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This paper deals with narratives that report events of great personal concern to the narrator, especially the unexpected death of a near member of the family. It is common for the expression of such uncontrollable grief to involve silence, or the assertion that language is not adequate to convey what needs to be said. This retreat from linguistic engagement is a challenge to the general adequacy of human language as a means of communication. When we examine several such narratives in detail, we find reports of physical violence in place of linguistic expression. But we also find the development of elaborate syntax as a means of keeping emotional expression at a distance.