What makes a good story? Exemplification and explication of salient linguistic characteristics in a narrative preferred by the majority of a Danish population

Charlotte Petersen

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People do things with words, but words also touch people. Aiming to analyze socially preferable linguistic characteristics, the present study exemplifies and explicates the text-linguistically salient characteristics in a narrative most frequently evaluated as ‘appropriate’ by the majority of a Danish population. Asked what is appropriate or inappropriate in a narrative context, the background population repeatedly explained “coherence”, “fiction” and “details” as contextually appropriate (Appendix 1). Salient in the preferred narrative was the use of co-textual enhancement, in which one clause enhances the meaning of another one by qualifying it in various ways. In particular, meaning was enhanced by having cause and effect rationally explicated by subordinating specifications prompting coherence, cohesion, and details. Additionally, a considerable level of social realism was salient in this narrative, while the background population’s preference for fiction may allude to the socio-contextual recognizability that made the narrative easily imaginable as a possible world.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPragmatics and Society
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)24-44
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by The Danish Council for DFF – 4180-00149.


  • Coherence
  • Cohesion
  • First episode schizophrenia
  • Narratives
  • Social preference
  • Social stigma
  • Text linguistics

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