Subjective Story Structure

Lucy Pollard-Gott, Amy K. Todres, Michael McCloskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, the relation of story grammars to perceived story structure is investigated. A method is offered for arriving at an empirical description of perceived story structure. People are asked to sort the sentences of simple stories into groups that seem to go together naturally in the structure of the story. A pooled measure of structural relatedness among story propositions is thus derived. Hierarchical clustering procedures (Johnson, 1967) are used to generate subjective story structures for stories adapted from Mandler and Johnson (1977) and Glenn (1978), the two comparison grammars chosen for the present study. Results indicate generally good agreement between the empirical and theoretical structural descriptions. In several instances, however, the empirical structures depart in meaningful ways from the structural descriptions generated by the grammars. Major individual differences in perceived structure also arise. In a second experiment, this procedure is successfully extended to texts other than stories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-281
Number of pages31
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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