Stories and the transmission of knowledge: Narrative, evidence, credibility and epistemic vigilance

  • Neal R. NorrickEmail author
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 18)


This contribution considers how stories transmit knowledge amidst displays of credibility and evaluation with the help of engaged listeners in everyday talk. Looking at real conversational data, we see tellers are often at pains to establish their first-hand knowledge or at least the trustworthiness of their second-hand knowledge. Surprisingly, at the same time, storytellers fairly frequently register doubts regarding their own memories and descriptions. The biggest oversight in philosophical approaches to speech acts, including storytelling, is the role of the listener. Especially in storytelling the audience/listener plays a key role, first, because the teller must obtain the floor for an extended turn while the other participants become listeners; second, because the narrative is designed for the particular audience; and third, because listeners actively contribute: completing utterances; contributing words and phrases incorporated by teller; questioning, rejecting descriptions; engaging in sub-sequences, questioning the teller regarding references and assumptions, often with truth-functional significance for the story in progress. In this chapter, I will show how conversational narratives depart from simple assertions and testimony, regarding teller strategies and goals as well as the substantial role of the audience, and go on to outline research desiderata.


Narrative Evidence Credibility Epistemic Vigilance Context Pragmeme 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saarland UniversitySaarbrueckenGermany

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