories, for example, has shown that characters are not simply preexisting
contents packaged in certain kinds of clauses, but rather complex, emergent products of the
interplay between narrative design and narrative processing. Such wide-focus studies need to
be complemented by finer-grained, microstructural investigations of character as a part of
narrative discourse. Based on a corpus of fifteen natural-language narratives (specifically,
ghost stories), this paper examines how stories encode mental representations of characters.
Drawing on research in the field of narratology, the paper labels these character representa-
tions actants. Actants are models that encode narrative participants as agents and patients,
thus allowing particular discourse entities to be inserted into global action structures like Pur-
suit o f a goal. Analyzing sequences of referring expressions in the ghost stories, the paper
shows that identifying and tracking agents in narratives requires that information about par-
ticipant roles be encoded in the telling of the story. Further, insofar as they reconfigure
objects and occurrences as agents and actions, ghost stories provide unique insights into the
cognitive, linguistic, and interactional processes shaping discourse anaphora in narrative con-
texts. 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Actants; Character; Discourse anaphora; Mental models; Narrative; Reference

This research was supported in part by NSF Grant SBR-9616331 (Walt Wolfram and Natalie
Schilling-Estes, Co-principal investigators). I am grateful to Bridget Anderson, Clare Dannenberg, and
Walt Wolfram for their invaluable assistance with my ongoing project. My thanks, too, to Dr. Jacob
Mey, Walt Wolfram, and the Journal's two anonymous readers for their productive criticisms of an ear-
lier version of this paper.
* Fax: 1 919 515 1836; E-mail:

0378-2166/00/$ - see front matter 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S0378-2166(99)00071-5
960 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

I. Introduction

In his attempt to obtain tape-recordings o f e x t e n d e d casual speech, L a b o v (1972"

354) focused on "narratives o f personal experience, in w h i c h the s p e a k e r b e c o m e s
d e e p l y involved in rehearsing or even reliving events o f his p a s t " and thus all but
forgets the presence o f the sociolinguistic interviewer. G i v e n this focus on personal
experience, it is all the m o r e p e c u l i a r that the concept o f narrative character or agent
remains a k i n d o f primitive, undefined term in the m o d e l for narrative analysis that
L a b o v and L a b o v and W a l e t z k y (1967) b e g a n to outline some thirty years ago. Put
another way, their model, which has been w i d e l y influential in the linguistic litera-
ture (cf. Linde, 1993; Polanyi, 1985, 1989; Schiffrin, 1981, 1994; W o l f s o n , 1982),
m a k e s inquiry into the notion ' c h a r a c t e r ' s e e m optional and derivative. 1 On this
view, a story is a story and can be p r o c e s s e d as such not b e c a u s e it represents (a spe-
cific constellation of) characters but b e c a u s e o f structural and functional criteria that
are the real hallmarks o f narratively o r g a n i z e d discourse. These criteria include the
presence o f t e m p o r a l junctures, the iconic ordering o f clauses, and a n a r r a t o r ' s use o f
m o r e or less h e a v i l y e v a l u a t e d propositions in presenting what h a p p e n e d in some
storyworld located in a m o r e or less distant past. 2 True, L a b o v ' s m o d e l does identify
the Orientation section as one o f six key c o m p o n e n t s o f narrative, and it is in the
Orientation that a storyteller specifies time, place, participants, and overall context. 3
But participants are here a s s u m e d as given - as preexisting semantic content pack-
aged in the form o f Orienting clauses that could very well have p a c k a g e d this s a m e
content otherwise. W h a t m a k e s discourse r e c o g n i z a b l y narrative, then, is not the w a y
it represents characters but the w a y it inserts t h e m in c o m p l i c a t i n g actions set off as
foreground against the b a c k g r o u n d established through Orientation clauses (Labov,
1972; Polanyi, 1985, 1989; cf. Section 5 below).

l See Cortazzi (1993) for a synopsis of the Labovian model and Herman (1999) for a critique of the
model's separation of reference from evaluation in narrative. The notion of character still does not fig-
ure prominently in Labov's recent (1997) reconsideration of issues in narrative analysis, although other
contributions to this same special issue of the Journal of Narrative and Life History (Bamberg, 1997) do
focus on the interconnections between narrative, character, and identity. See, e.g., Johnstone (1997) and
Tappan (1997).
2 Temporal junctures are hinge-points in the narrated action, junctures around which clauses cannot be
resequenced without changing the story itself. Thus, 1 drove farther south and then reached my friends'
house tells a different story than I reached my friends' house and then drove farther south because the
two clauses surrounding the conjunction and are separated by a temporal juncture. Further, in conformity
with the principle of iconic ordering, the word then in I drove farther south and then reached my friends'
house is an optional connective, because readers or listeners assume that the order in which a storyteller
sequences clauses matches the order in which events happened in the storyworld.
3 The other five components include the Abstract, a brief preparatory statement encapsulating the point
of the story; the Complication, a section comprising the main body of narrative clauses, centering on
some complicating action in the story; the Evaluation, which is not necessarily a discrete section of the
story, but rather "the means used by the narrator to indicate the point of the narrative, its raison d'6tre:
why it was told, and what the narrator is getting at" (Labov, 1972: 366); the Resolution, a section that
describes what finally happened in the story; and Coda, a section found at the end of the story signalling
that the narrative is in fact finished and "returning the verbal perspective to the present moment" (Labov
and Waletzky, 1967: 39; see Labov, 1972:362-370 and Labov and Waletzky, 1967:32-41 for further
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 961

Recently, however, a number of narrative analysts have begun to rethink this

understanding of participants in stories. Researchers have started to highlight ways
in which characters are more than just preexisting contents expressed through certain
kinds of clauses. They are better described as deriving from the interplay between
narrative structures and the processing strategies used to interpret those structures.
Take the recent explosion of interest in life stories, for example. This research sug-
gests how stories create characters as much as they are created out of them; it
focuses special attention on the macrostructural level at which storytellers select
incidents and details from their lives for narrative presentation. When trying to tell
how and why they became what they did, tellers of life stories constitute a self just
by taking on the role of an evolving character in a narrative of personal experience.
Thus Polkinghome (1988: 106) notes that "one retrospectively revises, selects, and
orders past details in such a way as to create a self-narrative that is coherent and sat-
isfying and that will serve as a justification for one's present condition and situa-
tion". Similarly, Riessman (1993: 51-52) argues that " L a b o v ' s ... theory and the
relatively simple stories he analyzes do not provide an adequate model for subjective
experiences [recounted in many narratives of personal experience, which can
involve] events that unfold over time and even extend into the present" (cf. also
Riessman, 1990). Riessman suggests, instead, that stories help fashion experience as
personal in the first place. It is by means of narratives that one constructs - and shifts
- one's position in the field of beliefs, interpretations, norms, goals, and predictions
amid which a sense of self takes shape (Riessman, 1993: 26-34). This is why Linde
(1993) construes the ' I ' featured in life stories as the effect rather than the cause of
narration. "Narrative", as Linde puts it, "is ... an extremely powerful tool for creat-
ing, negotiating, and displaying the moral standing of the self" (1993: 123). Hence
the reflexive stance characteristic of life stories can be explained in terms of
"... the separation of the narrator from tbe protagonist of the narrative. [This separation] permits the nar-
rator to observe, reflect, and correct the self that is being created. The act of narrating itself requires self-
regard and editing, since a distance in time and standpoint necessarily separates the actions being nar-
rated from the act of narration." (Linde, 1993: 122)4

Narrative, here, is what creates the possibility for a sequential relationship between
earlier and later versions of the self; it is not a report of actions performed by an ' I '
that endures - singular and single-minded - over time. A life story thus represents
both a process and a product: a process whereby the teller narratively constructs and
positions a self, but also a product on the basis of which others interpret that self as
a character in the narrative being told.
These macrostructural analyses are premised, then, on the idea that characters are
not simply 'there' to be found and told about, but rather inferential constructs both
enabling and enabled by the telling. 5 Such wide-focus studies need to be comple-

4 For other approaches to this split, see Goffman (1981: 124-159) on 'figures', Emmott (i997) on
'enactors', and Lejeune (1989) on the duality of the autobiographical 'I'.
More generally, see Ochs et al. (1992) for an account of everyday storytelling as an experience in the-
ory-building, wherein children acquire the ability to recognize and express different points of view, to
see stories metacognitivelyas versions, Io evaluate these discrepant versions of events, and to distinguish
protagonists' from narrators' versions.
962 D. Herman /Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

mented, however, by finer-grained, microstructural investigations of character as a

part of narrative discourse. One promising research strategy, outlined early on by
Morrow (1985), is to examine the sequences of referring expressions on the basis of
which storytellers and their interlocutors build and update discourse models support-
ing narrative comprehension. These discourse models can be thought of as mental
models (Johnson-Laird, 1983) corresponding to beliefs about who did what, when,
how, and to whom in the storyworld being evoked in narrative discourse. A story-
teller's narration is guided by a discourse model that, reciprocally, listeners or read-
ers attempt to reconstruct - using discourse cues provided by the storyteller. On this
view, sequences of referring expressions trigger inferences about characters and
about the events in which those characters participate. Such inferences are made pos-
sible not just by the referring sequences themselves but also by (a subset of the)
mental models encoded in these sequences. The specific subject of my study is thus
how character models guide the use and interpretation of referring expressions asso-
ciated with narrative participants. As explained in Sections 3 and 4, I adopt the nar-
ratological term actant for the generalized behavioral models supporting inferences
about characters. Accordingly, this paper examines actants as elements of discourse
models for stories; it explores the jointly cognitive and linguistic role of the very
concept 'role' in the design and interpretation of narrative discourse. Overall I mean
to show that, for researchers seeking to refine existing models for narrative analysis,
inquiry into the idea of character is not optional and derivative but rather obligatory
and fundamental.

2. Data and methodology

The present paper forms part of a larger study of ghost stories elicited during
sociolinguistic interviews conducted in the state of North Carolina and designed to
gather data on informants' dialects. These tape-recorded interviews are housed at the
William C. Friday Linguistics Lab at North Carolina State University. The ghost sto-
ries were told in several of the vernacular varieties of English found in the state;
these speech varieties serve to mark ethnolinguistic boundaries between North Car-
olina's diverse populations, African American, Native American, and Anglo Ameri-
can. (For further background on the stories and storytellers, see Appendix A;
Wolfram and Dannenberg, forthcoming; Herman, 1999.)
My focus on ghost stories is not coincidental. For one thing, this narrative sub-
genre yields insights into the way narrative in general unfolds as a sequence of refer-
ring expressions matched to strings of events constituting the storyworld. Ghost sto-
ries orient themselves around highly fugitive experiences; they are about entities and
events that are by their very nature hard to locate, identify, and describe in the nar-
rated world. Hence these stories provide an important test-case for understanding
how reference works in narrative generally. Moreover, ghost stories are especially
relevant for an analysis of character in narrative discourse. Part of the uniqueness of
such narratives derives from their use of character models - i.e., actantial paradigms
- whose relevance the stories simultaneously place in question. Ghostly behavior by
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 963

definition does not exactly match general expectations about human behavior;
indeed, that is one of the main reasons for telling supernatural tales. Both storytellers
and their audiences are cognitively predisposed to ascribe strange, seemingly inex-
plicable occurrences to some sort of agent. Thus, ghost stories reveal the extent to
which narrative is a general and basic way of making sense of the world, a cognitive
strategy for interpreting events as the actions of particular characters or agents
(Turner, 1996: 26-37; cf. Chatman, 1978; Ryan, 1991: 124-147). 6 By exploiting
this same predisposition to construe events as actions, narrators of ghostly tales can
build narrative suspense (who was responsible for event x or y?); they can also mod-
ify and enrich expectations about the world itself, calling into question the imper-
meability of the boundary between death and life, past and present, object and agent,
mere occurrence and purposeful, goal-directed behavior. In fact, as discussed in Sec-
tion 4.3, ghost stories provide a kind of laboratory for narrative analysts to observe
how storytellers transmute happenings into actions, thereby operationalizing one of
the core principles of narrative imagining.
The paper is organized as follows. First, in section 3, I briefly review structuralist
narratologists' proposals to reconstrue characters as actants. In their original form,
these proposals are based on an overrestrictive inventory of possible actantial roles.
The proposals also fail to specify the nature of the link between particular characters
and the behavioral paradigms supporting their design and interpretation. If integrated
with more recent research on narrative understanding, however, the idea of actants
can provide important new directions for narrative analysis. Thus, in Section 4, I dis-
cuss pragmatic and cognitive bases for interpreting characters as actants, focusing
more particularly on the ghost stories under investigation. 7
First, in Section 4.1, I discuss recent work on reference assignment as an aspect of
discourse processing; this section raises issues that must be faced by researchers
seeking to use discourse model theory (Brown, 1995; Kronfeld, 1990; McKoon et
al., 1993; Morrow, 1985; Webber, 1979) to analyze the specialized mental models
supporting narrative comprehension. Section 4.2 terms such specialized models nar-
rative discourse models, in which actants (i.e., models for understanding agency and
patiency) play a crucial role in the comprehension of extended discourse. This sec-
tion also briefly compares narrative discourse models with Emmott's (1997) analo-
gous idea of 'contextual frames '~. Examining the referring sequences used to evoke
ghostly agents, Section 4.3 shows that reference assignment in stories - anaphora
resolution not in a sentential but in a particular type of discourse context - depends

6 In this paper, I use the terms actor, character, and agent synonymouslyand in contrast with the men-
tal models for agency that I designate actants.
7 The analysis is based on a corpus of fifteen ghost stories; a complete transcription of the narratives
is given as Appendix A. Since multiple narratives were told during the three sociolinguistic interviews
under investigation, I have divided the data into three 'story sets' consisting of all the narratives told dur-
ing each interview. For convenience of reference, I have divided each story set into separate ghost sto-
ries (labelled with upper-case A, B, C ...) and listed clauses, agreement tokens, and nonverbal contribu-
tions (e.g., laughter) on separate lines (labelled with lower-case a, b, c ... aa, bb, cc ...). Reference to the
data will thus indicate the story set, the specific ghost story, and the line or lines being examined, such
that 2.A.x-aa refers to story set 2, ghost story A, lines x through aa.
964 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

crucially on actantial models. A reader or listener is able to draw inferences about

characters just when he or she pairs a sequence of referring expressions with an
actant or set of actants. The same general process is at work when language users
ascribe meaning to an utterance by pairing a sentence with a context of interpreta-
tion. Thus, whereas narratological theories of actants can gain in descriptive and
explanatory adequacy if integrated with pragmatic and cognitive approaches to dis-
course processing, discourse model theory itself benefits from taking actants into
account. Section 5 concludes the paper by sketching implications of my study for
prior and future research on narrative discourse. In particular, incorporating actants
into discourse model theory may force a rethinking of the notions 'background' and
'foreground' vis-a-vis narrative comprehension. Actants allow storytellers to encode
characters and events as more or less prominent; thus inferences about foreground-
background (or figure-ground) contrasts do not precede and explain narrative under-
standing, but result from the ways in which storytellers model the world as a config-
uration of agents and patients. Narrative, in other words, is a basic strategy for
making sense of experience, not what humans resort to when reporting what they
already understand about what they have been through.

3. Narratologicai theories of actants: Problems and potentials

Whereas character has only recently moved to the forefront of (socio)linguistic

research on life stories, narrative agents have long been an object of inquiry in the
narratological tradition that grew out of structuralist literary theory in France in the
mid- to late 1960s. Stmcturalist narratologists, interested in formulating a 'grammar'
of narrative, wanted to shift attention from characters as 'beings' to characters as
regularly recurring, typifiable 'participants' in the narrated action (Barthes, 1977:
106). Indeed, in a certain sense narratology began with the attempt to create a sys-
tematic framework for describing characters as elements of narrative structure. In
this research tradition, the notion of 'actant' represents a new, linguistically-
informed approach to the very old problem of (literary) character. Actants are typi-
cally defined as "fundamental role[s] at the level of narrative deep structure" (G.
Prince, 1987: 1). In other words, " a c t a n t s are general categories [of behavior or
doing] underlying all narratives (and not only narratives) while [actors] are invested
with specific qualities in different narratives" (Rimmon-Kenan, 1989: 34; cf. Bud-
niakiewicz, 1992: 75-109; Budniakiewicz, 1998a,b). 8
Narratological theories about actants can be traced back to Propp (1968), a text
first published in 1928 and one of the works associated with Russian Formalism that
would exercise such a profound influence on Francophone narratology (Bremond,
1973; Todorov, 1977). Propp followed Aristotle in subordinating character to action
or plot (Barthes, 1977: 104; Rimmon-Kenan, 1989: 34; Aristotle, 1971: Section VI,
p. 52). Articulating a descriptive vocabulary based on the 'functions' performed by

s Greimas(1987: 106) likewiseposits a distinction "betweenactants, havingto do with narrative syn-

tax, and actors, which are recognizablein the particulardiscourses in which they are manifested".
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 965

characters in stories, Propp conceived of the function as "an act of character, defined
from the point of view of its significance for the course of the action" (1968: 21). A
function is thus a participatory slot in the syntagmatic unfolding of a narrative, and
'character' is a relatively loose (if traditional) way of talking about kinds of slots and
the relational networks linking them together. Arguing that many seemingly diverse
functions join together to create a few, typifiable 'spheres of action', Propp devel-
oped a typology of seven general roles (the villain, the donor, the helper, the sought-
for-person and her father, the dispatcher, the hero and the false hero) that correspond
to the ways in which characters can participate in the plot structures found in the
genre of the folktale (Propp, 1968: 79-80).
Propp's subordination of characters to the action - his shift from personalities to
participatory roles - set an important precedent. Later, structuralist approaches to char-
acter were similarly anti-psychological, displacing attention from the interior states to
the manifest deeds of participants in a story. The issue became not what characters are
but what they do; a character is nothing more than the sequence of (plot-relevant)
actions that it performs. This way of formulating the problem of character had fateful
consequences. For as a rule, in developing the insights they took over from Propp, nar-
ratologists appealed not to contextually- or pragmatically-based models of human
agency, but to an interpretation of characters' actions as elements of narrative syntax. 9
In making character primarily a problem of narrative syntax (how do we determine the
units out of which stories are composed and formulate their principles of composi-
tion?), the early narratologists deflected attention away from issues pertaining to
narrative semantics (how best do we describe stories' propositional content and/or
their referential properties?) and narrative pragmatics (what sorts of world-knowl-
edge do readers bring to stories and how does such contextual information get paired
with narrative form to yield non-random, predictable inferences about the meaning
of stories and, more particularly, the roles played by narrative participants?).~
Thus, a syntactic or quasi-syntactic approach informs the canonical theory of
actants developed by Greimas (1983, 1987). This theory was adopted (and adapted)
in much subsequent narratological work.11 Note that whereas Greimas was the first
to invoke the term actant in connection with characters in stories, he did not coin the
word. Rather, in developing his actantial typology, Greimas drew on the syntactic
theories of Tesni~re (Greimas, 1983: 197-221). Tesnirre (1959) had likened the sen-
tence to "un petit drame" 'a small drama':

As Pavel (1985b: 87) puts it, "Propp's analyses approach the object from a syntactic perspective;
each folk narrative belonging to the corpus is shown to manifest the same abstract structure, indepen-
dently of the particular motifs in the story" - just as "syntax discovers combinatory patterns of abstract
categories ... independently of the lexical units which may form the actual sentence".
~o For further information on the historical contexts of narratological theories of actants, see Herman
H To be fair to Greimas, one should point out that over the years his theory of actants underwent con-
siderable elaboration and refinement. It evolved into a 'sociosemiotics' that studied the polemico-con-
tractual dimensions of acting (and of desiring to act) - with narrative itself coming to be viewed as a fun-
damental schema for human action (Greimas, 1988; Greimas and Court6s, 1983; Budniakiewicz, 1992,
966 D. Herman / J o u r n a l o f Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

"Comme un drame en effet, il comporte obligatoirement un procEs, et le plus souvent des acteurs et des
circonstances. Transpos6s du plan de la r6alit6 dramatique sur celui de la syntaxe structurale, le proc~s,
les acteurs et les circonstances deviennent respectivement le verbe, les actants et les circonstants. Le
verbe exprime le procds ... Les actants sont les ~tres ou les choses qui, a un titre quelconque et de
quelque faqon que ce soit, mEme au titre de simples figurants et de la faqon la plus passive, participent
au proc~s ... Les actants sont toujours des substantifs ou des 6quivalents de substantifs. Inversement les
substantifs assument en principe toujours darts la phrase la fonction d'actants. (Tesni~re, 1959: 106;
propositions 1~5)

Like a drama, it [the sentence or "noeud verbal" 'verbal node'] comprises necessarily an action and most
often actors and circumstances as well. Transposed from the plane of dramatic reality to that of struc-
tural syntax, the action, actors and circumstances become, respectively, the verb, the actants and the cir-
cumstants. The verb expresses the action . . . . The actants are beings or things that participate in the
action - in whatever capacity and whatever style this might entail, even if it is as mere walk-ons and in
the most passive way imaginable. Actants are always nouns or the equivalents of nouns. Inversely, in a
given phrase nouns always assume, at least in principle, the function of actants. (My translation, D.H.)

Synthesizing Propp's and Tesni~re's ideas, Greimas radicalized one of Propp's basic
assumptions: namely, the assumption that if characters are to be described in a sys-
tematic as opposed to an ad hoc way, they should be viewed not as clusters of qual-
ities or traits, but rather as variables in a kind of behavioral calculus, or alternatively
units in a grammar of action, a syntax of doing. Adopting Barthes' (1977: 84) view
that "a narrative is a long sentence, just as every constative sentence is ... the rough
outline of a short narrative", Greimas drew on Tesni~re's work to interpret actants as
syntactic elements that are distributed in narrative 'sentences' in patterned, pre-
dictable ways. 12 Thus, whereas actors are semantic units, actants are syntactic ones,
such that "[a]n actor functions as an actant only when it is put into play by either
narrative syntax or linguistic syntax" (Greimas, 1987: I 14). Further, actantial roles,
like syntactic units, are theoretical constructs pertaining to all narratives; they are
part of the very grammar of stories. By contrast, actors are the equivalent of partic-
ular sentences realized within the grammar of a language; the output of grammatical
rules and operations located in the deep structure of narrative, actors or characters
are surface structures specific to particular stories (Greimas, 1983: 1 9 7 - 2 0 1 , 2 1 1 -
At stake, then, is the difference between examining the structure and the meaning
of a given sentence, its actantial scaffolding in contrast to how it is used to charac-
terize this or that actor. This is why the idea of actants, despite some significant
problems, remains a useful tool for narrative analysis: it points up the difference
between agents in a story and the behavioral models by virtue of which people
engaged in narrative communication make references to and inferences about those
agents. Thus, in corpus of stories examined here, 'opponent' could be construed as
an abstract grammatical category which generates structural descriptions of narrative
sentences as diverse as those used to tell the stories of the rope that wraps itself
around TS's grandfather's foot (Appendix A, 1.B.c--e and 1.I.b-h); the 'extra
shadow' that tries to hurt the person who casts it at night and who must throw dirt at

~2 Culler (1975: 82) remarks that "[o]ne function of [Greimas's] scheme is to make the structure of the
sentence roughly homologous to the 'plot' of a text".
D. Herman /Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 967

this shadow to 'kill' the malicious spirit inhabiting it (1.C.r-dd); the 'little people' ~3
that pose as tree stumps and then steal whatever is left on these ostensible stumps
(1 .E.t-gg); and, at least in certain respects, Inez Chavez, whose apparition or 'token'
throws a toothpick at Aunt Lily in a restaurant (2.A.m-ww). Thus, the role of oppo-
nent can be used to encode representations of more than one actor, both across dif-
ferent stories and within the same story (e.g., in 1.G.s-hhh, both the squirrel and the
man who inhabited the squirrel as a 'shapeshifter' are opponents of TS's grandfa-
ther). Conversely, an actor can be modelled in terms of more than one actantial role.
Hence, the token of LB's dead brother, Rufus (2.C.b-z), is in some respects a star-
tling apparition from the afterlife and therefore an opponent. Yet LB describes the
token as 'pretty' (2.C.h and x). In structuralist frameworks this token might therefore
be construed as a 'helper' as well as an opponent (Greimas, 1987: 106-107,
111-113; cf. Coste, 1989: 134-137; Rimmon-Kenan, 1989: 35).
The chief task for theories about actants is thus twofold. Such theories must fur-
nish a principled description of the behavioral models used to interpret particular
characters; and they must specify the nature of the link between agents and actants,
characters and roles. On both counts, structuralist approaches should be viewed as an
important first step toward a theory of actants, but not the last word on the subject.
In the first place, it is not clear that, for the purposes of narrative understanding,
actants need (or can) be reduced to six or seven basic types. As the example of Rufus
(2.C.b-z) has already suggested (cf. the story of LJ's grandmother in 3.B.a-rr), the
apparition of a dead loved one resists description in structuralist terms (is it a helper
or an opponent, a sender or a receiver, exactly?). And since telling stories about
ghostly agents greatly increases the scope of what can be considered an action (as
opposed to a mere event), the narratives under investigation suggest how actantial
models must be enriched 'on the fly', as it were. When everything from a rocking
chair (1.A.f-gg), to a squirrel (1.G.s-hhh), to a spider (1.C.j-q), to a kitchen cabinet
(l.F.a-e), to a toothpick (2.A.m-ww) can be a supematural agent or else the mani-
festation of one, the very distinction between agent and patient, actor and object
acted on, is subject to ongoing negotiation by those engaged in narrative communi-
cation. Anchored in a variety of experiential repertoires, models for understanding
characters are emergent constructs fashioned jointly by narrator and audience. These
behavioral models are constantly being proposed, established, and updated by tellers
and recipients, who must work collaboratively to establish the parameters of agency
in a storyworld where 'objects' like rocking chairs and tree stumps might really be
agents instead (see Section 4.3).
Second, analysts need to enrich the structuralist accounts if they are to work
toward a principled account of the link between actantial roles and a given segment
of narrative discourse (Herman, 1997). Part of the difficulty here was identified over
thirty years ago by Hendricks (1967: 40-51) in his critique of Propp's work and of

~3 Cherokee informants typically describe these 'little people' as spiritual beings that take material
form, dwell in the wild, and look like small children. Occasionally helpful to people, little people are
also reputed to be paranormal pranksters that play tricks on people without seriously injuring them. My
thanks to Bridget Anderson for information about the little people.
968 D. Herman /Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

Lrvi-Strauss's (1986) structuralist analysis of the Oedipus myth. For Hendricks, the
problem with structuralist theories is that they typically made claims about actants
not on the basis of a story taken by itself, but rather on the basis of a prior interpre-
tation of what the story, as a whole, means. True, as discussed below in Section 4.2,
people engaged in narrative communication also make sense of characters on the
basis of 'narrative discourse models', i.e., mental models in which representations of
modes of agency and patiency play an especially important role. So storytellers and
their listeners, like structuralist narratologists, are able to flame judgments about
characters' behavior because they are working with an (emergent) interpretation of
the story. Yet one should arguably make a distinction between using and under-
standing stories, on the one hand, and theorizing about how people use and under-
stand stories, on the other hand. Insofar as he or she purports to offer an account of
situated storytelling practice, the analyst of narrative communication should be held
to a higher standard of explicitness than narrators and their audiences. In particular,
what the structuralists left unspecified is the procedure by which the analyst builds
an initial global interpretation of the narrative being analyzed. Actantial roles, sup-
posedly encoded in a story's structure, are thus in actual fact the product of an
implicit theory of what the the story is about. But if a prior, unstated gloss of the nar-
rative (character x did action y to character z) is what allows the analyst to assign
actantial roles to particular characters, then an implicit interpretation is trying to
pass itself off as an explicit structural description of the narrative discourse. The
concept of actant hence needs to be extricated, in part, from the methodological
framework in which it was originally developed.
More precisely, that framework needs to be modified along jointly pragmatic and
cognitive lines. Instead of attempting to characterize actants as elements 'built into'
narrative structure, analysts should study how behavioral models pair with referring
sequences to yield comprehension of narrative structure itself. As already indicated,
by the structuralists' own admission, the relationship between actors and actants is
both one-many and many-one. Many different characters can play the same actantial
role, while a variety of actantial roles can be realized by one and the same character.
The situation here is therefore analogous to pragmatic theories about the relationship
between sentences and utterances, or locutionary acts and illocutionary forces. If
issued as an utterance in different contexts, one and the same sentence can carry
multiple illocutionary forces. Thus Can you pass the salt can function as a question,
a directive, or a reprimand (i.e., the sentence might implicate that the food in ques-
tion is underseasoned). Conversely, a request can be realized by a question, a state-
ment, a paralinguistic cue (e.g., a nod of the head), or even complete silence. Yet just
as the difficulty of correlating forms with forces and forces with forms does not
wholly derail people's attempts to communicate, the variable connection between
characters and actants does not undermine narrative understanding. It is simply not
the case that actors pattern randomly with actants, or agents with roles. Even given
a highly specialized context, one would be hard-pressed to construe the little people
who steal TS's grandfather's pocketknife as 'helpers' (1.E.s-gg). But such con-
straints on character interpretation are pragmatic, not syntactic or quasi-syntactic, in
nature. It is not that narrative comprehension builds componentially from an under-
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 969

standing of individual characters to an understanding of the story as a whole.

Instead, interpretation of characters is a top-down rather than a bottom-up affair.
Behavioral paradigms are what enable referents to be assigned, in a structured way,
to the sequence of referring expressions by which storytellers evoke a character or a
group of characters.
Note that precedents for this sort of top-down approach were outlined by the
structuralists themselves; both Barthes (1977) and Greimas (1987) indicated
grounds for rejecting syntactic in favor of pragmatic and cognitive paradigms for
research on actants. Barthes described sequences of actions as "essential headings"
of "the narrative language within us" (1977: 101-102) - a language learned
through storage of dynamic knowledge-representations of the sort later character-
ized by cognitive scientists as scripts (Schank and Abelson, 1977; cf. Herman,
1997). Sequences of actions are thus the output of "naming operations" that allow
readers to "grasp every logical succession of actions as a nominal whole" (Barthes,
1977: 102). For his part, Greimas (1987: 113) pointed to important pragmatic
dimensions of actantial models. Such models "constitute an attempt to account for
instances and trajectories of meaning that generate discourse. But their importance
is also pragmatic. They have to be considered as models of predictability, as
hypotheses presented in the form of logical articulations that, once projected onto
texts, can enhance their readability". Quite early on, then, narratologists anticipated
the view that I sketch in the next section: namely, that characters are not in stories
as such, but rather emerge as inferential constructs shaped by pragmatic constraints
on narrative processing.

4. Pragmatic and cognitive bases for the study of actants

Fludernik (1996: 44-52; cf. Herman, 1999; Margolin, 1986: 213-214) has
refined structuralist theories by arguing that listeners or readers must 'naturalize'
stories - bring them within the domain of the natural or comprehensible - in order to
interpret them as narratives in the first place. In order to naturalize stories, recipients
typically use frames or pre-stored sets of expectations about the way experience will
unfold. For Fludemik, expectations about action or behavior constitute one of the
most basic frames for people to make sense out of narratives. I retain the term actant
to denote (a subset of) the cognitive models used to impute goal-directed behavior to
narrative agents. Inferences based on these actantial models do not only allow read-
ers or listeners to assign referents to referring sequences. Debatably, such inferences
also enable recipients of stories to recognize those stories as being narratively orga-
nized in the first place. After all, a story is more than an sequentially-presented
assemblage of discrete events. To be processed as a narrative, event-strings must
also involve a specific configuration of participants engaged not just in a sequence
of actions, but in a sequence marked by a global action structure (Giora and Shen,
1994; Pavel, 1985a). Typical action structures include Seeking to achieve a goal and
Attempting to thwart another character's pursuit of a goal (cf. Ryan, 1991:
124-147, 201-257). To capture', how such action structures are general and basic
970 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-100l

aspects of narrative discourse, the idea of actants needs to be integrated with

research that uses discourse model theory to analyze stories.

4.1. Discourse anaphora, discourse model theory, and stories

At least since Firbas (1964) and other Prague School linguists (Mathesius, 1983;
Danes, 1974; Vachek, 1966) began working on what evolved into the present-day
version of Functional Sentence Perspective (see Firbas, 1992), language theorists
and cognitive scientists have tried to relate the grammatical form of utterances to the
kinds of information conveyed by different constituents of the utterances themselves.
On Firbas's model, sentence structure is governed by a principle of communicative
dynamism (CD). For Firbas (1992: 9), CD is "an inherent quality of communication
and manifests itself in constant development towards the attainment of a commu-
nicative goal" (cf. 1992: 105). Degrees of dynamism, then, correlate with the degree
to which a given linguistic element contributes to what Firbas describes as a 'per-
spectiving' of an utterance toward a particular communicative goal. 14 Although the
linear arrangement of sentence elements often corresponds with a gradual rise in CD,
such that the disposition of grammatical elements obeys a rule of increasing com-
municative dynamism, this is not always the case. The CD associated with sentence
linearity can be cross-cut by other markers of degrees of dynamism, including the
prosodic prominence of a (spoken) word or phrase, the degree to which a linguistic
element is context-dependent (i.e., retrievable from the linguistic and extralinguistic
context of the utterance), and the semantic content of the verbs chosen by a speaker
(Firbas, 1992: 15-140). In particular, clauses with pro-forms can be said to be less
communicatively dynamic than noun phrases, being either diathematic (if the
antecedent is rhematic) or constitutive of the theme itself (if the antecedent is the-
matic). This framework provides a useful descriptive vocabulary for aspects of TS's
story about the malicious extra shadows that follow people at night (1.C). Thus, in
clause (y)

(y) There was somebody there

the existential construction There was establishes 'somebody' as a rheme about

which the following clause goes on to present further, diathematic information. In (z)
the generic they indicates not plural number but indeterminate gender (or, more
broadly, identity):

(z) and they were trying to hurt you.

Here we are dealing with anaphora resolution across clauses: the referent 'some-
body' can be assigned to the referring expression they, despite lack of perfect fit

14 Reinhart (1983: 98) argued that it is difficult to establish, on the basis of the model presentedin Fir-
bas (1964), a metric for gauging degrees of CD. The more sophisticated account offered in Firbas
(1992), however,helps redress this problem.
D. Herman /Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 971

with r e s p e c t to n u m b e r , b e c a u s e they stands in a d i a t h e m a t i c r e l a t i o n to s o m e -

body. 15
T h e c o n c e p t o f information status (Chafe, 1976; E. Prince, 1981, 1992) has
e n a b l e d researchers to study issues raised (though given a s o m e w h a t different treat-
ment) in the context o f F u n c t i o n a l Sentence Perspective. 16 Specifically, the concept
has a l l o w e d discourse analysts to focus special attention on the issue o f a n a p h o r a
across sentences, i.e., discourse anaphora. A s Schiffrin ( 1 9 9 4 : 1 9 0 - 2 3 1 ) notes, given
information t y p i c a l l y gets e n c o d e d in definite and inexplicit referring expressions,
while indefinite and inexplicit expressions c o m m o n l y express n e w information. This
distributional pattern is i n d e e d one o f the h a l l m a r k s o f structured discourse (versus
r a n d o m c o l l o c a t i o n s o f sentences), as can be seen in L J ' s story about the p h a n t o m
car that n e v e r arrives (3.C). To supply a referent for the inexplicit referring expres-
sion something (a), an e x p r e s s i o n which p r o m p t s RJ to ask her about w h a t she saw
and thus clears the w a y for an e x t e n d e d turn at talk, LJ p r o v i d e s an indefinite noun
phrase e n c o d i n g m u c h explicit information about the referent in question. Note here
that the e m p h a t i c a l l y l e n g t h e n e d p r o d u c t i o n o f the syllable car serves as an addi-
tional p r o m p t : it cues RJ to infer that the referent o f this e x p r e s s i o n is and will be
e s p e c i a l l y salient in the current and u p c o m i n g discourse context: 17

(c) A CAR . . . that never..that w o u l d n e v e r did get to where we were sitting on the

A l l eight n e x t - m e n t i o n s o f this referent are a c c o m p l i s h e d p r o n o m i n a l l y , with it (1, m,

o, q, s, u, x, y).t8 A r g u a b l y , this set o f utterances hangs together as a d i s c o u r s e just
b e c a u s e it consists o f referring expressions e n c o d i n g o n g o i n g reference to the dis-
course entity f o r e g r o u n d e d in (c). The patterned distribution o f referring expressions
not only permits us to track one and the same referent through a given discourse, but
also helps constitute a stretch o f talk or a collection o f written sentences as a dis-
course in the first place.

~5 My thanks go to one of the external reviewers of an earlier draft of this essay, whose comments
helped me reformulate the final five sentences in this paragraph. For more on the theme/rheme distinc-
tion, see Firbas (1992: 71-74, 81-86, 88-96). Also, see Firbas (1992: 79-81) for an account of diathe-
matic sentence elements.
16 Firbas (1992: 106) notes that in his approach "givenness, i.e. context dependence, is conditioned by
the presence of the information and/or its referent in the immediately relevant context, whereas accord-
ing to Chafe's approach it is conditioned by the assumption of the speaker that the information is present
in the addressee's consciousness. Chafe's criterion of givenness cannot therefore be equated with my cri-
terion of context dependence".
17 For an account of the ways in which prosody affects CD - more specifically, of the way prosodic
and non-prosodic factors can either mutually reinforce or else work against one another - see Firbas
(1992: 143-191). In general, prosody plays a crucial role in many of the narratives in my corpus. That
is why, in the study of narrative structure and comprehension, it is imperative to examine natural-lan-
guage data as well as written texts like the ones Emmott (1997) investigates. See Sections 4.2 and 5
~8 The it in (gg) has an ambiguous antecedent: the expression may refer to the car in particular or to
the entire sequence of events that LJ has just recounted.
972 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

Along the same lines, discourse model theory has been instrumental in shifting
attention from anaphoric links between clauses to types of anaphora that cross sen-
tence boundaries. In Webber's (1979:21) formulation of the theory, "one objective
of discourse is to communicate a model: the speaker has a model of some situation
which, for one reason or another, s/he wishes to communicate to a listener. Thus the
ensuing discourse is, at one level, an attempt by the speaker to direct the listener in
synthesizing a similar model" (cf. Green, 1989: 1-35; Johnson-Laird, 1983; Kron-
feld, 1990: 68-84; Malt, 1985). Or, in a more recent formulation:

"A discourse model is the representation of information that is built during comprehension of a text or
discourse. As comprehension proceeds through a text, the discourse model is continually updated and
revised to include new input and to reflect the impact of new input on earlier information ... the model
is made up of the entities evoked by linguistic and contextual information, the relations among the enti-
ties, and their accessibilities relative to potential referential cues." (McKoon et al., 1993: 72)

As Webber and McKoon et al., show, anaphoric expressions prove to be invalu-

able tools for constructing and synthesizing discourse models. By means of
anaphora, discourse participants reduce the amount of information that they must
otherwise make explicit (Webber, 1979: 25). Put another way, given that a discourse
model contains a collection of entities and records their properties and relationships;
and given, too, that a speaker usually cannot communicate all at once the relevant
properties and relationships associated with a specific discourse entity; interlocutors
require a way of referring repeatedly to a particular entity, and thus of updating
knowledge about that entity with any new information coming into play (Webber,
1979: 26). The more accessible an entity, the more readily will it be referred to and
updated by way of a pronoun versus a noun phrase, or an inexplicit as opposed to an
explicit expression. The assumptions that speakers or writers make about accessibil-
ity - assumptions revealed through pronoun choice - are used by listeners or readers
as they co-construct the discourse model supporting a spate of talk or a stretch of
written discourse. Thus, when RJ asks LJ "What you'd see~" (3.C.b), he signals that
the entity to which LJ refers with something (a) is currently inaccessible within the
model on which they are collaborating. This prompts LJ to help RJ build a better,
more detailed model, a model that features not just the general possibility of super-
natural occurrences but also the specific incident of the phantom car. Successful
assignment of referents to referring expressions, then, is not a matter of matching
nouns and pronouns to real-world entities but of using these expressions as cues for
building a model of the world - a model in which there are certain referents related
to one another in certain ways. Hence communication is not the packaging of con-
tents (referents) into understandable form (Reddy, 1979); communication, rather, is
what happens when a particular model of the world is understandably communi-
Yet the discourse models undergirding narrative communication are of a special-
ized sort. Storytellers must communicate a model for understanding not just how ref-
erents stand in particular relations to one another, but also how some of these refer-
ents can be construed as agents or patients, characters participating in global action
structures. Such specialized discourse models must be communicated along with a
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 973

narrator's presentation of the storyworld. Thus, an important task for narrative ana-
lysts is to explore how discourse model theory bears on discourse that has the addi-
tional property of being interpretable as narrative. Arguing that "[n]arrative under-
standing requires constructing a representation of the narrative from a sequence of
sentences", Morrow (1985: 304), investigated how the nature of this representation or
model guides the assignment of referents to pronouns. As Morrow notes, the model
itself "is a product of linguistic knowledge and knowledge of the objects and actions
the narrative refers to" (1985: 305, emphasis added). The discourse models underly-
ing narrative comprehension (unlike those associated with other genres such as lists,
syllogisms, or recipes) must thus, as Morrow suggested, contain specialized informa-
tion about characters engaged in or subjected to actions. (Section 5 below retums to
problems with Morrow's approach to character.) Indeed, narratively organized dis-
course is distinguished precisely by its reliance on models that include relatively com-
plex representations of characters who perform actions; stories rely on such models
over and above models of entities that pertain, in a more or less unspecified way, to
situations and events constituting the storyworld. Thus, as Brown (1995:142-151)
indicates, tracking agents in narratives requires more than just incorporating change-
of-state predicates into an emergent discourse interpretation; it also requires 'proto-
typical expectations' about participant roles encoded in the telling of the story:

"As [people engaged in narrative communication] consider [an] imagined or remembered scene, they
scan between the ... major participants, recalling what they have seen or been told that each of them
does. It is these actions which they have seen or been told about which most crucially identify and char-
acterise the individual actors in their continually updated memory of the events. The linguistic identifi-
cation here is regularly achieved not by distinctivenoun phrases ... but by the sequenceof actions which
each undertakes, which constitutecrucial distinguishing characteristics."(Brown, 1995: 149; cf. Brown
and Yule, 1983: 214-222; Emmott, 1997: 37-38; Ryan, 1991: 124-147)

But how, exactly, do roles structure the specialized discourse models associated with
stories, creating prototypical expectations about participants? Drawing on data from
the ghost stories under study, the next two sections return to the idea of actants in
order to address precisely this question.

4.2. Actants and narrative discourse models

The argument to be developed in this section and the next is that actants stand to
characters or agents as discourse entities stand to 'real-world' objects. A subset of
the discourse models guiding reference assignment in narrative discourse, actants are
mental models for understanding types of agency and patiency in storyworlds.
Actants are thus role-based representations in terms of which narrative participants
are inserted into action structures. Narrative communication, on this view, is not
really a matter of telling about what a character or group of characters did. Instead,
it is a matter of providing cues for reconstructing the behavioral models in terms of
which a storyteller represents a storyworld.
This reformulation marks a significant shift of emphasis, for it highlights one of
the hallmarks of narrative imagining. Stories derive from a cognitive predisposition
974 D. Herman /Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

to interpret events, or changes of state, as actions or the product of actions - i.e., as

a function of purposeful, goal-directed behavior. Approaches that move directly and
unproblematically from characters to narratives about them (or vice versa) occlude
this intermediary, model-building stage, whereby a story acquires narrative structure
in the first place. Actants are in this sense extra structure added to discourse models;
they enable those engaged in narrative communication to (re)construct what I shall
here call narrative discourse models (NDMs). A NDM is a specialized discourse
model in which role-based representations figure crucially, allowing storytellers to
recast sequences of events as global action structures oriented around participants'
goals. In this connection, ghost stories provide an especially illuminating test-case.
They throw into relief the cognitive, linguistic, and interactional processes associated
with building NDMs. The challenge of tracking the behavior of ghostly agents
through space and time is no less demanding than that of establishing reference to
such agents to begin with (Herman, under review). As a result, ghost stories reveal
storytellers and story-recipients collaborating in the effort to (re)structure a world of
objects and events into a world of agents, patients, actions, and ways of being acted
on. Actants are thus the tools that narrators and their audiences use to build NDMs;
and stories about ghosts can be viewed as a workshop for NDM construction via
The next section analyzes details of NDM construction in the ghost stories. First,
though, it is instructive to compare the idea of NDMs with Emmott's (1997) recent
work on contextual frames in narrative comprehension. The parallels are significant.
Making the broad claim that any adequate theory of reference in discourse must
incorporate the notion of mental representations, Emmott (1997) focuses on third-
person pronouns denoting characters in narratives and discusses ways in which those
characters are related to contexts. Emmott defines contexts as spatiotemporal nodes
inhabited by configurations of story-agents; as such, contexts crucially constrain
pronoun interpretation. Shifts in context - e.g., shifts from a flashback to the main
narrative - alter the pool of potential referents for a pronoun and may enable a pro-
noun to be interpreted without an antecedent. Information about contexts attaches
itself to mental representations that Emmott terms contextual frames. An action per-
formed by (or on) a given configuration of characters is necessarily indexed to a par-
ticular context and must be viewed within that context, even if the context is never
fully reactivated (after its initial mention) linguistically. A character is said to be
bound to a contextual frame, and when one particular contextual frame becomes the
main focus of attention for the reader, it is said to be primed. In the case of frame
modification, the same contextual frame remains primed but the frame has to be
altered to reflect a change in the participant group. In frame switch, one contextual
frame replaces another, while in frame recall a previously primed frame is rein-
stated. In turn, frame switch and recall can be either instantaneous or progressive.
Finally, Emmott uses the term enactors to name the different versions of characters
encountered in narrative flashbacks. Contextual monitoring is necessary to keep
track of the current enactor because flashback time is not always signalled by verb
aspect, for example. Particularly suggestive for analysis of ghost stories is Emmott's
discussion of frame participant ambiguity (who is present in a context?) and her
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 975

account of how story-recipients monitor covert participants in the action (Emmott,

1997: 197-235). 19
Although Emmott's work bears importantly on the perspective developed here, it
is worth pointing out ways in which the two approaches diverge. For one thing,
Emmott's study is based on written narratives rather than naturally occurring-lan-
guage data. By contrast, this paper studies real-time narrative communication
between interviewers and their informants. This enables me to examine evidence for
the moment-by-moment construction and updating of the mental models that under-
gird narrative understanding. Thus NDMs can be viewed as an attempt to put
Emmott's idea of contextual frames on a firmer interactional footing - to emphasize
ways in which the models organizing narrative comprehension are interactionally
achieved. Further, the paper explores a narrative subgenre in which storytellers and
their audiences face unique referential challenges; their primary challenge is to
encode and reconstruct, respectively, mental models rich enough for comprehension
of supernatural modes of agency (and patiency) in the storyworlds being evoked. In
this way too, then, my data-set reveals that NDMs are not just frames for the inter-
pretation of text, but also interpretive strategies emerging from the process of dis-
course production itself. In addition, although Emmott does stress that actions and
goal-oriented action structures figure importantly in contextual frames (cf. 1997:
38--40, 103-107, 175-194), I believe that models for agency and patiency play an
even more crucial role in narrative understanding than Emmott indicates (see Section
5). Finally, I use the term narrative discourse models (or NDMs) rather than contex-
tual frames because the former term signals more explicitly the research tradition on
which my approach to narrative analysis seeks to build.

4.3. NDM construction in the ghost stories

Evidence for the interactional bases of NDM construction can be found through-
out the corpus. In the entry talk preceding Story Set 1, for example, we find stepwise
topic-transitions from the distinctiveness of TS's grandfather's woodcarvings (a-f);
to his unique talents as a storyteller (j-o); to the unusual (indeed, supernatural)
aspects of experience that were the subject of the grandfather's stories and that have
made TS afraid to go outside in the dark (p-aa). A skillful storyteller in her own
right, TS uses the statement "I have been scared..of going the DARKat my
house" (p) to elicit BA's enthusiastic request for stories by way of explanation
(ee-mm). This general statement about being afraid of the dark thus furnishes a pre-
text, both topically and interactionally, for TS to provide a catalogue of ghost stories
(1 .A-I). As the interview proceeds, however, TS's explanation of her fears becomes
somewhat ambiguous. It is not just her grandfather's stories that have made TS
afraid of ghosts, but also Jennifer's story of the chair rocked by an unquiet spirit
(l.A.f-m) and her own experiences with cabinets that pop open inexplicably
(1.F.c-e), a bed that squeaks and rattles whenever someone is about to die (1 .F.g--o),

19 For a fuller synopsis of Emmott's model, see Herman (1998).

976 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmaties 32 (2000) 959-1001

a cousin who is killed when a bullet ricochets off of an owl inhabited by some sort
of presence (l.G.b-h), a mysterious cat who screams when TS's grandmother dies
(1.H.a-p), and ghosts that knock TS's feet out from under her and make her cry as a
child (1 .I.p-r). Thus, it is finally unclear whether TS is claiming that her experiences
have been structured by the kinds of stories her grandfather told, or that experience
itself is structured in a way that necessitates the sorts of tales that both she and her
grandfather tell. This ambiguity reflects the dual status of narrative imagining itself,
stories being both a strategy for conceptualizing the world and the record of such
attempts at conceptualization.
From the start, TS signals that her listeners will have to collaborate with her on
the construction of special, 'customized' NDMs. Those NDMs will have to be tai-
lored to fit the unusual kinds (and unusually extended scope) of agency and patiency
structuring tales of the supernatural. Indeed, lines (nn-ppp) of the entry talk set up
what Pavel (1986: 61-64) calls a stratified or 'salient' ontology, in which vastly dif-
ferent sorts of agents and actions are possible in different domains of the represented
world. TS uses contrastive stresses to emphasize the saliency, in Pavel's sense, of the
storyworld - a storyworld featuring domains that are both synchronically and
diachronically stratified. Hence TS foregrounds the difference between Oklahoma
and 'HERE' (ww). In Oklahoma, where Jennifer is from, people are 'totally different
from us' (ss) and things can happen there that one has never even heard of (vv). Of
course, the converse proposition holds as well. Also, it was through the 'OLD people'
(ccc) with whom he grew up that TS's grandfather learned supernatural lore (fff). TS
thus stratifies the storyworld into supernatural domains by projecting the source of
her narratives farther and farther back into the past, from TS's grandfather to the
people who were old when he was young. Note too that TS has been asked in very
general terms to '^tell some stories' (ee). She must therefore take it upon herself to
signal the need for complex NDMs geared to a salient ontology. By contrast, in the
entry talk for Story Sets 2 and 3 the interviewers obviate the need for such prepara-
tory work. They directly ask the informants whether they have had any experiences
that could be described as paranormal; the interviewers thereby indicate that they
themselves are ready to co-create customized NDMs for tales of the supernatural.
In particular, the informants prompt their interviewers to construct mental repre-
sentations - to build actantial models - for varieties of ghostly agency (and
patiency). Tellers of ghost stories must not only facilitate reference assignment in
contexts of discourse anaphora; they must also (and more to the point) provide cues
for interpreting otherwise inexplicable events as paranormal actions. The processing
requirements posed by ghost stories are therefore considerable. Ordinarily inanimate
objects such as ropes may become strangely and maliciously animated. Other inani-
mate objects, such as rocking chairs and toothpicks, may become vehicles for super-
natural agency. Human or quasi-human predicates (rationality, goal-directed behav-
ior, the desire for revenge, etc.) may be transposed onto animate creatures (owls,
squirrels) to create paranormal blends. Otherwise unidentifiable sounds may become
signs of tokens or ghostly presences. Under study are thus complexly and variably
salient storyworlds, in which the parameters of paranormal activity, changing from
one situation to the next, refuse to be fixed across stories or even within the same
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 977

story. The NDMs associated with these narratives must be built in a way that allows
recipients to insert more or less unusual discourse entities into the global action
structures whose genus is Haunting.
Even those stories in the corpus which seem relatively straightfoward present
challenging processing tasks and anchor themselves in quite sophisticated NDMs. Or
rather, they reveal the quite sophisticated processes by which storytellers cue their
listeners to construct NDMs. LJ's story about the death of Sally Smith (3.A), for
example, centers around LJ's premonition or 'feeling' (see the entry talk at (r) and
(bb)) that Sally was going to die. On the face of it, this story displays a very com-
mon sort of narrative patterning, whereby storytellers retrospectively identify agents,
impute motives, and ascribe causes in order to make sense of events after the fact.
Perhaps LJ merely happened to go see Sally right before she died and later reinter-
preted this chain of events as the consequence of a premonition. What is important
to analyze, however, is how she encodes her interpretation of events in her discourse.
Note that LJ portrays herself as a patient 'forced' by 'something in me' to go see
Sally in the hospital (3.A.e). Yet in lines (c-e), LJ hesitates over how to build a
NDM that can adequately encode the kind of agency at work and best capture the
way that agency acted upon her:

(c) and something or other said "you'd better go see her".

(d) You know it won't no ^voice,
(e) It just..something in me said..forced me to go to see her.

This small story segment reveals how narrative understanding - as opposed to dis-
course comprehension in general - is subject to two, overlapping sets of constraints.
On the one hand, there are constraints associated with the sequence of referring
expressions (something or other, it, something in me) that LJ uses to evoke the dis-
course entity to which she means to ascribe agency. These constraints bear on
WHAT entity is being modelled as an agent. On the other hand, there are constraints
associated with HOW that entity is being modelled as an agent - i.e., what sort of
agency is being ascribed to the agent in question. Hence LJ tries to choose between
said and forced in line (e).
Processing (c-e) thus involves not just reference assignment but also inserting an
agent into the action structure Induce L I to go see Sally Smith before she dies.
Inversely, taking both sets of constraints into account, one might argue that LJ
proves unable to build a NDM rich enough for the action structure she seeks to
encode. She first attributes speech to the agent of the premonition but then negates
her own interpretation by asserting that 'it won't no Avoice'. Here the heightened
loudness of 'voice' opens up a conceptual space for a contrasting actantial model
that LJ never provides; no alternative model for agency presents itself (the shift from
'said' to 'forced' in (e) does not really help specify the type of acting-upon
involved). But LJ's incomplete NDM structurally reinforces what LJ has learned
from her experiences. The feeling she had at the time of Sally's death has taught LJ
that in certain domains, agency cannot be exactly or finally ascribed to particular
entities populating those domains. At stake here is what might be termed 'fuzzy ref-
978 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

erence', not an outright failure of reference. Indeed, LJ creates an expectation for

fuzzy reference - i.e., she creates a pretext for a strategically inexact NDM - when
she uses contrastive stresses in the entry talk to distinguish seeing a vision from feel-
ing a premonition (q-r). Feeling is vaguer than seeing in this context. Thus, even
before she begins telling the story of Sally Smith, LJ projects a NDM in which it is
impossible to establish a precise fit between actants and actions - between models
for agency and what narrative agents actually seem to be doing in the narrated world.
Significantly, line (e) of LJ's story shows interaction between the two sets of con-
straints on NDM construction and comprehension. It is precisely when she hesitates
over HOW to model agency ('said ... forced') that LJ displays uncertainty about
WHAT discourse entity is performing the action ('It just ... something in me'). A
longer extract can perhaps better illuminate this interaction of the WHAT and the
HOW constraints on narrative processing. I turn now to TS's story about the
'shapeshifter' her grandfather claimed to have killed (1.G.l-hhh). Analysis of this
story confirms that actants, as key elements of NDMs, are indispensable for narrative
understanding. So as to permit a match between specific discourse entities and refer-
ring sequences, actants embed those entities within the larger action structures that
organize sequences into stories.
While narrating the story of the shapeshifter, TS must build (and help her inter-
locutors build) a highly sophisticated NDM - one that enables an entity to be
referred to and tracked across a sequence of events despite the entity's metamor-
phosis from squirrel to man. We are dealing here not just with the alteration of a
few accidental predicates but with a wholesale transformation from animal to
human. (Further, a transformation from human to animal must be assumed to have
occurred prior to the grandfather's shooting of the squirrel.) Also, the NDM must
dovetail this metamorphosis with a sequence of actions involving conflict between
the grandfather (along with his hunting companion), the squirrel, and the man in the
house. In this context, notice the emphatically lengthened speech productions that
punctuate TS's narrative: SQUIRRELS (r), BIGGER (U), YELLED (y), YELLED (ff), FIND
(hh), WENT (kk), MAN (11), THEM SO AMEAN (11), MEAN (OO), SEE (SS), KNOWED (bbb),
SQUIRREL (fff). These utterances furnish the skeleton of the entire story, encoding a
NDM designed to satisfy both the W H A T and the HOW constraints on narrative
processing. With squirrels the type of entity being hunted is identified, while the
inclusion of information about its size serves to mark one particular squirrel as
unusual; i.e., bigger flags this entity as noteworthy in the current and upcoming dis-
course context. Indeed, as the narrative proceeds this size-related predicate can be
interpreted retrospectively as the first provision of a connector linking the entities
'squirrel' and 'man' in TS's NDM. That NDM, remember, must be designed to
allow for the possibility of shapeshifting. The next two emphatic utterances (both of
them productions of yelled) are action-related predicates and reveal interaction
between the WHAT and HOW constraints. A verb of action, yelled is also one of
the two most explicit connectors linking squirrel and man. In yelling, the squirrel is
at its most human, just as later on, given the kind of wound sustained by the squir-
rel (aa-dd), the dead man in the house with 'blood down his back' (vv) is at his
most animal.
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 979

But further, yelled (along with the nonemphatic s c r e a m e d at line (z)) cues con-
struction of a NDM that inserts the squirrel in a larger pattern of conflict. This pat-
tern organizes understanding of TS's referring sequences as a narrative. By repre-
senting the squirrel as yelling, TS encodes it as a particular type of patient,
attaching the squirrel to a global action structure involving pursuit of a goal (the
hunt), conflict (killing of the squirrel), and reprisal (the man's mean stare that con-
vinces the grandfather forever that he is a murderer). It is because it is modelled
this way that the yelling squirrel can be inferred to be fundamentally continuous
with the man who stares so meanly at TS's grandfather and then dies. In actantial
terms, TS's NDM encodes the man's angry stare as a shift from patiency to agency
on the part of the discourse entity first presented as a squirrel and then as a man.
Likewise, TS's emphatic productions of f i n d (hh) and went (kk) help anchor the
squirrel, TS's grandfather, and the angrily-staring man in an action structure that
makes not only reference assignment but also narrative comprehension possible.
The NDM being built actantially enables two, ostensibly incompatible referents
('squirrel' and 'man') to be assigned to the definite description that man (11), over-
riding semantic constraints imposed by the explicit lexical content of the phrase
itself. Specifically, insofar as the grandfather is unable to find the squirrel he shot,
we infer that another shape shift has occurred and that the man who stares him
down is the mortally wounded squirrel exacting a form of revenge. Reference
assignment and NDM construction are therefore one and the same process: to be
able to track discourse entities across shifts of shape is to grasp the action structure
that encodes such entities as agents (or patients) and situates them in an emergent
pattern of conflict.
The cooperation of W H A T and HOW constraints supports comprehension not just
of TS's story as a whole but also of referring sequences contained within individual
episodes. In the following sequence, TS moves from the episode in which the man
stares meanly to the episode in which the grandfather goes back to have a look at
that man:

TS: (uu) he said he looked and the man had rolled over
(vv) and he had ... blood down his back . . . .
BA: (ww) Ohhhh.
TS: (xx) =and he said he was bleeding.
(yy) And he said that man died.
BA: (zz) I'll be Adarned.
TS: (aaa) And he said "I Adidn't mean to do that"
(bbb) he says "but I KNOWEDthat..he said that..was me".
(ccc) He said "We shot him".
BA: (ddd)/I'11 be damed/
TS: (eee) And he said that was him..
(fff) and that's ... he was a SQUIRREL(laughs)
980 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

Arguably, without a NDM based in part on actants, it would be impossible to assign

referents to the three occurrences of that in lines (aaa), (bbb), and (eee) or to he in line
(fff). In line (aaa), for example, TS uses that to refer to the death of the man. But her
referring expression can trigger this inference only because of the complex NDM to
which the expression attaches. Situation-based information must be used to supplement
text-based information to disambiguate that (Speelman and Kirsner, 1990; cf. Emmott,
1997: 21-73); the referent for that is not recoverable solely from what has been
expressed propositionally earlier in the discourse. Rather, reference assignment in this
case depends on a NDM that establishes a crucial parallelism not at the level of propo-
sitions about specific agents but at the level of actantial roles. According to this paral-
lelism, actions affecting a discourse entity previously evoked in the story also affect the
later-mentioned shapeshifter; or rather, the shapeshifter and the squirrel can be inferred
to be entities continuous with one another because they share the role of patiency-
goaded-into-agency in the action structure organizing this referring sequence. The same
general point holds for he in line (fff). Assigning a referent to this expression requires
a NDM in which actantial models allow story-recipients to establish boundaries for
shapeshifting; actants help identify the most likely source and target shapes involved.
Because of the story's overall action structure, the pattem of conflict in which it
embeds the participants, story-recipients can infer that he in (fff) refers not to the grand-
father's hunting companion but to the dead man with the bloody back. Once again, rep-
resentations of the HOW bear demonstrably on determinations of the WHAT.

5. Actants and the foreground-background distinction

Studying actants in the context of NDMs thus has significant implications for nar-
rative analysis. Besides revealing interaction between HOW and WHAT constraints,
research on actants may suggest new ways of thinking about the foreground-back-
ground distinction in narrative contexts. Labov (1972) appeals implicitly to this dis-
tinction in dividing narrative from nonnarrative clauses and in distinguishing
between the primary sequence of a story and the evaluative information superim-
posed on that sequence. Arguably, too, the figure-ground contrast underlies
Polanyi's (1985, 1989) distinction between narrative events and durative or descrip-
tive information surrounding events (see Herman, 1999, for a different approach).
For his part, Morrow (1985: 309) conducted psycholinguistic experimentation indi-
cating that, in the context of referring sequences, "the role of events and characters
in the narrative world can be more important than intrinsic properties of characters
(e.g., agency) and actions (e.g. motion) for organizing referent assignment". By
'role' Morrow here means foregrounded vs. backgrounded (prominent vs. non-
prominent). He argues further:

"[T]emporal relations among events that are signaled by morphemes like tense/aspect markers and con-
junctions help indicate which parts of a [mental] model are most prominent or active in working mem-
ory at each point in comprehension and that readers [typically] choose as referents characters in fore-
ground events, or events that advance the plot, over characters in background events, those that provide
the setting for the plot." (Morrow, 1985: 306)
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 981

By contrast, the present study suggests that reference assignment depends crucially,
not accidentally, on models for characters' agency. Plot, after all, is a name for all
the goal-directed action structures represented in a story; it is also the record of the
sequentially unfolding relationships between these action structures as the story-
world moves forward in time. As we have seen, however, action structures are born
simultaneously with models for inserting discourse entities, as agents, into patterns
of cooperation, conflict, and so on. Reference assignment is a byproduct of such
model-building. Further, since actants are a primary resource for dividing story-
worlds into a foreground and a background, the plot/setting distinction to which
Morrow appeals as fundamental is really parasitic on actants. As a part of NDM con-
struction, character models are what make figure-ground contrasts possible, not the
other way around. 2
Specifically, actants enable storytellers and their audiences to negotiate the one-
many and many-one relationship that holds between discourse cues and inferences
about foregrounds and backgrounds (see also Section 3). Information can be con-
strued as more or less salient on the basis of how that information bears on emergent
action structures. For example, in the story of the shapeshifter (1.G), emphatic
speech productions are in fact a reliable index of the relative prominence of dis-
course entities and of the actions in which they are involved (cf. Firbas, 1992:
148-154). TS's emphatically lengthened productions cue the building of a NDM in
which the big squirrel is continuous with the glaring man. Likewise, the emphasized
verbs of action signal which events being recounted can be construed as types of
agency and patiency within a larger action structure based on goals, conflict, and the
consequences of conflict. But emphatic utterances need not act as cues of this sort.
In LJ's story about her grandmother's token (3.B), for instance, the three emphatic
productions of window (f,h,j) encode not a model of agency but a location where
agency unfolds. The three productions of this word, moreover, suggest less the win-
dow's relative prominence in the story than repetitive stalling (Tannen, 1989:
64-65), as LJ 'gathers' herself mentally to tell about the apparition.
Along the same lines, take LJ's stress on baby in 'I was sitting in there sewing..a
BABY'S dress' (k). It is true that, in the context of LJ's discourse as a whole, the bear-
ing and rearing children constitute important topics in their own right. The grand-
mother whose token LJ hears 'practically raised' the speaker herself (bbb), and LJ
mentions both that she had four children at the time of her grandmother's death (11)
and that she is expecting twins (m). Debatably, however, all these utterances serve
less to encode the baby's saliency as an agent than to provide a temporal reference
point for the story LJ is telling. Mention of the baby allows LJ to fix when in her life
she witnessed her grandmother's token (l-m). LJ models herself as a patient vis-h-
vis the token. Hence the emphasis on baby works less to insert the baby into an
action structure than to mark this segment of the past (the one in which LJ has just
given birth to the baby) as more salient than other, later or earlier segments. In any

20 Suchconsiderationssuggest that actants can help specify how, in Emmott's (1997: 122-126) termi-
nology, characters are 'bound' in to and out of contextual frames and also how a particular frame is
'primed' to become a story-recipient's main focus of attention.
982 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

event, both the window and baby examples confirm that a given class of discourse
cues can bear on several different facets of NDM construction, spatial and temporal
as well as actantial. This multifunctionality of cues ensures that emphatic utterances
do not always correlate - nor correlate uniformly - with foregrounded agents and
Conversely, the foregrounding of a particular feature of the storyworld can be
accomplished by more than one class of cues. To take an example discussed in a dif-
ferent context in section 4.1 : in LJ's story of the phantom automobile (3.C), the fore-
grounding of the car is established interactionally, over the span of three utterances
by two different people (a-c). Here we find a layering of discourse cues that serve to
mark the car's prominence as a supernatural agent. RJ's query not only elicits LJ's
emphasis on car, but also enables her to put the indefinite noun phrase 'A CAR' in an
utterance-initial position in line (c). On the face of it, then, this information is dou-
bly foregrounded - not only as new but also as salient to the current and upcoming
discourse context. But the car is foregrounded in the storyworld, instead of being
used to establish temporal or spatial boundaries for the narrated events, because of
the way LJ models it in actantial terms. The car is salient narratively because of the
action structure in which it is inserted - the pattern of conflict (broadly speaking)
whereby the car scares and mystifies LJ, her mother, and the other witnesses on the
porch. Note a similar layering of cues in TS's story of the rope tripping her grandfa-
ther and her subsequent remarks concerning the 'boogermans' about whom her
grandfather warned her (1.B). As an extended coda to the story of the rope, lines
(f-n) elaborate the point that whereas some spirits are 'good', others are 'mean' (j).
Here TS repeats the word hurt five times (g, i, k, m, o), stressing the word twice.
TS's repetitions, like LJ's repetitions of w i n d o w in 3.B, could be interpreted as
stalling. But given the actantial model she is in the process of constructing, her com-
bination of repetition and emphasis sanctions the inference that being hurt by ghosts
is an especially salient feature of the storyworld she means to evoke. Other narra-
tives in Story Set 1 confirm the relative prominence of ghosts' hurtfulness in TS's
NDM. At several points TS can be observed building NDMs that encode events like
tripping or falling as the result of actions performed by more or less malicious para-
normal agents (e.g., 1.E, 1.I).
Thus, inferences about what is and what is not important in a storyworld, and
why, stand in a complex and variable relationship with discourse cues provided dur-
ing verbal interaction. If NDM construction did not involve actants, arguably, one
would be hard-pressed to discover a principled basis for this complex yet nonrandom
relation between cues and inferences. Foregrounding and backgrounding are byprod-
ucts of the modelling processes by which storyworlds are actively structured into
configurations of agents and patients. Ghost stories, where unpredictable modes of
agency may be encountered at every turn, reveal highly visible traces of this model-
ling process. But the process is at work in all narrative communication.
Of course, the present paper constitutes at best only prolegomena for a future the-
ory of narrative. The principles and parameters of NDM and their actantial compo-
nent need much more study. In this venture, narratologists, discourse analysts, and
cognitive scientists will have to cooperate. But though the theory I have outlined is
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 983

still under construction and will no doubt require m a n y changes and refinements, I
believe that the evidence documented here substantiates the research hypothesis with
which m y paper began. To reiterate: for analysts o f narrative discourse, inquiry into
the idea o f character is not optional and derivative but rather obligatory and funda-

Appendix A

Transcription conventions

Adapted from Tannen, 1993: 53; Ochs et al., 1992).

... represents a measurable pause, more than 0.1 seconds

.. represents a slight break in timing
. indicates sentence-final intonation
, indicates clause-final intonation ("more to come")
Syllables with - were spoken with heightened pitch
Syllables with ^ were spoken with heightened loudness
Words and syllables transcribed with ALL CAPITALSwere emphatically lengthened speech
[ indicates overlap between different speakers' utterances
= indicates an utterance continued across another speaker's overlapping utterance
/ / enclose transcriptions that are not certain
( ) enclose nonverbal forms of expression, e.g. laughter
(()) enclose interpolated commentary

Story Set 1

This story set was elicited during a sociolinguistic interview that occurred in the trailer
home of PS, one of the participants in the interview and a 22-year-old Anglo American
female. The other participants included BA, the fieldworker, and TS, a 24-year-old Cherokee
female. The interview occurred on 21 March 1997, in RobbinsviUe, North Carolina. Rob-
binsville is located in Graham County, which lies in the mountainous extreme western portion
of the State.

Entry talk (Jefferson, 1978)

((Just prior to the beginning of the transcription, TS had been discussing the distinctiveness
of her grandfather's woodcarvings -- how they stood out, for her, from other people's carv-
BA: (a) How ^neat that you could recognize it out of all that.
TS: (b)'s just he had a different talent
(c) than everybody else's
(d) he made all the little designs and whatever..
(e) he's made the black knight and stuff,
(f) and has the little designs in it..
(g) and..I said it's just unreal
984 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

(h) and here I only have TWO.. (laughs)=

BA: (e) Ahh
TS: (f) =of his carvings
BA: (g) He knew a lot about HERBS and stuff TOO.
TS: (h) Um hm.
BA: (i) Medicines..and ...
TS: (j) Did he tell you storiesN
BA: (k) NO ..not about ^that=
TS : (1) psheww
BA: (m) =I was dying for him to
(n) but..he told me the next time I came he would
(o) but then he didn't ever want to talk to me again.
TS: (p) Oh COSH..that..I have been scared..of going the DARK at my house
(q) I will not go outside.
BA: (r) No kidding-/Why not/
TS : (s) l ' m not joking.
(t) They get..I get out,
(u) and see..used to I'd pick up David
(v) and then we'd go home
(w) so I'd just walk to the house.
(x) But NOW he's usually at home
(y) I get out..and I RUN all to the house (laughs)=
BA: (z) How c o m e -
TS: (aa) =And go in..
(bb) 'Cause of the ^stories..I just..all the stories
(cc) and my house is the world's worst
(dd) to tell you things/inaudible word/(laughs)
BA: (ee) ^Tell some stories
(ff) I nlove stories like that.
(gg) ^Tell us some (claps hands)..Ayes.
TS: (hh) Funny though some of them that Je..
(ii) She used to listen in to me and Jennifer talking (laughs)
BA: (jj) ((Adjusting tape recorder)) I want to make sure I'm getting every
word of this.
(kk) I LOVE stories
(11) I want everything to be good.
TS: (nn) We..Patty used to sit in school
(oo) and she'd um ... her eyes would get ^big (laughs)
BA: (pp) (laughs)
TS: (qq) 'Cause me and Jennifer
(rr) she's from Oklahoma,
(ss) and they're totally different from u s -
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 985

(tt) and she lives here they live here

(uu) and um..I would sit and listen to her
(vv)/and I was like/"never heard that" you know
(ww) and..and then I would tell what I'd heard HERE yOU know
(xx) and she'd..Patty's eyes would get real big
(yy) and it was like..I don't want to go to your house (laughs)
BA: (zz) (laughs)
PS: (aaa) I ain't been there very much either (laughs)
TS: (bbb) 'Cause Jennifer's house..
(ccc) My grandpa., now he used to..he grew up with uh..real OLD people
(ddd) His mother and them didn't keep him.
(eee) So his grandparents or somebody kept him.
(fff) So he knowed all this stuff through ^them.
BA: (ggg) Oh neat.
TS: (hhh) And urn..
BA: (iii) You should write down whatever YOU save it
TS: (jjj) I try..I've been trying to get my Mama
(kkk) to write down what all Grandpa said
(111) 'cause right before he died
(mmm) for.. about six months or so
(nnn) he was really talking about things
(ooo) that..that goes around and stuff that he was SEEING.
BA: (ppp) what-
((At this point in the interview, TS's husband appears briefly. The participants exchange a
few remarks about him and then return to the topic of what TS's grandfather was seeing.))

Ghost story A
TS: (a) But anyhow he about stuff
(b) that he was seeing out-_and everything-
(c) the birds and..different things..that they never see-
(d) And Mama was noticing stuff,
(e) well she never even paid any attention
(f) ^Jennifer would tell us
(g) that a certain time in her the night time,
(h) she had a rocking chair..that used to sit and ROCK.
(i) always felt like there was somebody looking in
(j) and they'd go in their brother's room VINCENT'S~
(k) And they would go in there
(1) and uh ... there would be just STUFF,
(m) and it felt like there was somebody in that room all the time.
(n) And so I asked my Grandpa about it..
(o) and he said that..that house where they built that..
(p) there were..uh people BURIED around in there.
(q) But nobody knows where they're at,
(r) they were just buried
(s) and sort of like..covered up..whatever
(t) and..and they didn't know it.
(u) And Grandpa said that happened A LOT..
986 D. Herman /Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

(v) where we lived and everything.

BA: (w) Uh huh.
TS: (x) And uh..those people were still ^there (laughs)
BA: (y) I'll be ndarned.
TS: (z) 'Cause they're not buried right.
(aa) You have to bury them right.
BA: (bb) Yeah
TS: (cc) And he said that's how come the rocking chair would move at a certain time and
(dd) It never BOTHERED them-
BA: (ee) Uh huh.
TS: (ff) But it just..she said that she'd get up
(gg) and the chair would be rocking (laughs)
BA: (hh) (laughs)

Ghost story B
TS: (a) And at my Grandpa used to go out
(b) and ... I don't know how many times this happened
(c) but there'd be rope or something laying around-
(d) and..and it'd wrap around his foot..
(e) try to trip h i m -
(f) Then they always say they like to play games and stuff on you
(g) and try to hurt you..
(h) 'cause he'd tell me they were boogermans you know
(i) they..they were trying to HURT yOU.
(j) There were some that was good and some that was.. MEAN.
(k) And those were trying to hurt you.
(1) You never played at night,
(m) Or you'd get hurt.
(n) They would., do stuff and..just HURT yOU.
(o) And
BA: (p) Now are these different than the little people-..
(q) Or the same.
TS: (r) I don't know MUCH about the little people.
(s) No these are just like..
BA: (t) Spirits.
TS: (u) Spirits.
BA: (v) Yeah.
TS: (w)/I get/..the way I take it it'd be spirits.
BA: (x) Uh huh.

Ghost story C
TS : (a) And he would just say you know..stuff like that happened
(b) He said don't PLaY at night
(c) He said that's when they want to hurt you.
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 987

(d) And..I never could figure out about the..

(e) I used to sit on the floor and have my legs out ...
(f) To walk overN
BA: (g) Um hm.
TS: (h) H e ' d say don't ever do that.
(i) And I never did_could figure out what that was over.
(j) But he told me about a sp..spider getting in_just dead center in a room,
(k) And just come down in the middle of the r o o m -
(l) That meant somebody was there~
BA: (m) I'll be ^darned.
TS: (n) But he had to be..just dead center
(o) If he's anywhere else it didn't matter
(p) but had to be right center in the room
(q) and he said that there was somebody there.
(r) And night time~..walkingN..
(s) if we.. went outside
(t) and started walking and stuff
(u) and we know you have shadows-
BA: (v) Um hm.
TS: (w) If you had..a different.KIND of shadow.
(x) There would be an EXTRA shadow a certain wayN
(y) There was somebody there
(z) and they were trying to hurt you.
(aa) And he reach down
(bb) pull up dirt
(cc) and just throw it and hit them~..
(dd) it would kill that person.
BA: (ee) I'll be damed.

Ghost story D
TS: (a) And I don't know..I've never had that shadow stuff
(b) but I've had stuff happen to me.
(c) And um..I had to call for other people
(d) there's some older people like in Cherokee that can really help you and stuff.
(e) And I've..I've HAD help.
(f) And uh..and I..I HOPE I get some of this (laughs)
(g) I feel stuff.
(h) I know when stuff's going to happen sometimes.
BA: (i) Uh huh.. like intuition and stuffN
TS: (j) Yeah..and..but mine's..real differentN
(k) and..the best one was MW..
(1) everybody knows her
(m) and..and uh..I..I relied on her a lot
(n) I wanted her to help me and talk to me and tell me things..
BA: (o) Um hm.
TS: (p) that was going on..
988 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

(q) and she believed..they REALLY are heavy believers in WATER.

(r) 'Cause they're pure and everything-
BA: (s) Um hm.
TS" (t) I used to go out to the lake
(u) to get rid of my troubles and stuff
(v) and it worked.
BA: (w) Um hm.
(x) And everything..that they believe in
(y) it always has something to do with the Lord.
(z) No matter what it is..
(aa) you have to do something that they_for THEM.
(bb) And you never pay them money,
(cc) if you got..people to help you or something
(dd) you don't pay them money.
(ee) You give them something.
BA: (ff) Um hm.

Ghost story E
TS: (a) And uh..but..I never knew much about little people.
(b) I used to think I could HEAR them..
(c) I don't know if I DID or not,
(d) 'cause we used to sit outside
(e) and.. Grandpa always told us we had the best place.
(f) And the STUFFthat he talked about ...
(g) about..the sand and water
(h) if it was real still and stuff
(i) if there was a light shining just a ^CERTAIN PLACE in the water..
(j) and if it's where it's ^sandy-
(k) You could stick a stick that was as tall as you
(1) and you had to stick it straight down
(m) where that..that light was shining ...
(n) and ... there'd be GOLD..down in there
(o) because it would sink to how far it was
(p) and if you could dig it all the way down that far..
(q) there was gold down in there.
BA: (r) I'll be ^darned.
TS: (s) And he said little people used to HIDE it.
(t) And he said..he used to tell us all the time
(u) about him walking out in the woods
(v) and he'd have..he had a pocket knife,
(w) when he laid it down on the ROCK
(x) and he turned around
(y) and he said he come back to get it
(z) and he said that'd be the UGLIESTLOOKING^ROCK sitting there
(aa) where somebody had ^GOT it..
BA: (bb) (laughts)
TS: (cc) 'cause he said they were so ^FAST.
(dd) And he said he'd go back
(ee) and he said they'd be GONE
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 989

(ff) they'be just like little ROCKS sitting there

(gg) he said they was ^ugly (laughs)
BA: (hh) (laughs)
TS: (a) But he said that's what HAPPENED.

Ghost story F
TS: (a) And..and like at my house..
(b) There's stuff that..bangs on the wall,
(c) or_cabinets open
(d) I still think my Grandma's there.
(e) They POP open all the sudden.
BA: (f) Um hm.
PS: (g) Wasn't there something about your bed?
TS: (h) Oh I used to have a bed_which I got rid of (laughs)
BA: (i) (laughs)
PS: (j) (laughs)
TS: (k) But it used to ^^RATTLED.
BA: (1) (laughs)
TS: (m) And_that's when somebody's going to DIE.
(n) It would do that..
(o) it would RATTLE.

Ghost story G
BA: (a) Neat.
TS: (b) And I've had a cousiN-..
(c) he was a GEORGE-..
(d) um..that shot an OWL-..
(e) and it ricocheted straight off that owl
(f) and it hit him and it killed him.
(g) That meant that that was somebody ...
(h) that was in the owl.
BA: (i) Are you SERIOUS?
TS: (j) They call them shape shifts-
BA: (k) Uh huh.. uh huh.
TS: (1) And uh..Grandpa told me this years ago
(m) and he.. swears up and down he..he's killed somebody.
(n) And uh..he uh..when he was littler
(o) he used to live in Cherokee
(p) and there was two of them
(q) and they went out ...
(r) and uh..they was hunting for SQUmRELS and stuff-
(s) And he saw was a pretty good-sized squirrel.
(t) He said it wasn't..a little squirrel or nothing
(u) he noticed it was BIGGER.
BA: (v) Um hm.
TS: (w) They SHOT that squirrel.
(x) And..they could..when it fell
990 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

(y) he said it..YELLED..

(Z) it screamed.
(aa) And he said it from its head back on its back
(bb) it just had know the bullet just went., right through=
BA: (cc) Um hm.
TS: (dd) =and..kind of scraped it open and stuff=
BA: (ee) Um hm.
TS: (ff) =and he said YELLEDgoing down
(gg) and they tried to find it
(hh) and they couldn't FINDthat squirrel.
(ii) He said he was..they were headed to some man's HOUSE
(jj) and he knows..he knowed the names and everything
(kk) and he WENT to that house
(ll) and he said that MAN looked at THEM SO ^MEAN.
(mm) And he said that normally he doesn't do that=
BA: (nn) Um hm.
TS: (oo) =but he said he just looked at MEAN.
(pp) And he said that..they left and everything
(qq) the other BOY had just went on
(rr) he said he come back and went around the house
(ss) and he sa..he wanted to SEE . . .

(tt) what was going on

(uu) he said he looked and the man had rolled over
(vv) and he had..blood down his back..=
BA: (ww) Ohhhh.
TS: (xx) =and he said he was bleeding.
(yy) And he said that man died.
BA: (zz) I'll be ^darned.
TS: (aaa) And he said "I Adidn't mean to do that"
(bbb) he says "but I KNOWEDthat..he said that_was me".
(ccc) He said "We shot him".
BA: (ddd)/I'll be darned/
TS: (eee) And he said that was him..
(fff) and that's..he was a SQUIRREL(laughs)
(ggg) And he said he'll never forget that., you know
(hhh) and he told us over and over about that story.

Ghost story H
(a) And when my Grandma died,
(b) we had a..a cat~..or something off the bank
(c) that just..wasn't like a regular cat
(d) I mean it was yelling
(e) it was screaming
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 991

(f) it was so LOUD that..we couldn't ^FIND it~

(g) I mean my Mama went out there
(h) I was ready to shoot it
(i) and whatever it ^was
(j) but..we could NOT find it
(k) she couldn't find anything off the bank.
(1) I went in the bedroom
(m) I had pillows over my ears and everything
(n) and you know it was STlLL SO LOUD
(O) that it.. just SCAREDme.
(p) And my grandma died the next day.
BA: (q) (makes a sympathetic click)
TS: (r) And then my ^uncle when HE died..
(s) Mama could see just the vision of somebody-..
(t) walking up and down the hall-
(u) And HE died., that next day.

Ghost story I
(a) So that it's WEIRD at my house
(b) and..Grandpa used to go out there
(c) and say you know..that rope got up
(d) and went around his leg
(e) and was trying to ^trip him.
(f) He said he just looked at it said ... "Get ^off of me".
BA: (g) (laughs)
TS: (h) He said it just ^DROPPED (laughs)
BA: (i) (laughs)
TS: (j) And I was like.."I'm not a-going outside" (laughs)
BA: (k) (laughs)
TS: (1) I quit going out because of stuff like that,
(m) and_and I'm..I used to play in the night time
(n) just to see what'd ^happen
(o) and..and it never failed that I got hurt
(p) and..I'd be just ^standing somewhere sometimes after playing
(q) just ^standing and..AFEET would go out from under me
(r) and..and I'd just ^CRY because I got hurt so bad (laughs)
BA: (s) (laughs)
TS: (t) But I..he'd say "I told you not to play at night".
(u) And..and it's like "I'11 not do that no more
(v) don't you worry" (laughs)

Story Set 2

This story set was elicted during an interview that occurred at the home of the informants,
LB and JB, in Robeson County, North Carolina, on 5 March 1994. LB and JB are Native
Americans, a 70-year-old Lumbee female and a 75-year-old Lumbee male, respectively. NSE
and KMP are fieldworkers. The other participant in the interview, AD, is a prominent mem-
ber of the Lumbee community who regularly accompanied the research team during field-
992 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

Entry talk
NSE: (a) Have you heard of um..something called a TOKEN-
(b) Do you know what that i s -
(c) Or a token of death-
LB: (d) A token of death.
AD: (e) Toten they call it.
NSE: (f) Toten.

Ghost story A
LB: (a) Oh Lord..let me=
NSE: (b) What's that-
LB: (c) =Let me tell you what happened.
(d) Now there ain't very many..
(e) Well now there ain't very many people believes in something like that.
NSE: (f) Uh huh.
LB: (g) But honey it is ^true.
(h) But now there ain't very many people believes it.
(i) I tell you this,
(j) ^Sanya was a-standing this cafeteria down there
(k) Town and Country.
(1) She went to open the door
(m) she says uh ... "Watch Aunt Lily,
(n) something throwed a ^toothpick at you".
(o) She said "Didn't you see it Aunt LilyN''
(p) Lily said "No".
(q) And the toothpick Sanya said., landed right DOWN on her.
NSE: (r) Um hm.
LB: (s) And..I.. I says to Lily,
(t) I says "Lily you know who that i s - "
(u) Lily says "No"
(v) I said "That's Inez"
(w) I said "Now Inez has visit you".
(x) ((Addressed to KM, another the fieldworker present:))
(y) You knew Miss Inez
(z) didn't y o u -
((Here KM notes that she met Inez Chavez a few times because Inez was close to KM's
grandfather. This leads in turn to a discussion of who KM's grandfather was and thus of
KM's own ties to the community.))
LB: (aa) Well you know she's in Duke at that time.
(bb) Low down.
KM: (cc) Yeah. Yeah.
LB: (dd) And uh..I said "Lily"
(ee) I says uh ... "That's Inez"
(ff) I says "Inez has throwed that pick at..that ^toothpick at you".
(gg) Lily says "You recognize this"
(hh) "Yeah"
(ii) In three days she was gone.
(jj) I said "Lily"=
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 993

NSE: (kk) Umm.
LB: (11) =I TOLD yOU that was her.
(mm) She=
NSE: (nn) Ohh.
LB: (oo) =throwed the ^toothpick.
NSE: (pp) Umm.
KM: (qq) Hmm. And she died three days after that-
LB: (rr) And she DIED.
(SS) She..I said "Lily she's a-visit you.
(tt) The time the child said she throwed the toothpick".
(uu) I her I said "That's Inez".
(vv) I said now she's visit you.
NSE: (ww) Ohh. Um hm.

Ghost story B
LB: (a) And honey I was a-sitting there
(b) You come through the porch there
(c) didn't you?
NSE: (d) Yeah.
LB: (e) Well Mr ^Gaston was low down sick over here in the ^trailer.
(f) This trailer sitting right back here.
(g) And me and Miss Donald ... and him
(h) both a-sitting in the living room right there.
(i) And you you know_do you..can you imagine
(j) how a..a hundred., pound or two hundred pound sack of fertilizer sound
(k) if it would drop on the.. top of this house-
NSE: (1) Umm.
KM: (m) Um.
NSE: (n) Loud (laughs)
LB: (o) That's where it fell in the porch.
NSE: (p) Ohh.
LB: (q) I said "Miss Donald"
(r) I said "That's Uncle Gaston's toten right now".
NSE: (s) Ahh.
LB: (t) She said"You knew"
(u) But I says "OH that's his TOTEN"
(V) I said..didn't even stand up
(w) I got up to go see
(x) there wasn't a THING fell in the porch
(y) I never seen a thing.
(z) And wasn't ^two hours
(aa) was it Peter-
NSE: (bb) Umm.
LB: (cc) They'd a ^had to been on their way of ^hunting Miss Donald
(dd) But anyway they come and told Miss Donald.
(ee) She says uh ,.. They must have called some of them
994 D. Herman /Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

(ff) to come and tell her

(gg) She says uh ,.. " E l m a ' s husband just died".
(hh) And I said..I said "Miss Donald"
(ii) I said "That's him fell in the porch
(jj) that wasn't Mr Gaston".
NSE: (kk) Umm.
LB: (11) I said "That's him".
NSE: (ram) Umm.
LB: (nn) Honey it's true
(oo) can hear things.
NSE: (pp) Um hm.
KM: (qq) Hm.
NSE: (rr) Hm.
LB: (ss) You SURE can hear them.
NSE: (tt) Hmm.

Ghost story C
LB: (a) And my ^brother ... he got killed
(b) but anyway ... I ' m a tell you..honey I seen him in the night
(c) sure as if it had just been in the daytime
NSE: (d) Yeah.
(e) Now my bedroom is right ^there,
(f) two double windows.
(g) And I seen him when he come up ^standing
(h) just as pretty as I ever seen him in my LIFE
(i) a-standing there.
(j) And I went to say to him "^Look"
(k) I..I said to him I says.. "^Look
(I)'s Rufus".
(m) When I did he ^turned.
(n) And 1 got up ^off of the bed
(o) to see if I could see him go down the little sidewalk
(p) and turn and go that way=
NSE: (q) Right.
LB: (r) --but I didn't see him no more.
NSE: (s) Umm.
LB: (t) The time I SPOKE that was it.
NSE: (u) Umm.
KM: (v) Um.
LB: (w) Well now and that was..
(x) he was just as pretty as ever I saw.
NSE: (y) Um hm.
KM: (z) Amazing.

Story Set 3

Like Story Set 2, this story set was elicted during an interview that occurred in Robeson
County, North Carolina. The interview was conducted on 4 March 1994 at the home of the
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 995

informants, LJ and JJ, a 66-year-old African-American female and a 70-year-old African-

American male, respectively. RJ is the fieldworker and also the nephew of LJ.

Entry talk
RJ: (a) Well now ... uh..some people say that whenever..
(b) they can tell whenever they're gonna..whenever they get ready to die.
(c) Like remember Martin Luther King said he..he..
(d) said he had a DREAMor something another=
L J" (e) Um hm.
RJ: (f) =so he knew he was gonna die/or/something like that.
(g) Have you_have you ever HAD anything
(h) where you knew somebody was going to d i e -
(i) like you had a dream or something
(j) ^Yeah.
RJ: (k) And you knew somebody
L J" (1) I have lots of times.
RJ: (m) Really-
LJ: (n) Yeah.
RJ: (o) Like what~..what
L J: (p) About everybody in this community., sometime or another.
(q) I had a/premonition/..I didn't SEE it
(r) but you know you had that FEELING=
RJ~ (s) Hmm.
L J: (t) =like you said_go see them.
RJ: (u) Um hm.
LJ: (v) Go to see them_whiles you have a chance
(w) to go see them.
RJ: (x) So you wouldn't have a dream or_or=
LJ: (y) No_no I haven't had no dream=
RJ: (z) =see a vision or anything like
LJ: (aa) =or no voice or no nothing.
(bb) It's just that FEELING.

Ghost story A
(a) 'Cause Miss Sally Smith up there was sick.
(b) She come home from the hospital..
(c) and something or other said " y o u ' d better go SEE her".
(d) You know it won't no ^voice,
(e) It just..something in me said..forced me to go to see her.
ILl: (f) Um hm.
L J: (g) And I went to see her
996 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

(h) that was the last time I SAW her.

(i) She died on the way back to the hospital.
RJ: (j) Hm.
LJ: (k) See if I hadn't went to Asee her
(1) it would have been too Alate.
RJ: (m) Been too late.
LJ: (n) Um hm.
RJ: (o) They call it a..a ^token.
LJ: (p) I don't HNOW.
RJ: (q) You ever heard that before-
LJ: (r) Yeah..I've=
RJ: (s)/that word/
LJ: (t) =..I've heard THAT.
RJ: (u) Um hm.
LJ: (v) I've heard a token/that/., in my life.

Ghost story B
(a) When my grandmother died
(b) it sounded like somebody was standing in the window.
(c) I was sitting ...
RJ: (d) Ohh.
LJ: (e) on the bed.
(f) And the WINDOW was_like this was a door
(g) goes through the 'nother room~
(h) And then there was a WINDOW/that high/
(i) I could look..sit on my bed
(j) and look straight out that WINDOW-
(k) And I was sitting in there sewing..a BABY'S dress.
(1) I was making my baby's dress
(m) I was expecting twins.
(n) And I was sitting on the bed sewing,
(o) And sound like somebody JUMPED DOWN
(p) out from out of that window on the FLOOR.
(q) And I Astopped and Alooked.
(r) I said "What in the world was t h a t - "
(s) And I got up and went to the window and looked out
(t) I didn't see nobody.
(u) And a little while after that
(v) my mother done come and told me my grandmother had died.
(w) Or was it you~ ((addressed to JJ, LJ's husband))
(x) Did you one that got the Acard-..
(y) from..card from the post office said she had d i e d -
R J: (z) Man.
L J: (aa) /Purely/ didn't even scare me.
R J: (bb) R e a l l y -
L J: (cc) Uh uh.
(dd) I wasn't scared.
D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001 997

RJ: (ee) You were were there by yourself~

LJ: (ff) Yeah I was sitting on the bed sewing
(gg) and my children was there
(hh) but I believe..seem like one or two of them
(ii) they were little
(jj) they were sleeping.
(kk) Um..Helen was my baby then.
(11) I had.. four children when she died.
RJ: (mm) Um hm.
LJ: (nn) And I got up and stuck my head out that window
(oo) it was the highest., it was up as high as..
(pp) 'Cause they were ALONGwindows.
(qq) They had four..four BIG ... uh..panes in the top,
R J: (rr) Um hm.
(ss) and four in the bottom.
R J; (tt) Um hm.
LJ: (uu) And I had/highest/all the way up as far as it go.
RJ: (vv) Um hm.
L J: (ww) And I looked out there
(xx) I ain't seen nothing
(yy) I didn't see nothing.
(zz) And I always said that's what it was.
(aaa) 'Cause..I was close to her.
(bbb) She practically raised me.
R J- (ccc) Um hm.
LJ: (ddd) Um hm.
ILl: (eee) Now Buddy I..I..I ain't no chicken now.
(fff) But uh..if I saw..hear somebody JUMP through my WlNDOW.
LJ: (ggg) Well it sounded like somebody jumped down out that ^window.
R J: (hhh) Yeah somebody =
L J: (iii) I never will forget it.
R J: (jjj) =(laughs) Somebody got a problem,
(kkk) either ^him or ^me (laughs)
(11t) One of us got a problem
LJ: (mmm) Well I got up and I looked back there.
(nnn) I didn't see ^nobody-
RJ: (ooo) Really-
LJ: (ppp) Um hm.
RJ: (qqq) That's the only time you ever had or heard something like that happen~
(rrr) Where somebody had a token like that-

Ghost story C
LJ: (a) Oh I seen something one time.
RJ: (b) What you'd see-
LJ: (c) A CAR ... that never..that would never did get to where we were sitting on the
(d) I was..we were living at John's Station then.
998 D. Herman / Journal of Pragmatics 32 (2000) 959-1001

(e) And me and my stepfather and my mother was sitting in the front porch,
(f) and there was a CROSSROAD
(g) about as far as from here I reckon to the church down this way.
(h) We were..we was side the..highway..
(i) that go right straight into Laurinburg.
R J: (j) Um hm.
LJ: (k) And there was a CROSSINGthere.
(1) And when we saw it,
(m) it looked like it was sitting still.
(n) And the Alights came on.
(o) And it started to move and slowly coming on,
(p) and we was sitting there looking
(q) and waiting for it to come on up there-
R J: (r) Um hm.
LJ: (s) And it disappeared.
RJ: (t) Umm.
(u) We ain't see it no more.
(v) The moon was ^shining too.
R J: (w) Um hm.
L J: (x) When it got up to where..just about
(y) when it didn't get Aquite to the house-
RJ: (z) Um hm.
LJ: (aa) And we sit there ^looking
(bb) we just look
(cc) and Mama and them just ^looked at each other
(dd) nobody didn't say nothing.
R J: (ee) Um hm.
LJ: fit) They just LOOKED at each other.
(gg) The next day they..they talked about it the next day.

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David Herman teaches discourse analysis and narratology at North Carolina State University in
Raleigh, North Carolina. He is the author of Universal grammar and narrative form (Duke University
Press, 1995) and Story logic: Problems and possibilities of narrative (forthcoming from the University
of Nebraska Press), and the editor of Narratologies: New perspectives on narrative analysis (Ohio State
University Press, 1999). His paper is part of a larger study now in preparation, North Carolina ghost sto-
ries: An integrative approach.