chapter 3 Ellipsis and action in a Japanese joint storytelling series

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This study analyzes the way in which three storytellers use gaze and pointing gestures to disambiguate ellipted referents in a series of three “joint storytelling” sequences (Koike, 2008) about the same event that they all experienced together. Building on previous studies on ellipsis in Japanese discourse, this study elucidates how complex the structure of human referent ellipsis can be, by showing how the three storytellers use multi-resources including ellipsis in the talk-in-interaction to tell their side of the story with no potential ambiguity. I demonstrate that (1) in elliptical utterances gaze selects the explicitly addressed recipient, and pointing supplies the elliptical element, thus suggesting a hierarchy in which gaze overrides pointing, (2) uses of gaze and pointing toward participants can influence the interpretation of ellipsis as well as the participation framework in storytelling, and (3) the same sustained pointing gesture can provide different ellipted arguments in different utterances. I also show how the participants assisted one other in telling a shared story, while also publicly negotiating responsibility and conflict through different social actions. They used gaze and pointing gestures in elliptical utterances not only to supply ellipted human referents, but also to include the participant in the storytelling as the implicitly addressed recipient and to effectively mitigate conflicting actions.


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