LINGUIST List 4.258

Thu 08 Apr 1993

Disc: Indirect Speech

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  1. JOHN LIMBER, Indirect Speech

Message 1: Indirect Speech

Date: Sun, 4 Apr 1993 12:44:02 -Indirect Speech
Subject: Indirect Speech

" Several questions arise: (a) Should we attribute the lack or
scarcity of indirectly reported speech in a language to grammar or
to something else? (b) Are there languages in which we can
establish that indirectly reported speech is impossible, so that a
speaker is obliged to attribute actual words to a speaker?"

One answer to this may be found in Julian Jayne's "The origin of consciousness
in the breakdown of the bicameral mind" in which indirect speech and the
corresponding subjectivity (opaque contexts, etc.) is seen as a reflection of
the newly invented subjectivity of consciousness. Newly invented that is, some
several thousand years ago. Here are some passages that happen to be in front
of me (second edition,1990 Houghton Mifflin).

"The Greek subjective conscious mind, quite apart from its pseudostructure of
soul, has been born out of song and poetry. From here it moves out into its
own history, into the narratizing introspections of a Socrates and the
spatialized classifications and analyses of an Aristotle, and from there into
Hebrew, Alexandrian, and Roman thought. And then into history of a world
which, because of it, will never be the same again.p.292...preceding
consciousness there was a different mentality based on verbal

NEedless to say, Jayne's ideas are controversial, making language play a
fundamental role in the acquisition and operation of human consciousness. One
implication is that it places the evolutionary changes in language many of us
take for granted as intrinsic to human language extremely--I used to think
unacceptably--recently in human history. This in turn has implications for
theories of language acquisition, etc. etc. It will be of interest to see what
LINGUIST viewers offer in reponse to b) above!
 John Limber, Psychology, University of New Hampshire
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