The Conversational Historical Present in Oral Spanish Narratives


This article contributes to the literature on the use of the present tense to refer to past events in oral narratives, otherwise known as the Conversational Historical Present (CHP) (). Previous research has found that the CHP switches with the past () frequently with verbs of saying and achievement verbs (; ). The present study provides new insights on the CHP in Spanish in conversational narratives and story-retell narratives. Specifically, the CHP was found to occur mostly with decir, verbs of motion (e.g., llegar) or other verbs of saying (e.g., preguntar) in both narratives. In the conversational narratives, when a storyteller responded to an interruption by an interlocutor of the story, the storyteller subsequently resumed the narrative with the preterit. When a storyteller did not acknowledge an interlocutor's interruption, the narrative typically continued in the CHP. The story-retell narratives were told almost exclusively in the CHP. The interaction between the storyteller and interlocutor may explain why the CHP and the preterit always switch in conversational narratives, but the CHP exclusively occurs in story-retell tasks where the speaker has an uninterrupted turn.