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LINGUIST List 24.1352

Wed Mar 20 2013

Review: Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Semantics; Typology: Buchstaller & van Alphen (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 02-Feb-2013
From: Philippe De Brabanter <phdebrabyahoo.co.uk>
Subject: Quotatives: Cross-linguistic and cross-disciplinary perspectives
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2691.html

EDITOR: Isabelle Buchstaller
EDITOR: Ingrid van Alphen
TITLE: Quotatives
SUBTITLE: Cross-linguistic and cross-disciplinary perspectives
SERIES TITLE: Converging Evidence in Language and Communication Research 15
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Philippe De Brabanter, Université Libre de Bruxelles


The book is divided into 4 parts, for a total of 10 chapters. It also includes
a “glossary of specialist terms for research in quotation”, an author index
and an index of terms.

The preface, by the two editors, offers a good review and a basic typology of
forms across many languages that have recently been identified as ‘new
quotatives’. It identifies a number of recurrent source constructions for
these quotatives: comparatives, demonstrative deictics, quantifiers, generic
verbs of motion and action. It then shows how extensively this classification
overlaps with others as found in the typological literature (e.g. Güldemann
2008). Finally, the editors state their intention of offering a
cross-disciplinary perspective, though one that takes in only studies based on
attested data. Interestingly, though the title of the volume emphasises the
FORMS that introduce quotations, the editors’ essential concern appears to be
with quotation itself, their hope being that the collection will “lead to a
more holistic perspective on quotation in all its aspects” (p. xxi).

Part I, DISCOURSE PERSPECTIVES, opens with A. Golato’s “Impersonal quotation
and hypothetical discourse”, a study of German everyday conversations framed
within the methodology of Conversation Analysis. Golato identifies three main
functions for the reporting of fictitious discourse, i.e. speech that has not
actually been uttered by anyone. It can be used, first, for ‘modelling’
purposes, i.e. to show “what one should or could have said in a given
situation” (p. 9), namely for offering advice to a participant reporting a
problematic situation; second, to provide support for a claim just made by the
speaker; third, to tell humorous stories, often co-constructed by several
participants in the conversation. It is noticeable that this opening paper has
little to say about quotatives as such, being entirely concerned with the
discourse functions of a particular type of speech reports. Rather remarkably,
many quotations in Golato’s corpus have no quotative marker at all.

The second paper, I.K. Hasund, T. Opsahl & J. Svennevig’s “By three means. The
pragmatic functions of three Norwegian quotatives”, is a spoken corpus-based
investigation of the quotative use of ‘bare’ (just), ‘liksom’ (like), ‘sånn’
(such/like (this/that)). As quotatives, they are assumed to fulfil three
functions: (i) discourse-organisational (indicating a shift to reported
speech), (ii) attitudinal, (iii) interpersonal. The authors show how the
quotative functions of the particles take root in their discourse uses
(themselves related to their nondiscourse functions), with ‘bare’ typically
indicating “heightened speaker involvement” (p. 46) at a key moment in a
narrative; ‘liksom’ either serving as an epistemic hedge or inviting the
hearer “to visualize or imagine the dramatized situation” (p. 53); and ‘sånn’
expressing “a high degree of epistemic commitment to the exact rendering of
the quote” (p. 56). The authors indicate that the most frequent quotative,
‘bare’, may have already been partly neutralised as a general-purpose
quotative marker (as may have happened with ‘be like’ in many varieties of
English, cf. S. Fox’s contribution). They also show how use of the quotatives
differs across generations, providing data demonstrating their ‘novel’ status.

Part II, TYPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES, comprises two papers. The first, S.
Spronck’s “Minds divided. Speaker attitudes in quotatives” is mainly devoted
to the issue of how different languages use quotative constructions to
simultaneously report a message and evaluate it. In a detailed and thoughtful
paper, the author presents a pilot study (on 21 typologically different
languages) of how quotatives should be investigated from a typological
perspective. Sentences containing quotatives are understood as quotative
constructions, potentially made up of the following lower-level constituents:
source construction, SAY construction, Link, and Reportative message. Each is
shown to be the potential locus for the expression of (various kinds of)
speaker attitudes.

The next chapter, T. Güldemann’s “Thetic speaker-instantiating quotative
indexes as a cross-linguistic type”, starts from a typology of quotatives
devised in previous work (Güldemann 2008), based on both syntactic
(non-clausal-monoclausal-biclausal) and semantic criteria (quote-orientation
vs. participant-orientation). Güldemann finds that one type, a non-clausal
speaker-oriented quotative index, based on an identificational or
presentational construction (± ‘this/here is SPEAKER’), is very frequent
across languages, yet has attracted very little attention. This finding
invalidates an assumption often made in the past that quotatives usually
originate in a construction that has ‘utterance semantics’. Güldemann provides
both historical and contemporary evidence of the pervasiveness of this
construction and identifies common semantic and formal features. As these
quotative indexes foreground the speaker, the speaker nominal does not
function as a topic; hence, the construction has ‘thetic’, rather than
‘categorical’ structure. The index normally introduces only direct discourse,
and seems to do this in cases which endow the quotation with pragmatic
salience and heightened expressivity.

Shin-ichiro Sano’s “On the characteristics of Japanese reported discourse. A
study with special reference to elliptic quotation”. The authors state that
proper understanding of ‘quotative predicate ellipsis’ (QPE) allows them to
solve two puzzles in Japanese grammar, (i) “why a quotative phrase may
co-occur with a nominal direct object under the same predicate”, and (ii) “why
a quotative phrase may occur under a predicate that is not a predicate of
communication or attitude” (p. 146). They distinguish between five types of
QPE, all of them involving ellipsis of a particular form of the verb ‘iu’
‘say’. Note that in all those cases, the quotative marker ‘to’ (or its
informal counterpart ‘tte’) is present after the (directly or indirectly)
quoted string. In passing, the authors also argue against the widespread
assumption that there exist intermediate forms of quotation in Japanese and
that, as a consequence, the distinction between direct and indirect discourse
cannot be clear-cut.

L. Vandelanotte’s “Quotative ‘go’ and ‘be like’. Grammar and
grammaticalization”, examines how ‘go’ and ‘be like’ came to be used in
quotative constructions. He rejects previous accounts for focusing on
individual lexemes and argues instead that the locus of change was
(incomplete) clauses like ‘X go’ or ‘X be like’. His ‘interclausal’ analysis
rests on additional assumptions: (i) that direct quotations are not direct
objects of reporting verbs; (ii) that quoting clauses are intransitive. The
author argues that the reporting clause is the syntactic head of the
construction, though it is conceptually dependent on the quotation.
Diachronically, the origin of the quotative is situated in imitative uses of
the ‘be like’ and ‘go’ clauses, later analogically extended to the reporting
of speech and thought. This process should not be explained in terms of
grammaticalisation but rather of ‘constructionalisation’. The author further
discusses how ‘be like’ and ‘go’ fit into a wider network of constructions,
and considers variants such as ‘be all like’ or ‘go kinda’.

The last paper in Part III is A. Herrmann & M. Steinbach’s “Quotation in sign
languages. A visible context shift”. In their German Sign Language corpus, the
authors identify four components of the ‘role shift’ that changes the context
for the interpretation of (most) indexicals. The first three, in increasing
order of frequency, are body lean, head position and eye gaze. Together, they
make role shift a nonmanual agreement operator, sharing important properties
with the way ‘argument’ verbs agree with their subject and object. In sign
languages, verb agreement is realised manually by indicating positions in
signing space which encode potential arguments. Role shift, in contrast, marks
agreement nonmanually; moreover, it does so not at the propositional level but
at the level of the roles ‘(reported) signer’ (marked by the sideward movement
part of body lean) and ‘(reported) addressee’ (marked by eye gaze, head
position, and the body orientation part of body lean). What of the most
frequent signal of quotation, a change in facial expression associated with
the reported signer? Since it is not linked to positions in signing space, the
authors prefer to leave it outside of role shift proper. It may be that the
crucial distinction is between the indexical nature of the three components of
role shift as opposed to the iconicity of facial expressions.

Part IV, LANGUAGE VARIATION AND CHANGE, contains two chapters. Sue Fox’s
“Performed narrative. The pragmatic function of ‘this is + speaker’ and other
quotatives in London adolescent speech” is a variationist and
discourse-analytic investigation of the use of quotatives, with special
emphasis on ‘be like’ and the brand new ‘this is + speaker’. In her corpus of
speech from adolescents and elderly speakers from a culturally and socially
diverse area of London, Fox finds that the latter use quotative ‘say’ twice as
often as the former. In contrast, ‘be like’ is absent from elderly speech,
whereas it is as frequent as ‘say’ in adolescent speech. A multivariate
analysis of the data for ‘be like’ reveals no strong associations with sex,
with grammatical person, with particular kinds of content (though quotations
of non-lexicalised sounds and gestures rank high), or with a particular tense
or aspect. At this stage, the innovative quotative ‘this is + speaker’ is
functionally much more specialised than ‘be like’, as it mainly serves to mark
a dramatic peak in a personal narrative. This specialisation is in keeping
with studies of the early uses of other quotatives in various languages. The
complementary path of development seems to be exemplified by ‘be like’, which,
as it has spread, has acquired a much broader range of functions.

The last chapter, “Dutch quotative ‘van’: Past and present”, by P.-A. Coppen &
A. Foolen, shows how the quotative use of ‘van’ evolved from prior uses of
this versatile preposition. Quotative ‘van’ is often seen as similar to
English ‘be like’ and German ‘zo’. However, ‘van’ is different at least
inasmuch as it can also introduce indirect speech reports. Moreover, the three
constructions in which ‘van’ introduces direct speech -- ‘van’ triggered by a
‘semantically rich’ verb or noun; triggered by a light verb (+ possibly the
adverb ‘zo’); ‘untriggered’ (though often combined with ‘zo’) -- are also
found to introduce indirect discourse. Another noteworthy point is the fact
that traces of quotative ‘van’ are found as early as the 17th century: some
‘innovative’ quotatives may not be so new after all. What is a fact, however,
is that their frequency of occurrence did increase significantly in the last
few decades of the 20th century. But here again, there’s something special
about ‘van’: it is frequent not just in the language of the youth but also in
that of speakers of other generations.


This volume achieves its purpose of providing both a cross-linguistic and a
cross-disciplinary perspective on quotatives/quotation. First, the reader
connects with the diversity of quotatives across languages, while being shown
that quotatives originate in a limited range of markers or constructions. More
strikingly perhaps -- and this is what makes this collection different from
e.g. Güldemann & von Roncador (2002) -- the reader is confronted with a broad
range of approaches to quotatives (and quotation), reflecting distinct
research goals, and can experience first-hand why quotatives are of interest
to typologists, cognitive and functional linguists, conversation analysts,
formal syntacticians, and sociolinguists.

In spite of the broad coverage of the book, two aspects are conspicuous by
their absence. First, no link is established between (direct) speech reports
and ‘metalinguistic citation’, as in “‘Brussels’ rhymes with ‘muscles’”.
Second, and this is probably related, there is hardly any mention of the
literature on quotation in the philosophy of language and in formal semantics.
In a sense, this is not surprising, as the latter literature is seldom
empirically oriented at all (among recent exceptions, let me mention Maier
2012), and itself pays little attention to the various brands of research on
display in the present collection.

This not quite unusual situation, in the language sciences, of mutual
ignorance is detrimental to progress in the study of quotation. I will give
two illustrations: formal semanticists and philosophers, especially the
latter, have been at pains to devise a typology of quotation for more than a
decade (certainly since Cappelen & Lepore 1997 and Recanati 2001), and they
have convincingly shown that categories like ‘mixed quotation’ or ‘open
quotation’ need to be recognised as distinct from (and maybe intermediate
between) direct speech and indirect speech. It is striking that these
categories are alluded to by very few of the contributors to this volume.
Vandelanotte mentions one example, and Oshima & Sano reject the analysis that
Japanese has a form of speech report intermediate between direct and indirect
discourse. When Golato (p. 20) writes that “gestures and bodily postures
associated with the talk tend not to appear in indirect discourse”, there is a
possible suspicion that this conclusion may result from neglect of hybrid

On the other hand, though ‘hybrid’ forms of quotation have received quite some
attention in the philosophy of language and formal semantics (e.g. De
Brabanter 2005, 2010), scholars have generally limited themselves to a
two-term opposition between mixed and scare quoting, failing to recognise the
sheer variety of possibilities that in fact exist (cf. Evans 2013). The
studies in the present collection provide further evidence of the diversity of
quotation, and of the many forms that can introduce them, and should be taken
seriously by any theorist attempting a classification of quotation types.

When reading a collection of articles, one may find reasons to disagree with
(at least) details in most of the contributions, and this is not the place for
a complete overview of questions or objections. I will limit myself to a few
comments on a paper that I regard as a strong one in the volume, because they
again illustrate why even more integration of distinct fields of research may
prove useful. Vandelanotte makes a good case in favour of an interclausal
analysis of quotative constructions involving direct speech. However, it is
not clear that he is right to provide the same account for reporting clauses
(i) in initial position and (ii) in medial or final position. Using a
classification that cuts across the ‘Direct/Indirect’ opposition, Recanati
(2001) classifies the first cases as ‘closed’ quotations (filling a syntactic
slot in the matrix clause) and the others as ‘open’ (where the quotation is
syntactically independent). It would be too long to substantiate that
distinction, but consider the following data, suggesting the reasonableness of
differentiated treatment: “She said ‘I don’t know’, didn’t she?” vs. *“‘I
don’t know’, she said, didn’t she?”. There is also the fact that “She said
this” is nothing unusual, whereas “This she said” is unusual (at least, it is
much more marked than “‘I don’t know’, she said”). Consider, too, the
difference in acceptability between “She said ‘I don’t know’” and “‘I don’t
know’, she said”, as answers to “What did she say?”.

Let me close with a brief word on the readership: none of the papers in the
collection is very technical in content and format. Taken individually, (at
least some of) the papers are already accessible to undergraduate students in
linguistics. However, given the many traditions and methodologies brought
together here, only a seasoned linguist -- graduate level at least -- will be
able to derive a major benefit from the collection as a whole. Even there, it
will take some open-mindedness and curiosity to go off the beaten track and
take in all the papers. But that, after all, is certainly not an illegitimate
demand to make. And there is no doubt that reading this volume will then prove
a very rewarding experience.


Cappelen, Herman, and Ernie Lepore. 1997. Varieties of Quotation. Mind

De Brabanter, Philippe (ed.). 2005. Hybrid Quotations. Amsterdam: John
Benjamins. (Belgian Journal of Linguistics 17.)

De Brabanter, Philippe. 2010. The semantics and pragmatics of hybrid
quotations. Language and Linguistics Compass 4-2.107-120.

Evans, Nicholas. 2013. Some problems in the typology of quotation: a canonical
approach. In D. Brown, M. Chumakina & G. G. Corbett (eds.), Canonical
Morphology and Syntax. Oxford: O.U.P, 66-98.

Güldemann, Tom. 2008. Quotative indexes in African languages: a synchronic and
diachronic survey. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. (Empirical Approaches to
Language Typology 34.)

Güldemann, Tom, and Manfred von Roncador (eds.). 2002. Reported discourse: a
meeting ground for different linguistic domains. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
(Typological Studies in Language 52.)

Maier, Emar. 2012. Switches between direct and indirect speech in Ancient
Greek. Journal of Greek Linguistics 12.118-139.

Recanati, François. 2001. Open quotation. Mind 110.637-87.


Philippe De Brabanter teaches English linguistics at the Université Libre de
Bruxelles. He is an associate member of Institut Jean Nicod (Paris), where he
was a postdoctoral fellow. He wrote his PhD on the semantics and pragmatics of
everyday metalanguage (2002). He has published on quotation (e.g. “Hybrid
Quotations”, Belgian Journal of Linguistics, 17, 2005 (ed.)), on
metalinguistic anaphora and gestures mixed with words. His current research
interests are quotation theory, the depictive use of language, various issues
at the interface between semantics and pragmatics, and colour adjectives and
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