The Structure of Everyday Narrative in a City Market: An Ethnopoetics Approach

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Abstract

This paper considers the value of Hymesian ethnopoetics as a means of analysing everyday narrative in conditions of mobility and change. The paper offers an account of the development of ethnopoetics as a means to make visible and valorize narrative in the Native American oral tradition, and as a method of revealing culturally specific relations of form and meaning. Hymes’ ethnopoetic approach viewed narrative structure as a reflection of a cultural tradition of meaning-making. Hymes’ analysis proposed that traditional narrative was a culturally shaped way of speaking, and analysis of narrative structure could reveal and recreate culture. His orientation rested on an assumption that the culture of a group was more or less stable and fixed. This paper adopts an approach to analysis based on ethnopoetics, representing everyday narrative dramatically, organized not only as lines and verses, but also as scenes and acts. Representation in scenes and acts makes visible the dynamic nature, of the narrative. The paper asks whether Hymes’ ground-breaking work on ethnopoetics still has currency and purchase in 21st Century conditions of mobility, change, and unpredictability. Analysis of everyday narrative in a city market concludes that, notwithstanding the complexity of notions of ‘culture’ and ‘language’ in such conditions, ethnopoetics can be productively applied to everyday contexts for the analysis of narrative.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)654-676
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Volume20
Issue number5
Early online date10 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2016

Keywords

  • Ethnopoetics Markets Diversity Ethnography Narrative