The structuring of narrative texts into figure and ground: attention, memory and language

  • Adriana Maria Tenuta Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).
  • Marcus Lepesqueur Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).
  • Maria Luiza Cunha Lima Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).
Palavras-chave: Attention, Memory, Cognition, Narrative, Figure and ground.


In narrative texts, some events compose the core story line and, due to their cognitive status of focus and salience, are grammatically and discursively marked as figure. Events that do not share this status are marked as narrative ground and provide information that support those central story. elements (HOPPER, 1979; TENUTA, 2006). This process of figuration in narratives reflects the cognitive principle of human perception in terms of figure and ground, proposed by the Gestalt Psychology. (KOFFKA, 1975; WERTHEIMER, 1938). This article aims at reporting results of a study that investigated the process of figuration in oral narratives produced by 13 subjects. It was tested the hypothesis of a relation between the occurrence of figure or ground narrative units and tasks with distinct cognitive demands of attention and memory. A logistic regression model showed patterns of narrative structuring connected to specific task types. The results suggest a correlation between linguistic representation of information from memory (BADDELEY, 2007’s memory model) and the amount of narrative ground structures. From Bruner (2002) and Chafe’s (1990) perspectives, it is understood that narratives produced from memory content tend to have more ground units, with greater manipulation of cognitive models, not reflecting an objective representation of reality.



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Como Citar
Tenuta, A. M., Lepesqueur, M., & Lima, M. L. C. (2014). The structuring of narrative texts into figure and ground: attention, memory and language. Scripta, 18(34), 163-178.
Dossiê: interação discursiva e cognição