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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The transformation of spatal experience in narrative discourse
by Howald, Blake Stephen, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2011, 244; 3459823
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates the status of spatial information as a structural element of narratives of personal experience. Traditionally, event, temporal and rhetorical relation information are considered structural – i.e., minimally necessary to define local and textual elements of narrative discourse. However, while this information is readily apparent from surface linguistic forms, spatial information, and its status as structural, is less straightforward. To uncover correspondences between spatial information and structural elements of narrative discourse, I rely on a series of machine learning experiments to analyze morpho-syntactic, formal and cognitive semantically encoded spatial information indexed by spatial prepositions and verbs from a particular frame of reference, relative to events, rhetorical relations, tense, aspect, explicit temporal reference and text sequence in three corpora of narrative discourses (conversational, adventure travel, and criminal activity narratives).

Based on strength of prediction in the machine learning experiments – where statistical classifiers are able to predict spatial, temporal, event and rhetorical information to between 60 and 70% accuracy with an increase to over 80% when implicit spatial information and text sequence are considered – spatial information is argued to demonstrate structural patterns on clausal and textual levels. These structural patterns hold for all corpora despite contextual parameters, number of authors, length of text and density of spatial information. Further, the results and analysis are compared to existing narrative analysis frameworks (Labov 1972, Herman 2001) where it is determined that a more nuanced, but non-contradictory, picture of spatial information in narrative discourse, based on both syntactic and semantic considerations, emerges from the presented research. Additionally, I engage in a discussion of environmental criminology to bridge interdisciplinary gaps between cognitively informed insights into spatial language and the linguistic conveyance of experiential discourse. In sum, spatial information exhibits structural patterns in narrative discourses that facilitate a deeper practical and theoretical understanding of the cognitive and linguistic organization, and analysis of, experiential discourses.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Katz, E. Graham
Commitee: Hamilton, Heidi E., Herman, David, McDonald, William F.
School: Georgetown University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 72/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Criminology
Keywords: Cognitive mapping, Environmental criminology, Machine learning, Narrative discourse, Spatial experience, Spatial information
Publication Number: 3459823
ISBN: 978-1-124-70520-0
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