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The Story Of Computational Narratology




International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore


International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore


In recent times, computational modeling of narratives has gained enormous interest in fields like Natural Language Understanding (NLU), Natural Language Generation (NLG), and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). There is a growing body of literature addressing understanding of narrative structure and generation of narratives. Narrative generation is known to be a far more complex problem than narrative understanding [20].

Narratives are characteristic of human semantic communication. A narrative represents a coherent perspective about a semantic universe, like a story or a current event. The human mind is known to be much more amenable for processing narratives, rather than disjoint facts and figures [10]. Across cultures of the world, and throughout history, it is common to see narratives as the basic tool for social communication, driving the formation of collective worldviews and social cognition.

A narrative comprises of a basic structure represented by a sequence of events, and a story-line or exposition that emerges out of such sequencing [9], [16]. Formally, the sequence of events that forms the basic structure is called the fabula, and the exposition that emerges from it, is called the syuzhet. A narrative is also made up of key actors that play a role in the events. The syuzhet creates a specific story-line, by representing the evolution of attributes of actors, and relationships among the actors across the fabula.

It is important to note the difference between the “story-line” or the exposition of a narrative, and the underlying story itself. A story represents the set of all events that have happened and all the actors and all the relationships between them. The story-line of narrative on the other hand, is a specific perspective on the story. A story can be conveyed with more than one narrative, representing different perspectives. Similarly, two different stories may be narrated using very similar story-lines, showing similarity in their underlying trope or semantic structure.

Table 1 shows narrations of two popular Aesop’s fables, that brings out a common underlying trope – that of gaining something by means of deceit, which forms the underlying semantic structure of both stories.

Table 1. Two story-lines depicting a common underlying trope of gaining by means of deceit.

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