Trauma-Narrative Analysis at the Level of Modality

  • Maria Grazia Guido


This chapter explores the linguacultural deviations between Western clinical reports on war/torture-related trauma and non-Western migrants’ native trauma narratives at the level of epistemic and deontic modality. It argues that, on the one hand, in the analysed scientific articles on transcultural psychiatry, there is a recurrent use of epistemic modal verbs and ‘hedging’, which diminish the expert writers’ commitment to the truth value of their interpretations of non-Western trauma narratives. On the other hand, non-Western (West African) migrants’ original trauma narratives are marked, instead, by a frequent use of deontic modality, signalling an obligation, felt by the traumatized migrants, to perform repair actions of political or even supernatural kinds involving their own community as the only solution for them to start the recovery process. The chapter also shows evidence, from the ethnographic data of migrants’ ELF reports, of three recurrent non-Western trauma-narrative structures—here defined as trauma narratives of ‘hope’, ‘frustration’, and ‘despair’—accounting for a possible/unreal/impossible-worlds gradient corresponding to the three conditional propositions in Modal Semantics.


Epistemic and deontic modality in Western and non-Western trauma reports Possible-Worlds Semantics in Modal Logic Non-Western migrants’ trauma narratives of ‘hope’, ‘frustration’, and ‘despair’ 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Grazia Guido
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SalentoLecceItaly

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