Genre of Autobiography. Linguistic and Extra-linguistic Features of Autobiographical Genre and their Analysis in B. Franklin’s Autobiography. The settings of the narrative, the process of sharing information, feelings,the attitude of the writer.
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Chapter 1: The Genre of Autobiography
Chapter 2: Linguistic and Extra-linguistic Features of Autobiographical Genre and their Analysis in B. Franklin's Autobiography
The aim of this thesis paper is to determine the linguistic and extra-linguistic features of autobiographical genre. In general autobiography is a work about the life of a person, written by that person. Derived from three Greek words meaning “self”, “life”, and “write”, autobiography is a style of writing that has been around nearly as long as history has been recorded. Autobiography is usually a story one tells about oneself. It would not naturally follow then that the writer would recount his or her past from a second or third person perspective. When authors write about their past, it is not free from emotions. Revealing character's intentions, thoughts, and emotions is another way that the narrator evaluates why events occurred as they did. By explaining what happened in the past, the author is able to express to the reader how the self evolved. The self-now is the person he or she because of the events of the past. Autobiography is a way to organize the story of a life and reflect on the past in order to better understand the present. Autobiography is a genre in which the use of linguistic and extra-linguistic features can be equally observed. Linguistic features are as follows: the category of modality (subjective), the category of retrospection, the first point of view of the author, past perfect, past indefinite, the future in the past tense, and modal verbs. The settings of the narrative, the process of sharing information, situations, and the attitude of the writer are all described as extra-linguistic features used in autobiographical narrative.
Central to this paper is the analysis of the linguistic and extra-linguistic features in the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is one of the best examples of the autobiographical genre. Franklin's book defines itself as an autobiography in its title “the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”. He's not messing with his audience or changing up the genre-his book's not radical in the way at all. Instead, he's helping to set the standard of what an autobiography, is, can, or should be, rather than subverting that standard. As for the structure of this paper it includes two chapters, conclusion and bibliography. The first chapter reveals the peculiarities of the genre of autobiography, what autobiography is in general, and also reviews the research conducted on the genre of autobiography by different scholars. The second chapter begins by laying out the theoretical dimensions of the linguistic and extra-linguistic features of autobiographical genre. In this chapter we have analyzed extracts from the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin from the point of view of their linguistic and extra-linguistic features.
CHAPTER 1: THE GENRE OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY
An autobiography is a work about the life of a person, written by that person. Derived from three Greek words meaning “self”, “life”, and “write”, autobiography is a style of writing that has been around nearly as long as history has been recorded. The word autobiography was first used deprecatingly by William Taylor in 1797 in the English periodical the Monthly Review, when he suggested the word as a hybrid but condemned it as `pedantic'; but its next recorded use was in its present sense by Robert Southey in 1809. Yet autobiography was not classified as a genre within itself until the late eighteenth century. In his book, Inside Out, E. Stuart Bates offers a functional definition of autobiography as “a narrative of the past of a person by the person concerned” (Bates 4). That definition, however, is too broad for some literary critics. Many wish to define the genre more narrowly. Linda Anderson cites that definition of autobiography as “retrospective prose narrative produced by a real person concerning his own existence, focusing on his individual life, in particular on the development of his personality” (Anderson 1). She also thinks that the work must implicitly state itself to be an autobiography to be included within the genre (Anderson 1). Other scholars, Bates, for example, do not think that there are any limitations or minimums on how much of a life must be revealed for it to be classified as autobiography. Many factual accounts, though not intended to be an autobiography as such, can be categorized as such because they contain “a self-revealed personality, after thorough reconsideration” (Bates 4). Cataloging autobiographies are further complicated because there are some that are translations and some that are edited. Despite disagreements concerning how inclusive the category of autobiography should be, there are characteristics that are common to the majority of autobiographical works. These features are the grammatical perspective of the work, the identity of the self, and self-reflection and introspection (Berryman 3). The form of autobiography however goes back to antiquity. Biographers generally rely on a wide variety of documents and viewpoints; an autobiography, however, may be based entirely on the writer's memory. Closely associated with autobiography is the form of memoir. A memoir is slightly different in character from an autobiography. While an autobiography typically focuses on the “life and times” of the writer, a memoir has a narrower, more intimate focus on his or her own memories, feelings and emotions. Memoirs have often been written by politicians or military leaders as a way to record and publish an account of their public exploits. Memoir comes from Latin word “memoria” meaning memory. A memoir is an evolution of the autobiography. An autobiography is a story written by oneself about one life. Most autobiographies are written from the first person singular perspective. This is fitting because autobiography is usually a story one tells about oneself. It would not naturally follow then that the writer would recount his or her past from a second or third person perspective. Jean Quigley confirms this point in her book “The Grammar of Autobiography” by saying that “as soon as we are asked about ourselves, or are asked to tell our autobiography, we start to tell stories. We tell what happened, what we said, what we did” (J. Quigley 6). The author, the narrator, and the protagonist must share a common identity for the work to be considered an autobiography (Anderson 1). This common identity could be similar, but is not identical. The self that the author constructs becomes a character within the story that may not be a completely factual representation of the author's actual past self (Quigley 6, Porter and Wolf 12). Roger Porter and H.R. Wolf state that “Truth is a highly subjective matter, and no autobiographer can represent exactly `what happened back then', any more than a historian can definitively describe the real truth of the past” (R. Porter and H.R 12). This is due in part to the fact that words are not adequate to fully express memories and emotions. Because autobiography is, as Anderson puts it, “a public exposure of the private self”, self-accounting and self-reflection are integral parts of the autobiography. The author wants to justify his or her past actions to the reader. Quigley says that a “related but not identical narrator and protagonist are integral to the process of self-justification”. The author establishes relationships to him or herself in order to show causality. For example, because the narrator and the protagonist are not identical, the narrator has “the ability to treat the self as other… create the occasion for self-regard and editing… the distance between self-now and self-then”. There is also a relationship between the reader and the author. By judging past actions as right or wrong, the narrator establishes to the reader that they share common norms. The narrator speaking in the autobiography “is always moral, even if the protagonist of the narrative is not”. This relating is then evaluated socially according to whether actions are appropriate or inappropriate or surprising or normal. Other interactions that the narrator establishes are relationships with other characters in the story. This allows the speaker to present the self as either “an experiencer or recipient of actions, where the self is seen as an objective static entity”. The speaker may narrate an event in such a way that the self does not have to accept the responsibility for the outcome. It can be described as happening to the protagonist because of the actions of others. Autobiography is a form of introspection. When authors write about their past, it is not free from emotions. Revealing character's intentions, thoughts, and emotions is another way that the narrator evaluates why events occurred as they did. By explaining what happened in the past, the author is able to express to the reader how the self evolved. The self- now is the person he or she is because of the events of the past. Autobiography is a popular genre. Writers of memoirs and life stories never lack an audience. Anderson says that “Autobiography is a form of witnessing which matters to others”. People are interested in the actual lives of others and want to know about others' pasts and feelings and desires. A quote from Olney in Anderson's book reveals the appeal of autobiography. Olney says “The explanation for the special appeal of autobiography is a fascination with the self and its profound, its endless mysteries” (Olney J. 9). Autobiography is a way to organize the story of a life and reflect on the past in order to better understand the present. One of the first great autobiographies of the Renaissance is that of the sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), written between 1556 and 1558, and entitled by him simply Vita (Italian: Life). He declares at the start: “No matter what sort he is, everyone who has to his credit what are or really great achievements, if he cares for truth and goodness, ought to write the story of his own life in his own hand; but no one should venture on such a splendid undertaking before he is over forty”. These criteria for autobiography generally persisted until recent times, and most serious autobiographies of the next three hundred years conformed to them.
Notable 18th-century autobiographies in English include those of Edward Gibbon and Benjamin Franklin. Autobiographical works are by nature subjective. The inability-or unwillingness-of the author to accurately recall memories has in certain cases resulted in misleading or incorrect information. Some sociologists and psychologists have noted that autobiography offers the author the ability to recreate history. In the eighteenth century, autobiography was one of the highest forms of literary art. Fiction was deemed unworthy, while narration of facts was aesthetically and philosophically pleasing. This prevailing convention overwhelmed fiction to such a degree that many novelists passed their works off as non-fiction, sometimes by creating prefaces written by supposedly real characters, who vouched for the authenticity of the story. Whether readers really believed in the truth of these stories is hard to say. Autobiography-can be used in the preparation of the psychological characteristics of the worker, the study of his life and personality traits: the style of presentation, the emphasis on various aspects of life, helping to judge the various psychological characteristics of the man. These are all the extra-linguistic features, which influence the genre of autobiography. The main advantage of the autobiography are the basic facts of labor and social activities, allowing to present and assess the human way of life that is often used in the selection of personnel. Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography is one of the best examples of the autobiographical genre. Franklin's book defines itself as an autobiography in its title. Traditionally, an autobiography can be basically defined as “a connected narrative in which an individual tells his or her life story”. The autobiography is a “connected narrative”, and Franklin is using it to tell his “life story”. He's not messing with his audience or changing up the genre - his book's not radical in that way at all. Instead, he's helping to set the standard of what an autobiography is, can, or should be, rather than subverting that standard. The term autobiography is quite generic in nature and several great personalities have written `great books' as a collection of their personal experiences. Similarly, there are several authors and personalities who have written small essays and short stories to narrate some important experiences in their lives. Some people have also written their autobiography to serve some purpose, such as political propaganda or to narrate an account of some incidence or event. All in all to sum up, the good thing about an autobiography is that we get to know about the writer's emotions and thoughts quite easily. The following are three classifications of autobiographies:
1. The first category is basically of a sequential collection of memories of the writer since his childhood. Such autobiographies are the most common ones. “Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” or “Charles Chaplin” is an excellent example of such an autobiography.
2. The second category is the type of autobiography, which is just a collection of memories that revolve around one phenomenon, incidence or event. In such an autobiography, the writer focuses on the event or incidence that took place in his life.
3. The third category offers the reader a short story from one of the writer's experiences. Such an autobiographical short story is basically, spanned over a couple of hours. Such a short story is sometimes also known as an autobiographical account or short story. In the three mentioned categories the first category can be commented to be a true autobiography.
The most unique example of autobiographical book is the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The practical part of this thesis paper is taken out of this autobiographical work. The analyses of linguistic and extra-linguistic features are mainly taken from B. Franklin's autobiography.
CHAPTER 2: LINGUISTIC AND EXTRA-LINGUISTIC FEATRUES OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL GENRE
Autobiography is a genre in which the use of linguistic and extra-linguistic features can be equally observed. This chapter will focus on the theoretical dimensions of the research and looks at how linguistic and extra-linguistic features of autobiography are defined. The first section of this chapter will give a brief overview of the research on linguistic and extra-linguistic features, whereas the second one will assess and analyze the linguistic and extra-linguistic features in Benjamin Franklin's autobiography.
In various points in the autobiography the narrator refers to persons, places and times by means of words and phrases, like “I”, “my”, “this city”, and past tenses of verbs, for example “told”, “lived”. In a face-to-face conversation these terms will be easily understood, but in autobiography things are different. Certainly, readers know the textual or semantic meaning of these words, but they do not know their situational or pragmatic meaning. This is because they cannot see the people referred to by “I”, “my” in the flesh, nor check the times in the relations to the verb tenses. However, prompted by their experience of the real world, readers will understand these linguistic expressions as representations of the people, places and times in the story, and will treat them as cues to imagine themselves as participating in the situation of the autobiographical world.
To begin with, let us to start by considering the linguistic features in autobiographical genre, which are as follows: the category of modality (subjective), the category of retrospection, the first point of view, past perfect, past indefinite, the future in the past tense, and the use of modal verbs.
The first point of view is a point in which an “I” or “we” serves as the narrator. The narrator may be a minor character, observing the action, as in autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. While first person point of view can allow a reader to feel very close to a specific character's point of view, it also limits the reader to that one perspective. The reader can only know what this character knows.
The first point of view is the perspective from which an autobiography is written. Since autobiographies are written on the themes that touch upon the writer's personal experience and life events, they are told from the first point of view, consequently the use of the “I”, “we” pronouns are very actual to and peculiar of this genre.
The past indefinite tense denotes an action or happenings that took place in the past, that is to say in autobiography the author very often mentions an action, subjects, phenomena that took place in the past; for example, - They got an English Bible, it was fastened opened with tapes under and with the cover of a joint-stool. (B. Franklin; 3)
The past perfect tense is used side by side with other past tenses (Simple past, past progressive, past perfect progressive) when the writer of the autobiography refers to his /her past experience. It is used in story-telling, biography, autobiography, reports, eye-witnessing accounts, etc. and is especially useful for establishing the sequence of events.
Future in the past is used to express an action in the past, the author had planned to undertake in future. It goes without saying that the autobiography is in the past tense form, and all the future actions, planned or unplanned are also used in the past tense forms.
Another linguistic feature of the autobiographical genre is the frequent use of the modal verbs, which shows the writer's attitude towards his message. In the English language, a modal verb is an auxiliary verb, which can be used to change the modality of the sentence. The modal verbs are used in the past tense forms in autobiography, depending on the meaning they indicate. Some of them are:
“Could” indicates possibility or ability in the past. “Could” speculates about future possibilities.
The modals “should/ought to” indicate an obligation; for example, - My early readiness in learning to read, and the opinion of all his friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar.
“Would” introduces habitual actions in the past. It's used frequently in autobiographical genre. “Would” explains an action as a result of a supposed or real condition.
The next linguistic features are the textual categories, which are peculiar of this genre. Equally relevant to the issue are the questions of text analysis and its categories. It should be mentioned that the most characteristic of this genre is the category of retrospection.
Retrospection is a grammatical category of the autobiography. Retrospection within the process of its realization reactualizes certain parts of the autobiography. Actually, any text is based upon retrospection. While reading an autobiography the reader keeps in mind various portions of information, presented in the text, and from time to time he has to recall them to be able to understand and realize the certain development of the events. This process is purposive and is created by the author of the autobiography, as it is his will to force the reader to recall the facts which are to be actualized.
Perhaps we should point out that the communicative process is the attitude of the author of the utterance towards whatever is presented in his/her speech. This speech- creative process is termed as the category of modality. The subjective modality may be textual. In autobiography we can meet a lot of supraphrasal units which indicate a modal meaning. Since autobiography is a work about the narrator's self, no other textual category, like modality can be of that frequent use. With the help of different expressive means the author actualizes the modal meaning, the autobiography contains. To sum up the analysis of the linguistic features in autobiographical genre, we are convinced that these retrospective texts or as we have called them personal narratives are not limited to only those features. So we will also consider the extra-linguistic ones, which are of no less importance than the linguistic ones.
Closely connected to linguistic features are the extra -linguistic ones, which are of a great interest for this thesis paper.
Throughout this paper the term extra-linguistic will refer to the factors, which don't depend on linguistic phenomena.
The extra-linguistic features are much complex notions since they may include any number of text-external features influencing the language and style of a text.
The settings of the narrative, the process of sharing information, feelings, themes, situations, the attitude of the writer, his/her personal opinion are all described as extra-linguistic features used in autobiographical narrative.
At this point, we should distinguish between two types of features: linguistic and extra-linguistic features. Linguistic features refer to the surrounding features of language inside the text, like the typography, sounds, words, phrases, and sentences which are relevant to the interpretation of other such linguistic elements.
The extra-linguistic features are a much complex notions since they may include any number of text-external features influencing the language and style of a text. In autobiography, the writer, consciously or not, is influenced by a wide variety of contextual factors such as; type of readership, the writer's expectations of the reader's knowledge, anxiety, the writer's creative talent, attitudes, and briefs; the writer's expectation that the inter-textual allusion will be picked up by the reader, and last but not least, the writer's assumption that autobiography readers have a general knowledge of the social function and stylistic conventions of the text. If one thing has become obvious from this long, but still incomplete list of extra-linguistic factors, it is the fact that conscious or unconscious choices of expression which create a particular style are always motivated, inspired, or induced by contextual circumstances in which both writers and readers are in various ways involved. (J. P. Gee 5)
The extra-linguistic features can also be regarded the knowledge of the given information by the reader. As the reader cannot be completely included into the text, the effect is always ambivalent. The use of certain linguistic devices presupposes the reader's presence in the context of the story. The narrator talks to the second-person addressee with a marked familiar immediacy using such emotive expression as “you may like to know”. It is as if he is talking to somebody in his presence who knows who he is. Since no second-person addressee is identified in the text, the reader assumes that position. But of course, the reader does not know who he is and so has to somehow construct his identity on the indirect evidence of what he says. However, it should be noted that the extra-linguistic features always find their realizations in linguistic features. While analyzing the extra-linguistic features of autobiography, the following statement should be taken into account.
Autobiography is a specific genre which includes such situational aspects as:
· An activity, that is, the specific social activity or activities in which the participants, in this case the writer and the reader of the autobiography are engaging; activities are, in turn, made up of sequence of actions.
· A material aspect, that is the place, time, bodies and objects, presented during interaction, which is the autobiographical text decoding process.
· A socio-cultural aspect, that is, the personal, social, and cultural knowledge, feelings, values, identities, and relationships relevant in the interaction, including, of course, socio-cultural knowledge about sign systems, activities, the material world, and politics, i.e. all the other aspects above.
All these extra-linguistic features together constitute an extra-linguistic system, within which extra-linguistic components or aspects simultaneously give meaning to linguistic features. (P. Verdonk 10)
Since the autobiography is a narrative about oneself, it naturally follows that the author is free to impart his/her emotions and feelings while writing the story of his/her life. It goes without saying that the reader takes an immediate part in sharing this kind of information with the writer, the intimacy between the reader and the writer reaches its highest point, especially in autobiographic genre.
In autobiographical narratives, the use of the linguistic features is preconditioned by extra-linguistic ones. The process of sharing information, for the purpose of giving the reader more detailed information about his/her life, can be influenced by various extra-linguistic features as well.
Attitude, being another factor necessary for the reader-writer interaction is an extra-linguistic feature but it should be noted that it has its realizations in linguistic features, which are mainly modal verbs; such as “should/would”. For example, - My early readiness in learning to read, and the opinion of all his friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar. (B. Franklin; 3).
Settings are those for example, the nationality of the writer, the country, the year and also the religion of the writer. Settings described in this way are also:
ü The place in which the events of a work of autobiography happen.
ü The time in which a work of autobiography takes place.
ü The social context in which the characters in a work of autobiography exist.
ü The time and place (sometimes the social environment) of a personal narrative.
So to sum up the above said, it is essential to note that the extra-linguistic features such as: time, place, author's experience, function with the help of linguistic features.
Here are some linguistic and extra-linguistic features analyzed in the autobiography by Benjamin Franklin.
Ø Imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week's uninterrupted leisure in my present country retirement (B. Franklin; p.1)
- As it was mentioned in previous chapters, one of the linguistic features is the use of the first point of view. In this example we can see the pronoun “my”, which proofs it. With the help of the first point of view, the reader feels close to the writer. In this case the pronoun “my” contributes to the intimacy between the reader and the writer.
Ø Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world, and having gone so far through life with a considerable share of felicity, the conducting means I made use of, which with the blessing of God so well succeeded, my posterity my like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own situations, and therefore fit to be imitated. (B. Franklin p. 1)
- In this sentence the author used the pronouns “I” and “my”, which, as it was mentioned in the previous example, is the linguistic feature, i.e. the use of the first point of view. In the first person point of view, the narrator does participate in the action of the story. When reading stories in the first person, we need to realize that what the narrator is recounting might not be the objective truth.
Ø That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes to say, that were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the advantages authors have in a second edition to correct some faults of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents and events of it for others more favorable (B. Franklin p. 1)
- In this sentence the author expresses his thoughts with the help of the modal verb “should”, which shows intention or uncertain future, that is to say the author does not certainly know what will really happen. Besides the author used the modal verb “might” for the purpose of imparting uncertain future intention.
Ø I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to be talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to others, who, though respect to age, might conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this may be read or not as any pleases. (B. Franklin p. 2)
- In this sentence we see the linguistic features, which are realized with the help of modal “shall” the meaning of which is to show obligation.
Ø From these notes I learned that family had lived in the same village, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, for three hundred years. (B. Franklin p. 2)
- As it was mentioned in the previous chapters, the extra-linguistic features include the settings, which are the birth place, or the country, being used in the book and which allows the reader to know about where the author is from. In this example we can see the proof by the words “Ecton”, “Northamptonshire”.
Ø They got an English Bible, and to conceal and secure it, it was fastened open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint-stool. (B. Franklin p. 3)
- The linguistic features of the autobiography were given as the use of the past tense forms, an example of which is the given sentence. With the help of past tense form, the reader gets the information exactly, that is to say, when the events happened. It is done in such a way so that the reader will be able to feel the sequence of the events.
Ø Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three children into New England, about 1682. (B. Franklin p. 3)
- In this sentence extra-linguistic features are used: one of which is the author's nationality, the place he lives in. these are all the settings, i. e. the information with the help of which the readers get to know the author's nationality, where he lived, and when. And all these are proved by the words “Josiah” (Jew), “New England”, and “1682”.
Ø My early readiness in learning to read , and the opinion of all his friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his
(B. Franklin p. 3)
- Extra-linguistic features of autobiography were given as the use of expressing hopes (subjective modality). With the help of the modal “should”, which is known shows possibility and obligation, the author mentioned that he perhaps would become a good scholar.
Ø I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination for the sea, but my father declared against it; however, living near the water, I was much in and about it, learnt early to swim well, and to manage boats. (B. Franklin p. 4)
- With the help of the extra-linguistic features, which here are shown as expressing personal thoughts, the author wanted to say that he didn't like trade, maybe others but not he. Besides with the use of the word “strong inclination”, the author also used the extra-linguistic features for showing feelings.
Ø From child, I was fond of reading, and all the little money that come into my hands was ever laid out in books. (B. Franklin p. 5)
- In this sentence the linguistic features of the first point of view are used, i.e. the “I” pronoun, as the first point of view, which allows the reader to feel very close to a specific character's point of view.
Ø I think you may like to know something of his person and character.
(B. Franklin p. 6)
- In this example the author used the extra-linguistic features of sharing information, which keeps the reader close to the book and the writer. i.e. the author expects the reader to be eager to know more than the writer's life story.
Ø I had made many a meal on bread, and, inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the baker's he directed me to, in Second street, and asked for sponge cake, intending such as we had in Boston; but they, it seems, were not made in Philadelphia. (B. Franklin p.11)
- In this sentence we can see both linguistic and extra-linguistic features, functioning in the autobiographical genre. The linguistic feature is accounted for by the use of the first point of view and also the use of the past perfect tense, which indicates that the actions took place in the past and is the experience of the author, whereas, the use of the location, i.e. “Boston” indicates an experience that the author had in that city, i.e. the place name is considered to be an extra-linguistic feature in the autobiographical genre.
Ø Thus I went up Market -street as far as Fourth-street, passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father; when she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance.
(B. Franklin p.12)
- The linguistic features of autobiography were given here as the use of the future in the past tense. With the help of this tense the author expressed the idea that would happen in the future. And it does not matter.
Ø I have been the more particular in this description of my journey, and shall be so of my first entry into that city, that you may in your mind compare such unlikely beginnings with the figure I have since made there. (B. Franklin p.12)
- In this sentence the linguistic features of modal verb are used “shall”, with the help of which the author expressed his intentions for the future. By this modal verb he expresses his thoughts, how the reader would act after reading that part of description of his journey.
Ø After dinner, my sleepiness returned, and being shown to the bed, I lay down without undressing and slept till six in the evening, was called to supper, went to bed again very early, and slept soundly till next morning. (B. Franklin p.13)
- The linguistic features of autobiographical genre were shown with the help of the past indefinite. In this example are used this tense, because the author did these actions in the past. By explaining what happened in the past, the author is able to express to the reader how the self evolved.
Ø I was not little surprised, and Keimer stared like a pig poisoned. (B. Franklin p.14)
- In this example the extra-linguistic features of showing the emotions are shown, because the author showed the reader his attitude or emotions toward that situation.
Ø Bradford had not been bred to it, and was very illiterate; and Keimer, though something of a scholar, were a mere compositor, knowing nothing of presswork.
(B. Franklin p.14)
- As it was seen from the previous examples one of the linguistic features of autobiographical genre is the use of past perfect tense, which pointed out the action that took place in the past.
Ø My unexpected appearance surprised the family; all were, however, very glad to see me, and made me welcome, except my brother. (B. Franklin p.15)
- This sentence has the extra-linguistic feature of showing the emotions, with the help of which the author shows his feeling, emotions.
Ø The journeymen were inquisitive where I had been, what sort of a country it was, and how I liked it. (B. Franklin p.15)
- The linguistic features were illustrated with the help of the past perfect tense. This example also shows an action, which took place in the past.
Ø And now it was that, being on some occasion made ashamed of my ignorance in figures, which I had twice failed in learning when at school, I took Cocker's book of Arithmetic, and went through the whole by myself great ease. (B. Franklin p.7)
- In this example the author used the extra-linguistic features for the purpose of showing the author's emotions, and it is proved by the help of the word “ashamed”.
Ø This habits, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engaged on promoting. (B. Franklin p.8)
- The extra-linguistic features of autobiography were given here as the use of the author's hopes and the example of which is the given sentence.
Ø I was excited to try my hand among them; but still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printing anything of mine in his paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it in at night under the door of the printing-house. (B. Franklin p.9)
- The extra-linguistic features were showed here with the use of showing the author's emotion. With the help of the word “excited” the author shows his emotion in a certain sentence or situation.
Ø In crossing the bay, we met with a squall that more tore our rotten sails to pieces, prevented our getting into the Kill and drove us upon Long Island.
(B. Franklin p.11)
- In this example the author used the extra-linguistic features of sharing the information, which keep the reader close to the book.
Ø I waited upon him accordingly, and should taken Collins with me but that he was not sober. (B. Franklin p.17)
- The linguistic features of autobiography were shown here with the help of the modal “should”, which shows the writer's attitude towards his message. In this sentence the author expresses his thoughts with the help of the modal verb “should”, which shows intention or uncertain future, that is to say the author does not certainly know what will really happen.
Ø The sloop putting in at Newport, Rhode Island, I visited my brother John, who had been married and settled there some years. (B. Franklin p.16)
- With the help of the past perfect tense, which is the linguistic feature, the author indicates the actions that took place in the past.
Ø I was surprised to find these were not the governor's letters; and, after recollecting and comparing circumstance, I began to doubt his sincerity. (B. Franklin p.22)
- This example illustrated the author's emotion, which is the extra-linguistic features, which shows the attitude of the author toward the certain action.
Ø But what shall we think of a governor's playing such pitiful tricks, and imposing so grossly on a poor ignorant boy! (B. Franklin p.22)
- In this sentence we have the linguistic features of modal verb. The modal “shall” indicates an intention or an action that is expected to happen in the future. This modal verb helps him took a step to the future and guess the happening.
Ø Lyons, too, introduced me to Dr. Pemberton, at Batson's Coffee-house, who promised to give me an opportunity, some time or other, to seeing Sir Isaac Newton, of which I was extremely desirous; but this never happened. (B. Franklin p.23)
- In this example we can see the linguistic features of the uncertain future in the past tense. This used to express an action in the past, which the author had planned to undertake in future.
Ø I had brought over a few curiosities, among which the principal was purse made of the asbestos, which purifies by fire. (B. Franklin p.23)
- In this sentence we can see the linguistic features, functioning in the autobiographical genre. The linguistic features indicated that the actions took place in the past perfect and are the experience of the author. The use of the tenses in autobiographical works is very important, since the reader can have an exact imagination of the events and the time of their occurrence.
autobiography linguistic franklin
This thesis paper, being dedicated to the examination of the linguistic and extra-linguistic features of autobiographical genre is summed up, with the following points: the word autobiography was first used deprecatingly by William Taylor in 1797 in the English periodical the Monthly Review, when he suggested the word as a hybrid but condemned it as 'pedantic'; but its next recorded use was in its present sense by Robert Southey in 1809. In this paper we have showed that autobiography is a form of introspection. Of a great importance was the fact that the text is not free from emotions. With the help of extra-linguistic means character's intentions are revealed: thoughts and emotions is another way that the narrator evaluates why events occurred as they did. By explaining what happened in the past, the author is able to express to the reader how the self evolved. This relating is then evaluated socially according to whether actions are appropriate or inappropriate or surprising or normal. Other interactions that the narrator establishes are relationships with other characters in the story.
Central to this paper was the point, that the term autobiography is quite generic in nature and several great personalities have written 'great books' as a collection of their personal experiences. Some people have also written their autobiography to serve some purpose, such as political propaganda or to narrate an account of some incident or event. The good thing about an autobiography is that we get to know about the writer's emotions and thoughts quite easily. The investigation shows that in autobiography a lot of linguistic and especially extra-linguistic features are used with the help of which the reader gets to know the author's emotions, personal opinion, author's nationality, and many other details used in the text. It should also be mentioned that the linguistic features refer to the surrounding features of the language inside the text, like sounds, words, phrases which are relevant to the interpretation of other such linguistic elements. The settings of the narrative, the process of sharing information, feelings, themes, situations, the attitude of the writer, his/her personal opinion are all described as extra-linguistic features used in autobiographical narrative.
According to the paper, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography is one of the best examples of the autobiographical genre. All above said was analyzed and proved in B. Franklin's autobiography, whose book is helping to set the standard of what an autobiography is, can, or should be, rather than subverting that standard.
1. Anderson, Linda R. “Autobiography: New Critical Idiom”. New York: Routledge, 2001.
2. Barros, Carolyn (1998). “Autobiography: Narrative of Transformation”. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
3. Berryman, Charles. "Critical Mirrors: Theories of Autobiography." (1999).
4. E. Stuart Bates, “Inside out: An Introduction to Autobiography” ( New York: Sheridan House, 1937)
5. James Paul Gee “Discourse Analysis; Theory and Method” Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London (1999).
6. Jean Quigley, “The Grammar of Autobiography: A Developmental Account”: Cambridge University Press 2001.
8. Oxford English Dictionary 1989 , Autobiography
9. Olney, James (1998). “Memory & Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing”.
10. Peter Verdonk “Stylstics”, Oxford University Press 2002.
11. Roger J Porter; Howard Robert Wolf-“The voice within”: reading and writing autobiography. (1973)
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