Quote – unquote? the role of prosody in the contextualization of reported speech sequences

Gabriele Klewitz and Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen

Abstract

This paper investigates how speakers of English can use the prosodic design of utterances to identity parts of these utterances as instances of reported speech. We will show that prosodic changes can function like quotation marks in written texts by clearly delimiting left and right hand boundaries of the reported sequence. In the majority of cases, however, prosodic changes do not coincide with the boundaries of reported speech but occur nearby, functioning like a 'frame' for the interpretation of a sequence as reported or even only as a 'flag' attracting attention and inviting the listener to actively (re-)construct the corresponding boundaries. Our data analysis also provides evidence for the use of prosodic designs to typify a figure in different roles, which - due to their unique 'prosodic design' can be presented without any verbalized projection of upcoming reported speech, once they have been introduced. This is due to the 'referent-tracking' nature of some prosodic designs of reported utterances.

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