“It Seemed to Me It Might Be True”

Formal and Functional Variation of “Seem”-patterns in Munro’s Stories


  • Sabrina Francesconi University of Trento




seem, formal and functional variation, evidential and epistemic values, grammar of point of view, Alice Munro’s early stories


This work explores formal and functional variation of the seem-verb in Alice Munro’s early stories Dance of the Happy Shades (1968) and Lives of Girls and Women (1971), predominantly first-person narratives marked by profound subjectivity. Through a manual selection of items and a quantitative and qualitative analysis, the article seeks to provide linguistic evidence for and discuss the role of seem in what Howells calls (1998, 85) Munro’s “art of indeterminacy,” that is, a style pervaded by vagueness and elusiveness. The semantics of the seem-verb class (evidentiality, modality, subjectivity, intersubjectivity) is addressed through the multiple forms it presents: seem + AdjP/NP, seem + to infinitive VP, seem that, seem like, seem as if, and parenthetical seem. Results show that the verb floats among attributive, cognitive and perceptual functions, as well as between evidential and epistemic values (e.g., Aijmer 2009; Biber et al. 1999; Johansson 2001; Johnson 2010; Usoniene and Šinkūnienė 2013). As such, it questions categories of factuality, clarity, and stability. Shaping “a grammar of point of view” (Neary 2014; Simpson 1993), seem encodes first-person accounts based on uncertain and unstable focalisers and narrators and reveals point of view as blurred.


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Articles (general section) - English language and linguistics