The Sample : Stories, Storytellers, Setting

The corpus consists of 87 stories, from a range of story types, told by 18 different storytellers. All recordings are owned by one of France's best-known centres for oral narrative, the Conservatoire contemporain de Littérature Orale (or CLIO), Quartier Rochambeau, 41100 Vendôme, and used with kind permission from its Artistic Director, Bruno de La Salle. There are just under 1000 minutes of speech and the stories vary in length from 2 minutes to over 48 minutes, with an average of around 11 minutes.

The stories included in the corpus were chosen according to a number of criteria. The primary goal was that the recordings would represent storytelling in an authentic range of naturally-occurring contexts. The idea was to obtain a variety of types of story (contes merveilleux/marvellous tales, contes facétieux/jokes or anecdotes, contes d’animaux/animal stories etc.) from a range of storytellers who draw on a multiplicity of sources. All recordings represent 'spontaneous' storytelling to an audience; stories in verse form were eliminated as they usually involve verbatim memorisation. In an accompanying questionnaire, participating storytellers confirmed that while they might memorise a storyline and particular formulae, they do not memorise sections of text. All the storytellers are 'new storytellers', in that they are highly literate, educated speakers who have acquired their stories primarily from written sources rather than in oral form as part of an inter-generational or community-based oral tradition. All storytellers have French as their first language (usually their only language but any other known languages are given in the particDesc section of the Header for each file) and come from different regions of France. All are adults, ranging in age from 30+ to 70+, including both male and female storytellers. Full sociolinguistic information relating to the storytellers was requested and is given in the particDesc section of each Header (gender, age bracket [45- or 45+], regional origins and residences, professional and educational background). All recordings were made in a natural context of live storytelling, some in a more intimate format (i.e. Perce Oreille, where the audience numbers would be under 50) and some with a larger audience (e.g. Rencontres d'Eté or Rencontres d'Hiver, where there could be several hundred in the audience), in order to be able to compare the two contexts. Information relating to the venue is also noted in the particDesc section of each Header. Information on the broad story type (e.g. Marvellous Tale, Animal Tale, Greek Legend) and the Aarne-Thompson typological classification, in cases where it was possible to identify it, was supplied by the CLIO courtesy of Camille Coursault and is given in the textClass section of each Header.

Although all the metadata relating to stories, storytellers and setting is recorded in the Header and can be used by researchers to inform their analysis in important respects, there was no attempt to stratify the corpus according to any of the above criteria; in other words, this is a 'specialist corpus' rather than a stratified one (where equal numbers of speakers from different age groups, gender, region etc. are selected). Indeed, in some areas, the corpus reflects certain real imbalances, e.g. there are more older storytellers than younger ones and there are more females than males. In some instances, there are two different recordings of the same story; these were included in order to compare the linguistic features of the two versions.

Aarne-Thompson typological classification

Camille Coursault of the CLIO provided the Aarne-Thompson classification where it is relevant and where it was possible to establish it; this is given under textClass in the Header. She used the bibliographical sources listed under Story type and Classification supplemented by information from storytellers and specialists if required. In many cases, it was possible to establish the Aarne-Thompson group, sub-group and specific type (with T number). In some cases, it was possible to establish the group (e.g. Realistic Tale), and even the sub-group (e.g. Tale of Fate) but not a specific type. Elsewhere, important information about the source was tracable, but there is no obvious Aarne-Thompson class. This is the case, for example, with some stories in well-known collections such as The 1001 Nights, or The Fenian Cycle, or in Legends associated with particular regions or countries. In such cases, any significant information on the origins of the story is provided.


All stories were recorded by CLIO staff and are held in the CLIO archives. The performance venue is noted in the particDesc section of the Header. In general, Perce Oreille indicates a small intimate setting (usually within the CLIO), whereas Rencontres d'Eté or Rencontres d'Hiver indicate larger venues around the town of Vendôme, such as one of the Churches, or Cloisters. Exceptionally, the recording takes place elsewhere: details are noted in the Header where relevant.