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Narrative until in English

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This paper examines the narrative use of until-clauses in English found in examples like She was so enjoying life until she suddenly realized that all her efforts had been in vain. In such sentences, the until-clause expresses the main situation (“her suddenly realizing ...”) against the background of the situation expressed by the matrix clause (“her so enjoying life”). This use contrasts with the much more common temporal use, as in He was so happy until he got married, where the main situation is expressed by the matrix clause and gets restricted temporally by the until-clause. My analysis of almost 7,000 sentences containing an until-clause shows that narrative until behaves much like narrative when and before in being both pragmatically and formally distinct from its temporal counterpart. The clearest cases exhibit functional superordination, main clause phenomena, progressive textual cohesion and stylistic intensity. At the same time, however, narrative until differs from when and before in allowing greater actional variety in the clauses it initiates and hence relies less on a fixed actional pattern for its narrative effect. Like before-clauses, until-clauses include stylistically more neutral types to convey a specific juncture in a storyline.
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Keywords: English grammar; cohesion; functional superordination; narrative clause; stylistics; syntactic subordination; temporal conjunction; text strategies; until

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Language and Communication, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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