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Dissertation Information for Susan C. Herring

- Susan C. Herring

- Ph.D.

- Linguistics

- University of California, Berkeley (USA) (1991)

- Suzanne Fleischman
- James A. Matisoff

- None

MPACT Status: Incomplete - Inspected

Title: Functions of the verb in Tamil narration

Abstract: "Verbal categories such as tense and aspect have been observed to fulfill systematic narrative discourse functions in a number of languages, e.g. in distinguishing participants from events, plot-line from supporting material, and in organizing a text around an evaluative point. Some have proposed that these functions be included as part of the grammatical description of the verbal forms themselves, arguing that traditional sentence-level descriptions fail to account for the systematic nature of such usage. According to this view, discourse analysis is not a luxury, but rather a necessary tool in grammatical analysis.

In this study, evidence for the importance and systematic nature of discourse functions is adduced from Tamil, a Dravidian language spoken in South India. The verbal system of Tamil poses problems for sentence-level analysis, as attested by the fact that many productive devices in the language are misleadingly and/or incompletely represented in existing grammatical accounts. I develop an alternative account of the Tamil verbal system in terms of its functions in oral narrative discourse. Via a close descriptive analysis of a corpus representing four narrative genres (real-life accounts, folk tales, performed epics, and elicited epics), systematic functions are identified for each of the major members of the verbal categories tense, aspect, and predication type. These functions contribute not only to a coherent understanding of Tamil narrative discourse, but to an understanding of sentence-level properties of the forms as well.

I then consider the interactions of tense, aspect, and predication type within each narrative genre and within the Tamil verbal system as a whole. Three of the genres represent 'sub-systems' of verbal usage, which I account for in terms of the particular communicative requirements of the genres, and more generally, in terms of the historical evolution of the verbal system, older functions of which are preserved in traditional performance narratives. As a consequence of these factors, the synchronic picture which emerges is one of a rich and complex set of interrelationships between forms and functions, in which aspect competes with tense for the function of establishing primary 'grounding' relationships in text."

MPACT Scores for Susan C. Herring

A = 6
C = 3
A+C = 9
T = 6
G = 1
W = 6
TD = 6
TA = 0
calculated 2014-02-09 17:10:23

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Students under Susan C. Herring

- Ewa Callahan - Indiana University (2007)
- Anna M. Martinson - Indiana University (2009)
- Sharon M. Stoerger - Indiana University (2010)
- Andrew J. Kurtz - Indiana University (2010)
- Courtenay Honeycutt - Indiana University (2011)
- Craig Dennis Howard - Indiana University (2012)

- Charlotte Elizabeth Ford - Indiana University (2003)
- Kyong-Lee Kim - Indiana University (2005)
- Yusuf Koc - Indiana University (2005)