Parisot, A.-M., L. Lajeunesse et C. Miller (1998) «TORTOISE WIN, RABBIT LOSE, CHILDREN 'INCREDIBLE': Narrative structure and evaluation in the retelling of personal experience», colloque Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research, Washington, novembre 1998.

Spontaneous narratives of personal experience form a narrative genre which is in some ways the polar opposite of performance literature. The LSQ88 corpus of spontaneous conversation contains several such narratives produced by different signers. As this genre has received little attention in the sign language research literature, we analyse its properties in relation to those of performance literature on the basis of a spontaneous narrative about teaching signs to hearing children, which contains an embedded performance narrative, “The Tortoise and the Hare”.

Labov (1972) applies a typology of components of narrative structure to the analysis of personal experience narratives. One component, “evaluation”, differs from the others in that it may, but need not, be expressed as an independent clause temporally ordered with other narrative clauses. Evaluation extends from commentary external to the narrative to narrative-internal evaluation, which can be embedded to different degrees within the structure of the narrative clauses themselves, to the extent of being reflected by characteristic syntactic constructions.

We apply Labov’s framework to the “Hearing children” narrative, identifying the linguistic structures that characterize each of its components, and concentrating specifically on the evaluation component and its role in eliciting feedback. We contrast the range of evaluation types used in the matrix “Children” narrative and other spontaneous narratives with the more restricted, embedded evaluations in the “Tortoise” story. We explain this distinction as a function of the degree of formal structure imposed on a narrative, with the overall goal of developing a typology for sign language narratives.