Reported speech

Elizabeth Holt
Table of contents

Typically the term ‘reported speech’ is used to refer to the presentation of discourse that purports to be from a prior occasion, and may originate from another author. It is often used as a synonym of ‘quotation’ or ‘citation’. The category includes, for example, the replaying of the words of another speaker, or the same speaker on a previous occasion, in spoken discourse. The term can also include less prototypical instances such as reports of hypothetical locutions (see Irvine, 1996; Mayes, 1990). Reports of discourse not covered by the term ‘speech’, for example, thought and writing, are closely related and sometimes subsumed by it. Thus, the portrayal of the words of characters in a novel, or the quotation of a comment made by a public figure in a newspaper, can be included within the category. Instances of reported speech are recurrently preceded or followed by a reporting clause such as ‘he said’, ‘I thought’, ‘she goes’, ‘he whispered’, ‘they were like’.

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