Narrative styles of Palestinian Bedouin adults and children

Roni Henkin


This paper contrasts natural oral narratives of Bedouin adults and children (ages 8- 11) in the Negev Desert (South Israel). The analysis showed some striking stylistic differences, on both developmental and genre-related grounds. Adults, narrating tribal legends in a stylized, performed idiom. used distinct styles for the textual levels of orientation, plotline, and direct speech; the children told folktales and anecdotes in a relatively undifferentiated, near-conversational style. Adults set out from a concrete, non-past stage and shifted to a past plotline; whereas the childrens folkloristic openings, in the distant past, drifted to a concrete, relived present. There were significant differences in rhetorical means for perspectivizing, information packaging. connectivity, and tempo control. The children's narrative style was found to be much "flatter" and less evaluative than the adults, in keeping with developmental findings. However, some of the older children displayed global text organization, using diverse cohesive means typical of the folktale. This may show these children to be more sensitive to global genre structure than to local rhetorical means.

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