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Narrative Grammar workshop


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Narrative Grammar Workshop
for The University of Akron School of Law Writing Center

March 2013

Prepared for students in the Legal Writing & Research classes, from personal research in legal writing and linguistics

Published in: Education, Technology
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Narrative Grammar workshop

  1. 1. Narrative Grammar Persuasively Telling Your Client’s Story Tabitha Martin
  2. 2. -Peter Elbow, “Reflections on Academic Discourse” (emphasis mine) What is Narrative?
  3. 3. “story requires that the speaker remove himself for the telling’s duration from the alignment he would maintain in ordinary conversational give and take, and for this period of narration maintain another footing, that of narrator” (emphasis mine) Story-telling Goffman, Erving. “Footing.” Forms of Talk. 1981
  4. 4. “The Plot Thickens: The Appellate Brief as Story” Kenneth D. Chestek 2007 Example Case: Margaret and Francie
  5. 5. • • Old York’s statue prohibits same-sex couples from adopting • Key Facts of the Case Margaret Rubin and Francie Kohler have a son, Johnny (borne by Francie) Francie is killed, leaving no will • Francie’s mother does not want Johnny
  6. 6. Narrative Communication Margaret Rubin and Francie Kohler only wanted a child. We argue that Margaret Rubin and Francie Kohler only wanted a child. Are you telling a story or making an argument? Which has more power?
  7. 7. Margaret and Francie were devoted to their dream …the couple could not have been happier Do you have sensation words in your story? State of Mind Kuroda, S-Y. “Where Epistemology, Style, and Grammar Meet: A Case Study from Japanese.” 1973
  8. 8. Which camera angle do you want to use? Empathy Perspective Susumo Kuno: Functional Syntax: Anaphora, Discourse and Empathy
  9. 9. Empathy resides with the subject of the sentence. How many sentences start with your client? Syntactic Prominence Principle
  10. 10. Sentence subject NP No. of Sentences 14 Margaret, Francie, or both Office of Children & Youth (OCY), Delia (caseworker) 4 Superior Court of Old York 3 Francie’s mother, Stella 3 State, Old York 2 Other 2 TOTAL 28 Syntactic Prominence Principle
  11. 11. Parentheticals “Signs of a shift to a second-order reflective, evaluative, commentative mentality” -Palacas, Arthur. “Parentheticals and Personal Voice.” 1989
  12. 12. “The best interest “... they decided, of the child, the as do many touchstone in all committed couples, that they child custody cases, is not even wanted to raise a Be careful—it’s subtle. mentioned.” family.” Don’t overdo it! The voice of the writer/narrator inserted into the narrative
  13. 13. Less obtrusive commentary on the narrative action • …the state categorically declared… • Margaret immediately filed a petition to adopt… • …the court did, however, stay enforcement of its order… Evaluative Vocabulary
  14. 14. • State of Mind • Empathy • Subject-focused • Parentheticals • Evaluative Vocabulary