Pragmatic markers as space builders

Conceptual Integration in Natural Oral Narratives – María Dolores Porto & Manuela Romano

Right after a first attempt to tell the main story, that is, to enter the base space (S1) in line 1, we find the first interruption. The main story or base space, that the narrator’s son does not want to go out, is suddenly cut in line 2 with a click and a chain of discourse markers. These markers introduce the painful background information that the listener needs to know and which constitute the second input space (S2) –her son’s girlfriend died in a car accident two years ago: bueno, hace ya… como… (well,.. about…, like..,). Then, in line 7, the first information on the narrator’s purpose for calling (S3) is inserted: she needs help. In this case, it is the conditional form of the verb in formal requests that is acting as a space builder, since the precedent information was in the past:quería saber… (I would like to know…). However, before she even finishes the sentence, S1 is recovered in lines 8 to 13 by means of a series of connected or compound markers: porque es que…, (because there’s just), which is closed with a deep breath in line 13. After that, lines 14 to 17 resume input space S3 –the narrator’s purpose for calling the radio programme–, again through the use of the Spanish conditional for requestsyo quería (I would like..) as a space builder, as well as through the markersentonces… mmm, a versi.., y mmm.. (then… mmm, lets see.., and mmm..). In line 18, the narrator introduces a completely new segment, which expands the information given to that point. The hearer constructs a new space (S4) cued by porque (because), mmm… and a final loud click that closes the space. It is worth noticing that porque, the prototypical causal connector in Spanish, does not introduce here any causal relation at the linguistic-discursive level of the text. Porque is used rather to open a new mental space in which the narrator is self-justifying her behaviour or relationship with her son, she thinks she is doing everything possible to help him. Line 19, signals a new transition and brings us back very shortly to S1 through the discourse marker pero (but), only to repeat the problem: there is just no way, no way to make him go out. Again, S1 is immediately interrupted by another side story, S5 –he is a very good son– in lines 20 to 23, whose function is to expand the background information about the son: he is the perfect son. This time, a mere y (and) builds the space. Lines 24 to 26 bring the listener back into S1, again by means of repeating the return marker: pero, no, no, no, no quiere salir de casa.. (but, no, no, no, he just won’t go out..). In lines 27 to 34, the listener is reintroduced into input space 4 (S4) –we have a very close relationship-, again in a rather sudden way, by introducing the first person singular personal pronoun yo, plus a series of deep breaths and direct quotations which intend to reproduce real conversations between mother and son and which help to justify the narrator’s behaviour within the whole situation: she is always talking to her son and trying to convince him to go out. Another return to base space S1 takes place in line 35, by repeating again the main problem underlying the whole narrative: no hay forma, no hay forma de que salga (There is no way, no way he’ll go out ).

Next, the conditional form for requests brings back space 3 (S3) in lines 36 and 37 and then listeners are guided back to S5 in lines 38 to 43. This time the transition marker is si (if), the Spanish prototypical connector, but as in line 18 with porque, this is not its main meaning or function. Si is used by the narrator to reopen the input space where the mother justifies all her son’s behaviours, except him not going out. This space is then abruptly interrupted to take the listener back to S1 and the space builder this time is o sea, pero de salir y eso,nada (I mean, but about going out and so, nothing). Base space S1 is resumed in lines 49 to 54, after the narrator’s answer to a direct question from the radio presenter in lines 45 to 48, again by repeating the main storyline or anchor: No, no, no hay forma..(No, no, there is just no way…).  S1 is interrupted for the last time with input space S5 –he always takes the garbage out and water the plants- a sub-story or second specification of S5, which is introduced with no pragmatic or linguistic markers. Finally the narrative is closed with a last return to S1: y… no piensa en otra cosa (and he won’t think about anything else).

In short, these pragmatic markers act as space builders and have both, structuring and modal functions. They are helping the listener to segment and assimilate the broken information while creating an empathic bond with the listener, as well as helping the narrator bring out the painful experience by means of stallers, repairs, redoings, etc., It is worth emphasising that most of these discourse markers have the main function of opening or building new narrative spaces and that these functions or meanings do not always coincide with their more traditional or prototypical meanings, see porque (line 18) and si (line 38) as good examples of this polyfunctionality7. Finally it must also be noted that a more fine-grained analysis is always possible, that is, more breakings of the stories, and therefore other mental spaces, can be considered. For instance when direct speech is introduced in S4 in lines 27 to 34, or in S2 after the marker y resulta de que mmm (and  it turned out that mmm…) in line 4, which opens a new space –a definite date in the time when the son and his girlfriend were preparing their wedding.