Somsonge Burusphat

Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University, Thailand




A comparison of sequential strategies in Mon-Khmer narratives


Contingent temporal succession is a significant feature of narrative. It is marked by various devices in different languages. This paper presents the sequential devices which mark the storyline of narrative texts. The data were drawn from written texts. They consist of twenty-six narrative texts of five Mon-Khmer languages, namely, Samre, Kasong, Pray, Kmhmu, and Vietnamese. Theses texts are analyzed using the framework of discourse analysis as expounded by Longacre (1996). The analysis is focused on the etic narrative salience scheme.

It has been found that the sequential strategies frequently used in Mon-Khmer narrative texts include temporal auxiliaries and perfective auxiliaries. Samre, Kasong, Pray, and Kmhmu have temporal auxiliaries which are similar in form and thus should be regarded as cognates. They are kɔ/22 (Samre), (Kasong), (Pral), Kmhmu’. These temporal auxiliaries function to mark the storyline status of the following happenings which are sequential to the previous ones. On the other hand, Vietnamese has two different temporal auxiliaries, i.e., thiÝ:, bEÝn that have a similar function.

The perfective auxiliaries function to signal a completion of previous happenings which are sequential to the following ones. Samre, Pray, and Kmhmu’ share the same perfective auxiliaries, that is, lEEw451, lɛ:w, lE:w respectively. Though lEÛ:w is not found in Kasong narrative texts due to a limitation of data, it is found in procedural texts functioning as a sequential indicator. In addition to lEEw451 (Samre), lɛ:w (Pray), lE:w (Kmhmu’), Samre and Pray share the perfective auxiliary ¨u«c22 and roc respectively. Kasong has hoÛ:j and Ýh which have a similar function. The perfective auxiliary hoÛ:j marks a completion of previous happenings and is usually glossed as ‘already’ whereas Ýh functions to terminate previous happenings and is normally glossed as ‘finish, completely’. Kmhmu uses ho:tɕ in a similar way as lE:w but its use is more frequent than lE:w. Vietnamese has three perfective auxiliaries, that is, zoÝ:j, sɔ:ŋƒm, dwa6:n which are used in a similar way. zoÝ:j has a wider usage than sɔ:ŋƒm and dwa6:n.

The temporal auxiliaries and perfective auxiliaries may co-occur to highlight a happening. The part of narrative that has these two kinds of auxiliaries is at the highest rank of the etic narrative salience scheme.

The narrative is recounted as happening in the past or accomplished time, therefore the occurrences of the temporal auxiliaries and perfective auxiliaries within the narrative timeframe mark happenings which are on the storyline. However these auxiliaries are neutral as to time reference so they may occur both in accomplished and projected timeframes. When they occur in a projected timeframe such as quotations, they do not mark the storyline which is in Band 1 of the etic narrative salience scheme.

The study of these auxiliaries reveals that language contact plays an important role in their usage. Samre, Kasong, and Pral have been influenced by Thai and Kmhmu’ by Lao.