16. Is the past really the past in narrative discourse?

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This sociolinguistic study investigates the production of verb tenses in the Spanish of thirty Puerto Rican residents of New York City (NYC). It discusses how verb tense production is conditioned by the narrative unit, conflict narrative style and foreground and background information within the narrative. Two social factors are also analyzed: gender and age. The verb forms with the highest rate of production in this study are the present, the preterit and imperfect indicative, findings also documented by other scholars (Pousada & Poplack 1982; Torres 1997). With regard to foreground and background information, the results show that speakers recount stories mainly using the present, the preterit and imperfect indicative forms in the main skeleton of the storyline. Narratives that contain conflict however, had the tendency of being recounted with past tense verbs. As expected, age and gender did not show a significant difference in the verb tense production of these NYC residents.


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