A Sentence as a Story: Patterns and scales of language

Every sentence is a story. That is, the organizing principles of a sentence are very similar to those of a story. Although it isn’t clear which came first, the shared abstract structures of grammar and narrative suggest an underlying pattern that informs the organization of language (and perhaps cognition as well) at multiple scales.

The abstract narrative structure is projected to create the abstract grammatical structure. The abstract narrative structure includes an agent, an action, an object, and a direction. The abstract grammatical structure includes a noun phrase followed by a verb phrase followed by a noun phrase followed by a prepositional phrase… The first abstract structure is conceptual and narrative. The second abstract structure is grammatical. If we think of these two structures as residing in two spaces, then there is a generic space that contains just the structure they share. This generic space is more abstract than either of them; its structure is not specifically conceptual or grammatical; it includes only elements, distinction of elements, some relations between elements, and so on… Abstract stories are projected to create abstract grammatical structures.

— Mark Turner

The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language | Mark Turner