Aspectual and storyline tension in Emai’s (Edoid) narrative template*

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We examine aspect usage in an aetiological narrative of southern Nigeria’s Emai people. This follows a brief overview of Emai tonal and segmental aspectual categories. A privileged role emerges for the Past Perfect, as it codes the majority of main event line clauses. Nonetheless, a striking feature of main event line later stages is aspectual discontinuity. In the episode prior to story climax, which itself is expressed by Past Perfect, imperfect Continuous and Habitual along with clause repetition each code distinct main line happenings. Their occurrence alters narrative pace (Fleischman 1990), affecting the advance of information in contrasting modes of deceleration and acceleration, respectively. Their selective placement also identifies salient information moments preceding climax, thus shaping narrative peak structure.


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