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Style in Fiction Symposium, 11 th March 2006 Mind Style 25 years on. Elena Semino Lancaster University. Structure of talk. Mind style in Style in Fiction Fictional minds in contemporary narratology Cognitive stylistics and mind style Pragmatics and mind style

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Style in Fiction Symposium, 11 th March 2006 Mind Style 25 years on

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style in fiction symposium 11 th march 2006 mind style 25 years on

Style in Fiction Symposium, 11th March 2006Mind Style 25 years on

Elena Semino

Lancaster University

structure of talk
Structure of talk
  • Mind style in Style in Fiction
  • Fictional minds in contemporary narratology
  • Cognitive stylistics and mind style
  • Pragmatics and mind style
  • Corpus methods and mind style
  • Beyond ‘mind style’?
mind style in style in fiction 1
Mind style in Style in Fiction 1
  • ‘phenomenon sometimes called “world view”, but for which we shall prefer Fowler’s term MIND STYLE […]:

Cumulatively, consistent structural options, agreeing in cutting the presented world to one pattern or another, give rise to an impression of a world-view, what I shall call a “mind style”.’ (Leech and Short 1981: 188)

  • Application of the notion of mind style to authors, narrators and characters.
  • Cline from ‘normal’, ‘natural’, ‘uncontrived’ mind styles, to ‘unusual’ mind styles, ‘which clearly impose an unorthodox conception of the fictional world’. (Leech and Short 1981: 189)
mind style in style in fiction 2
Mind style in Style in Fiction 2
  • Discussion of lexis, syntax, transitivity, metaphor, and other textual patterns (e.g. pronoun usage).
  • Observation on characters’ mind styles:

‘Characters’ mind styles are more readily discernible as odd: we accept quite easily that a character might have a faulty or limited view of things, and of course we often have the mind styles of other characters as a comparative yardstick.’ (Leech and Short 1981: 202)

fictional minds in narratology monika fludernik
Fictional minds in narratology: Monika Fludernik

‘Experientiality in narrative as reflected in narrativity can therefore be said to combine a number of cognitively relevant factors, most importantly those of the presence of a human protagonist and her experience of events as they impinge on her situation and activities.’

‘[S]ince humans are conscious human beings, (narrative) experientiality always implies – and sometimes emphatically foregrounds- the protagonist’s consciousness.’ (Fludernik 1996: 30)

fictional minds in narratology alan palmer
Fictional minds in narratology: Alan Palmer

‘My thesis is a fundamental one: narrative fiction is, in essence, the presentation of fictional mental functioning. [. . .] If I am right, then it follows that the study of the novel is the study of fictional mental functioning and also that the task of the theorist is to make explicit the various means by which this phenomenon is studied and analyzed.’ (Palmer 2004: 5)

‘The reader uses existing or prestored knowledge of other minds in the actual world in order to process the emergent knowledge that is supplied by fictional-minds presentation.’ (Palmer 2004: 175)

fictional minds in narratology uri margolin
Fictional minds in narratology: Uri Margolin

‘There is no guarantee that individual CMF (Cognitive Mental Functioning) as portrayed in a given fictional narrative will possess any psychological reality, nor is it required to do so. Nonetheless, cognitive-science concepts and categories, including the overall scheme of the basic areas of information processing and their sequence, will in all probability be applicable to the fictional individuals portrayed in literary narratives.’ (Margolin 2003: 274)

margolin on non standard fictional mental functioning
Margolin on ‘non-standard’ fictional mental functioning

‘What is probably even more significant is the preference of much literature for nonstandard forms of cognitive functioning, be they rare or marginal, deviant, or involving a failure, breakdown, or lack of standard patterns.’

‘But standard case or deviation according to whom? As it turns out, (almost) all writers of fiction base their portrayal of mental functioning on one version or another of what cognitivists term ‘folk psychology’, that is a socially constructed and shared common-sense set of general views […].’

‘It is a shared model of this kind that enables the artist to portray the mental functioning of a character in a way which would make that character be considered standard or exceptional by a readership. (Margolin 2003: 287)

margolin ctd
Margolin ctd.
  • Defamiliarising effect of presenting nonstandard mental functioning.

‘The fictional presentation of cognitive mechanisms in action, especially of their own breakdown and failure, is itself a powerful cognitive tool which may make us aware of actual cognitive mechanisms, and, more specifically, of our own mental functioning.’ (Margolin 2003: 278)

halliday s classic example of mind style lok in golding s the inheritors
Halliday’s classic example of mind style:Lok in Golding’s The Inheritors
  • The stick began to grow shorter at both ends. Then it shot out to full length again.

The dead tree by Lok’s ear acquired a voice.


His ears twitched and he turned to the tree. By his face there had grown a twig: a twig that smelt of other, and of goose, and of the bitter berries that Lok’s stomach told him he must not eat. The twig had a white bone at the end. There were hooks in the bone and sticky brown stuff hung in the crooks. His nose examined this stuff and did not like it.

benji in faulkner s the sound and the fury
Benji in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury
  • Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming towards where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence. Luster came away from the flower tree and we went along the fence and they stopped and we stopped and I looked through the fence while Luster was hunting in the grass.

(see also Bockting 1994 for an analysis)

an uncanny similarity
An uncanny similarity

The procedure is actually quite simple. First you arrange items into different groups. Of course one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities that is the next step; otherwise, you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo things. That is, it is better to do few things at once than too many. In the short run it may not seem important but complications can easily arise. A mistake can be expensive as well. At first, the whole procedure may seem complicated. Soon, however, it will become just another facet of life. It is difficult to foresee any end to the necessity of this task in the near future, but then, one can never tell. After the procedure is completed one arranges the material into different groups again. Then they can be put into their appropriate places. Eventually they will be used once more and the whole cycle will have to be repeated. However, that is part of life.

(Bransford and Johnson 1972: 722)

schema theory and mind style 1
Schema theory and mind style 1
  • Comprehension requires the availability and activation of relevant schemata.
  • Schemata are activated via linguistic triggers (‘headers’) that refer to central elements of the relevant schema.
  • The absence of transparent headers in a text may prevent the activation of the relevant schema, and hence the comprehension of a text (Margolin 2003 calls this ‘frame blocking’).
schema theory and mind style 2
Schema theory and mind style 2
  • The vocabulary choices in examples (1) and (2) are made at a level of generality that initially impedes or delays the activation of the relevant schema (Cf. the ‘washing clothes’ text).
  • The eventual activation of the relevant schema results in comprehension on the reader’s part, but also in the construction of a fictional mind who lacks that schema, as well as the ability to recognise the limitations of their own understanding.
  • Defamiliarising effects.
bromden in ken kesey s one flew over the cuckoo s nest
Bromden in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • What the Chronics are – or most of us – are machines with flaws inside that can’t be repaired, flaws born in, or flaws beat in over so many years of the guy running head-on into solid things that by the time the hospital found him he was bleeding rust in some vacant lot.
  • a factory for the Combine. It’s for fixing up mistakes made in the neighborhoods and in the schools and in the churches, the hospital is. When a completed product goes back into society, all fixed up and good as new, better than new sometimes, it brings joy to the Big Nurse’s heart; something that came in all twisted different is now a functioning, adjusted component, a credit to the whole outfit and a marvel to behold.

(see Semino and Swindlehurst 1996)

cognitive metaphor theory and mind style
Cognitive metaphor theory and mind style
  • Cognitive metaphor theorists have argued that conventional metaphorical patterns in language (e.g. He’s not getting anywhere in his life)reflect conventional patterns of thought, known as ‘conceptual metaphors’ (e.g. LIFE IS A JOURNEY).
  • At the individual level, idiosyncratic metaphorical patterns may reflect idiosyncratic mental functioning (see also Kövecses 2005).
metaphor and mind style contrasts dickens s hard times
Metaphor and mind style contrasts: Dickens’s Hard Times
  • They went back into the booth, Sleary shutting the door to keep intruders out. Bitzer, still holding the paralysed culprit by the collar, stood in the Ring, blinking at his old patron through the darkness of the twilight.

‘Bitzer,’ said Mr Gradgrind, broken down, and miserably submissive to him, ‘have you a heart?’

‘The circulation, sir,’ returned Bitzer, smiling at the oddity of the question, ‘couldn’t be carried on without one. No man, sir, acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the circulation of the blood, can doubt that I have a heart.’

difficulties with metaphor chris in haddon s the curious incident
Difficulties with metaphor:Chris in Haddon’s The Curious Incident
  • The second main reason [why Chris finds people confusing] is that people often talk using metaphors. These are examples of metaphorsI laughed my socks off. He was the apple of her eye. […][. . .] I think it [metaphor] should be called a lie because a pig is not like a day and people do not have skeletons in their cupboards. And when I try and make a picture of the phrase in my head it just confuses me […]. (pp. 19-20)
  • And she said lots of things I didn’t understand, e.g. ‘I’m going to hit the hay,’ and, ‘It’s brass monkeys out there,’ and ‘Let’s rustle up some tucker.’ And I didn’t like it when she said things like that because I didn’t know what she meant.
a gradual descent into insanity in woolf s lappin and lapinova
A gradual descent into insanity in Woolf’s Lappin and Lapinova
  • But what did he look like? She glanced at him sideways. Well, when he was eating toast he looked like a rabbit.
  • But that was absurd. He was not a tame rabbit, whatever he was. […] ‘Lappin,’ she exclaimed suddenly; and gave a little cry as if she had found the very word she looked for.

‘Lappin, Lappin, King Lappin,’ she repeated. It seemed to suit him exactly; he was not Ernest, he was King Lappin. Why? She did not know.

  • Ernest put down the paper and helped her. There were the black rabbits and the red; there were the enemy rabbits and the friendly. There were the wood in which they lived and the outlying prairies and the swamp. Above all there was King Lappin, who, far from having only the one trick—that he twitched his nose—became as the days passed an animal of the greatest character; Rosalind was always finding new qualities in him. But above all he was a great hunter.
‘To–day,’ said Ernest, twitching his nose as he bit the end off his cigar, ‘he chased a hare.’ He paused; struck a match, and twitched again.

‘A woman hare,’ he added.


‘Ah, Lapinova,’ Rosalind murmured.

‘Is that what she’s called?’ said Ernest—‘the real Rosalind?’ He looked at her. He felt very much in love with her.

  • ‘Oh, Ernest, Ernest!’ she cried, starting up in her chair.

‘Well, what’s up now?’ he asked briskly, warming his hands at the fire.

‘It’s Lapinova . . .’ she faltered, glancing wildly at him out of her great startled eyes. ‘She’s gone, Ernest. I’ve lost her!’

Ernest frowned. He pressed his lips tight together. […] ‘Yes,’ he said at length. ‘Poor Lapinova. . .’ He straightened his tie at the looking–glass over the mantelpiece.

‘Caught in a trap,’ he said, ‘killed,’ and sat down and read the newspaper.

So that was the end of that marriage.

blending and mind style in lappin and lapinova
‘Blending’ and mind style in Lappin and Lapinova
  • Rosalind makes up a fantasy that can be seen as a ‘blend’ between her ‘real’ world and a series of alternative scenarios containing rabbits, hares, kings and queens (Fauconnier and Turner 2003).
  • She gradually becomes more and more dependent on this fantasy world for coping with her reality (especially her marriage) and for remaining sane. The blend becomes ‘entrenched’, and much of her mental life takes place within it.
  • Ernest’s declaration that Rosalind’s counterpart in the blend is dead causes ‘the end of that marriage’.

(see Semino 2006)

communicative behaviour and mind style in the curious incident
Communicative behaviour and mind style in The Curious Incident
  • Then the police arrived. I like the police. They have uniforms and numbers and you know what they are meant to be doing. There was a policewoman and a policeman. The policewoman had a little hole in her tights on her left ankle and a red scratch in the middle of the hole. The policeman had a big orange leaf stuck to the bottom of his shoe which was poking out from one side.

The policewoman put her arms round Mrs Shears and led her back towards the house.

I lifted my head off the grass.

The policeman squatted down beside me and said, ‘Would you like to tell me what’s going on here, young man?’

I sat up and said, ‘The dog is dead.’

‘I’d got that far,’ he said.

I said, ‘I think someone killed the dog.’

‘How old are you?’ he asked.

I replied, ‘I am 15 years and 3 months and 2 days.

grice s cp and mind style infringements
Grice’s CP and mind style: infringements

‘A speaker who, with no intention of generating an implicature and with no intention of deceiving, fails to observe a maxim is said to “infringe” the maxim. […] This type of non-observance could occur because the speaker has an imperfect command of the language (a young child or a foreign learner), because the speaker’s performance is impaired in some way (nervousness, drunkenness, excitement), because of some cognitive impairment, or simply because the speaker is constitutionally incapable of speaking clearly, to the point, etc.’ (Thomas 1995: 74)

level of detail and deautomatisation
Level of detail and deautomatisation
  • And there were signs saying Great Western and cold beers and lagers and CAUTION WET FLOOR and Your 50p will keep a premature baby alive for 1.8 seconds and transforming travel and Refreshingly Different and IT’S DELICIOUS IT’S CREAMY AND IT’S ONLY £1.30 HOT CHOC DELUXE and 0870 777 7676 and The Lemon Tree and No Smoking and FINE TEAS and there were some little tables with chairs next to them and no one was sitting at one of the tables and it was in a corner and I sat down on one of the chairs next to it and I closed my eyes.
politeness phenomena and mind style the modesty maxim in the curious incident
Politeness phenomena and mind style:The Modesty Maxim in The Curious Incident
  • My name is Christopher John Francis Boone. I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,507.
  • I think I would make a very good astronaut. To be a good astronaut you have to be intelligent and I am intelligent. You also have to understand how machines work and I’m good at understanding how machines work.
politeness phenomena and mind style face threatening acts in the curious incident
Politeness phenomena and mind style:Face-threatening acts in The Curious Incident
  • I also said that I cared about dogs because they were faithful and honest, and some dogs were cleverer and more interesting than some people. Steve, for example, who comes to school on Thursdays, needs help to eat his food and could not even fetch a stick. Siobhan asked me not to say this to Steve’s mother.
  • And I walked into to the ticket office [. . .] there was a long desk at the other side of the big room and a window on the desk and there was a man standing in front of the window and there was a man behind the window, and I said to the man behind the window, ‘I want to go to London.’
corpus based approaches to literary text analysis and mind style
Corpus-based approaches to (literary) text analysis and mind style
  • The top five ‘keywords’ in Haddon’s The Curious Incident are: and, I, because, said, then.
  • Theverbs feel and felt are followed by adjectives drawn from a very small set: calm, scared, sick, safe, giddy.
  • In Chris’s narrative, the pronoun we is only used with actions (e.g. we went), except in cases of the ‘generic’ we (i.e. Chris does not use expressions such as we saw, we decided, we felt).
linguistic evidence and characters mind styles
Linguistic evidence and characters’ mind styles
  • First-person narration
  • Internal psychological viewpoint
  • Thought presentation
  • Speech presentation
  • Patterns of lexis, grammar, metaphor, transitivity, conversational behaviour, etc.
beyond mind style 1
Beyond ‘mind style’? 1
  • Fowler introduced ‘mind style’ as a paraphrase of ‘point of view on the ideological plane’. He also used the term ‘world view’.
  • Subsequent studies have tended to privilege one or the other of the two terms. In Style in Fiction, the term ‘mind style’ is used.
  • In Semino and Swindlehurst (1996) and Semino (2002), it was suggested that ‘mind style’ and ‘ideological point of view’ could be used to capture different aspects of world views. However, this distinction can be difficult to apply and can be easily misunderstood.
beyond mind style 2
Beyond ‘mind style’? 2

Study of (the textual projection of) fictional minds, including:

  • World view = the combination of a fictional individual’s mental representations of the ‘reality’ they inhabit, including both knowledge and attitudes, and both socially shared and personal elements (e.g. van Dijk 2002; see also FanloPiniés 2006).
  • Fictional mental functioning = a fictional individual’s mental processes, including both cognition and emotion, and both ‘standard’ and ‘nonstandard’ elements (see Margolin 2003, Palmer 2004)
  • Bockting, I. (1994) Character and Personality in the Novels of William Faulkner: A Study in Psychostylistics. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press.
  • Bransford, J.D. and Johnson, M.K. (1972) ‘Contextual prerequisites for understanding: some investigations of comprehension and recall’, Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 11, 717-26
  • Fanlo Piniés. M (2006) The Minds and Mental Selves of Characters in Prose Fiction, Unpublished PhD thesis, Lancaster University.
  • Fauconnier, G. and Turner, M. (2002) The Way We Think: Conceptual Blendings and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic Books.Fludernik, M. (1996) Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology. London: Routledge.
  • Kövecses, Z. (2005) Metaphor in Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Margolin, U. (2003) ‘Cognitive Science, the Thinking Mind, and Literary Narrative’, in D. Herman (ed.) Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences, pp. 271-94. Stanford, Ca.: Center for the Study of Language and Information.
Palmer, A. (2004) Fictional Minds. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Semino, E. (2002) ‘A cognitive stylistic approach to mind style in narrative fiction’, in Semino, E. and Culpeper, J. (eds.) Cognitive Stylistics: Language and Cognition in Text Analysis, John Benjamins, 95-122
  • Semino, E. (2006) ‘Blending and characters’ mental functioning in Virginia Woolf’s Lappin and Lapinova’, Language and Literature, 15, 1, 55-72.
  • Semino, E. and Swindlehurst, K. (1996) ‘Metaphor and mind style in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’,Style, 30, 1, 143-166.
  • Thomas, J. (1995) Meaning in Interaction, London: Longman.
  • Van Dijk, T. (2002) ‘Ideology: political discourse and cognition’, in Chilton, P. and Schäffner, C. (eds) Politics as Talk and Text, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 203-37.