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Review of  Reanimated Voices


Reviewer: Mounir Triki
Book Title: Reanimated Voices
Book Author: Daniel Collins
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Pragmatics
Book Announcement: 13.4

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Review of Collins, Daniel E. (2001) Reanimated Voices: Speech Reporting
in a Historical-Pragmatic Perspective. John Benjamins Publishing
Company, hardback ISBN: 1- 58811-023-0, xxii+347pp, $114.00,
Pragmatics and Beyond NS 85.

Reviewed by Mounir Triki, English Department, Faculty
of Letters and Humanities, Sfax, Tunisia.

This review was triggered partly by its posting on the
Linguist List on the list of books available for
review and partly by an announcement of Tue, 09 Oct
2001 by Jessica Balaschak
<promotion@benjamins.com> of John Benjamins Publishing
classifying the book under their publications in
Functional Linguistics and cogently summarizing its
contents as follows:
'Reanimated Voices addresses three activities:
reporters evoking speech events; interpreters (re)constituting those
speech events; and historical pragmaticians eavesdropping in time on the
reporters and interpreters. Can one reconstruct aspects of
pragmatic competence on the basis of written texts only? Reanimated Voices
answers this in the affirmative. It offers a methodology for
historical-pragmatic reconstruction to explain the synchronic patterns of
variation in premodern writings. Reanimated Voices examines the
distribution of reporting strategies in a corpus of
medieval Russian texts. Forms preferred in specific
recurring contexts are matched with the need(s) served
by those contexts - a fit reflecting collective intentionality.
Occasional "residual forms" -strategies that appear in
contexts where others predominate- also reflect cooperative behavior;
they index utterances departing from the prototype or unusual
configurations of participants. Thus Reanimated Voices explores
reporting as an activity of rational agents coordinating interpretation in
accordance with cultural and institutional notions of relevance.
The book contains a preface, nine chapters, followed
by detailed notes, a comprehensive bibliography,
useful indexes and a list of other publications in the
same series. First, the title uses an intensive
medical care metaphor 'reanimated' that is evocative
of the presence of death. The past participial form
'ed' suggests that this process of bringing back into
life has successfully been undertaken. With only
written texts as a guide, Collins asks in his
conclusion, can one really reconstruct aspects of
pragmatic competence and so reanimate, as it were, the
silenced voices of pre-modern writers? (p.285) The
optimistic wording of the title, together with the
framework heralded by the subtitle Speech-reporting
in a historical pragmatic perspective, suggest that
whole project is feasible. The central theoretical
framework, the research objectives and methodology are
outlined in the preface and the first chapter.
Chapters Two to Eight are devoted to data analysis.
The conclusion recapitulates the major claims and
findings.
Operating within a conception of Style as choice,
Collins rightly ascribes the multiplicity of
alternatives to express the same propositional content
to the pragmatic concept of intention. The author sets
out to recover the factors that motivated the choice
of some reporting strategies at the expense of other
equally possible forms. By downplaying, without
totally denying, the importance of syntactic
considerations, the author unequivocally subscribes to
a pragmatic perspective. This is done crucially
through the process of matching forms to functions
(but see the Proteous Principle below). A number of
safeguards account for the feasibility of this
enterprise, namely the recurrent institutional rather
than personal nature of intentions, their
context-sensitivity and non-arbitrariness, and their
catering for the needs of the intended audience.
Prototypical forms, as well as the residue of
significant deviations from them, are all purposive.
Chapter One is a real treaties on the Pragmatics of
Reporting. Justifying the selection of the Reported
Speech as a field of investigation, the author invokes
its universality and its metapragmatic function as it
epitomises the functioning of language in particular
contexts as seen from particular points of view. RS is
anchored in the two pragmatic factors of intention (a
term carefully defined so as to account for even
subconscious orientations) and perception. Reports are
constructs; i.e. they are mediated by mental
representations both at the production and reception
poles and only obliquely relate to the represented
speech event. They are inherently mediated by and
subordinated to the will and illocutionary goals of
the enframing discourse producer. This mediation
informs both the form and content of what is to be
reported. This approach to reporting is what he calls,
following Geertz (1973), a 'thick description' of
reporting.
Collins then enumerates the series of choices that are
likely to be made by the reporter (not an exhaustive
list, by any means, but a very useful one). These
include: subjective heteroglossia (foregrounding the
act of reporting) as opposed to objective
heteroglossia (unacknowledged reporting), choice of
the reporting strategy, paradigmatic and syntagmatic
selection and positioning of the tag, and the choice
of the reporting mode. Formal differences iconically
stand for functional ones, each having a distinct
perspective on the scene of linguistic action (for a
detailed discussion of these choices, c.f. the
Underlying Mechanism of Speech and Thought
Presentation in Triki, 1989, 1991, 1998a, 1998b, 2000,
2001, forthcominga, forthcoming b; Triki and Bahloul
2001).
Operating within a pragmatic framework, Collins
felicitously levels many counter-arguments at what he
calls 'nonpragmatic reductionist approaches' to
Reported Speech. In his view, the discussion of formal
distinctions should be only a preliminary to
explaining the functional differences among
strategies. RS is a category of discourse analysis
rather than syntax (requiring reference to the larger
discourse). The varieties of RS present a continuum
with indeterminate boundaries between the individual
types and with many instances of deliberate slippage
from one form to another, a phenomenon quite common
universally. In the same vein, Triki and Bahloul
(2001) statistically demonstrate that the frequency of
authentic occurrences not observing the SOT rules in a
representative corpus of American newspapers and
magazines is significantly higher than that of the
occurrences observing those rules. They therefore
argue that the phenomenon of reporting is much more
complex than could be explained by pure structural
rules. There must be other important discursive and
pragmatic factors at work. Reporting is construed as
an act of mediation involving a confrontation of two
selves, namely the reporting self and the reported
self. The speaker's perception of the reported
person's deictic anchorage as viewed against his/hers
and of the reported person's modal investment as
against his/hers will be taken to be among the most
important considerations. This selection necessarily
reveals the reporter's value judgements and his/her
rhetorical strategies. No reporting is innocent or
value-free. 'Objective' reporting is simply an
impression consciously given out by speakers as part
of their self image building rhetorical strategy.
Reporting is a discourse act in its own right seeking
to influence targeted addressees one way or another.
By means of reporting and smuggling evaluation, the
speaker hopes to achieve certain social ends that
could be reconstructed from the very act of reporting.
Thus, the reporter's discursive strategy is an
over-riding factor which accounts for all sorts of
apparent 'abnormalities' in reporting.
Animated by a deep rooted quest for methodological
rigour, the author devotes large sections of his book
to outlining a method for historical-pragmatic
analysis. This would consist in working on a
reasonably large and representative corpus (though
reasonableness is too difficult to define), matching
strategies to functions, and a capacity for empathetic
reading by paying due attention to the contextual
aspects of historical texts and the reading
conventions of the text-kind that furnishes the
corpus. The analyst's task would then lie in
determining which kinds of represented speech events
or situations predominate in each section (the
prototype), how this prototype is typically
represented (the preferred reporting strategy), and
accounting for problematic cases of deviations from
these norms. However, the writer is quick to warn that
conventionality does not preclude purposiveness and
intentionality.

Chapter Two attempts to delineate the distinctive
features of what the author calls 'the text-kind' of
trial transcripts of a given period well defined both
synchronically and diachronically. The major divisions
outlined in this chapter, namely the incipit, the
trial record, the judicial referral record and the
verdict provide the basis for more detailed discussion
in the other chapters. While rightly emphasizing the
largely oral basis of this type of document, the
author has not devoted enough attention to fine-tuning
the definition of the concept of 'text kind',
especially when compared to the competing concepts of
'genre' and 'text-type'.
The analysis proper of the data starts with Chapter
Three which deals with the standard reporting
strategies adopted in testimonies. Yet, this chapter
is so rich with interesting narratorial insights,
namely his masterful discussion of the various
discourse functions of Direct Speech, that it is no
longer clear whether the author uses the literary
pragmatic toolkit primarily to read his data or uses
his data essentially as evidence for his
narratological insights. What is most commendable in
the author's treatment of these discourse functions is
the Relevance Theoretic framework that it adopts,
though not admittedly so. Fundamental socio-pragmatic
concepts are invoked, such as Goffman's (1981) notion
of 'footing', Green's (1989) concept of
'intentionality' and 'purposiveness', Rimmon-Kenan's
(1983) discussion of '(in)felicity', Fludernik's
(1993) concept of 'typicality' and Grice's (1975)
maxims. This wealth of theory hinges round the concept
of Relevance. This is most apparent when the author
takes to task the proponents of the verbatimness or
mimesis claim. At least ten counterarguments are put
forward. The criterion that is at work is not
faithfulness to some initial/antecedent discourse but
the relevance attributed by the reporter to the cited
details of this initial discourse, if it does exist at
all (indeed, it need not exist). A number of problems
emerge in defining what counts as the same.
Similarity, Collins argues, is both ideologically and
culturally defined ('preliterate and mixed-orality
cultures have different understanding of what
constitutes sameness' p. 55). It is also
genre-specific, that is governed by the institutional
norms of functionality. Trial transcripts naturally
undergo a great deal of editing that eliminates and
filters out irrelevant aspects of initial discourses
to be reported. However, what Collins does not spell
out critically enough here is the suspicion, well
documented in Critical Discourse Analytic accounts of
the language of the media (Jones and Jones 1999;
Parenti 1993) for instance, that this filtering is not
solely determined by the urge for adequation to type
but is also a function of the ideological drives of
the reporter.
Two major arguments give credit to Collins' account.
First, his acknowledgement of the superior intention
of the reporter as an over-riding factor responsible
for deciding what and how much information to select
and the narratorial mode of reporting it. This point
was systematically argued by (Triki, 1989, 1991,
1998a, 1998b, 2000, 2001, forthcominga, forthcoming b;
Triki and Bahloul 2001) to the effect that the various
levels of embedding entail a functional hierarchy of
centres in the genesis of the narrative. A power
relationship exists between them. They are to be seen
in terms of superiority versus inferiority, control
versus subservience. This in turn entails a whole
spectrum of degrees of interference exercised by the
superior (super-ordinate) centre on the liberty of
expression of the subordinate centre leading thus to
tension.
The second point is his right emphasis on the
theatrical and game-like nature of the whole process
of reporting. According to this view, all reporting
techniques are make-belief strategies going through
the motion of giving calculated impressions of
deference to the interpreter or interference by the
reporter. All strategies, whether they are
speaker-based or hearer-based, are calculated moves
that are part and parcel of what Caffi and Janney
(1994) call emotive or strategic involvement. Triki
(forthcomingc) presents a generalisation of this
argument into a hypothesis about all human interaction
that he labels the 'Tricky Hypothesis' to the effect
that language use is a form of social acting. The pun
on the term 'social acting' capitalises on its three
most important meanings. First, acting is theatrically
defined as the art of creating and giving impressions.
Second, acting could be construed in the sense of
conforming to canonised social or discursive norms
where speakers and hearers are called upon to
participate in a coded game which has its rituals.
Finally, acting is defined in terms of acting on
people, that is, affecting their lives and beliefs. In
terms of the Tricky Hypothesis, each meaning of acting
borrows the tools of the other meanings of the word.
Acting on people (sense 3) involves going through
certain motions (sense 1) according to pre-established
rituals (sense 2).
If Chapter Three has dealt with the standard
strategies of reporting, it stands to reason that
their residual forms should be discussed in Chapter
Four. Collins bases his argument on the felicitous
assumption that opting for nonstandard strategies is
iconic of pragmatic difference. In other words,
deviations from the prototypical forms are
pragmatically motivated and not random. For instance,
the use of participial clauses in his data is
attributed to backgrounding as well as other pragmatic
reasons. On the other hand, Free Direct Speech
functions primarily as a cohesion strategy. As for the
category of Fused Reported Speech, it has 'a
streamlining effect which makes it suitable for
conveying presupposed or otherwise backgrounded
reports' (p. 122) creating thus a glossing-over effect
that speeds up the tempo of the narrative. The
underlying mechanisms for Narrative Reports of Speech
Acts and Free Indirect Speech are brilliantly
discussed and found to be respectively speaker-based
and hearer-based. The evidence provided by Collins'
data shows that FIS was functionally used in
non-literary contexts well before the rise of the
modern novel. (cf Triki 2001, for a similar discussion
of the underlying mechanism accounting for the
distinctive features of Free Direct Discourse, Free
Indirect Discourse, Narratorial Description/Report,
and the Stream of Consciousness Technique).
Above all, this chapter has brought three
pragmatically interesting insights: First, Haiman's
(1983) causal link between linguistic separateness and
the conceptual independence of the object or event
which it represents. Second, his adoption of
Sternberg's (1982) Proteous Principle when accounting
for the apparent paradox of blatant mismatches between
form and function, rightly highlights the crucial
importance of context. Third, word frequency is
brilliantly linked to the pace and economy of
narrative passages. All these points could have found
ample theoretical anchorage in French Enunciative
Linguistics (Rotget and LaPaire and the Guillaumian
tradition reviewed in Triki 1989 and Triki
forthcomingb).

Chapter Five tackles the question framework. True to
his line of thought, Collins links the judges'
statements to the limitations imposed by their social
role as moderators and by the conventions of the
text-kind. Unfortunately, apart from the occasional
reference to the 'framing function' of the judges'
discourse and other equally interesting points, this
chapter does not live up to the high expectations set
by the previous chapters (it is as limited in its
scope as Chapter Two). It would have been well
enriched if it had given some account of the pragmatic
literature on turn-taking (Mey 2000).

The same remark holds for Chapter Six which deals with
the reporting strategies from judicial-referral
hearings. The author was quick to provide the
historical background whereby, in a further step in
the legal process, trial judges referred the suits to
judges of higher instance. The typical discourse
structure of judicial-referral records is presented
and four of its categories are enumerated, namely,
verification, dialogue, testimony, and preliminary
reports made by the trial judges. What goes to
Collins' credit is his right insistence on the
inextricable link between the choice of reporting
strategies (which he calls context-based preferences)
and 'the participants' divers roles and changing
alignment in the speech event', p.180). The study of
his data has led the author to the conclusion that
"there was a certain tension between the need to
condense background information, which is
characteristic of trial transcripts as a text-kind,
and the need to expound new information at a level of
detail commensurate with its potential importance for
the verdict" (p.201). The diachronic insight detecting
a shift in his data from direct to indirect styles
(p.191) is another welcome contribution of Collins'.
(cf Triki 2000 for comparable cases of tension where
summarising one's or other people's ideas is construed
as a motivated act of interpretation pragmatically
serving the rhetorical purposes of the summariser
engaged in his/her own discourse within which the
summary is embedded).
This discussion is further fine-tuned in the analysis
of layered reports in Chapter Seven. Whilst
acknowledging the institutionalized restrictions
imposed by the text-kind where the need for clarity
militates against layering of reports, especially
since this layering tends to occur "in evaluative
contexts with the represented reporters controlling
the interpretation" (p.211), the author cogently
emphasizes the contextual diversity enveloping
additional layers of speech. He lists "several reasons
why presupposition and backgrounding favor strategies
such as subordination and indirectness" (p.227),
including the notions of grounding, cohesion, the
complexity of deictic configurations, and emotive
nuances. Subtle shades of meaning stemming from the
positioning of the tag are cleverly explored (cf Triki
and Bahloul 2001 for a fine-tuned discussion of this
strategy).
Collins' treatment of reports as cases of
heteroglossia is very interesting. However, the
chapter on layering does not take up enough insights
from those that he argues so well in the introduction
and recapitulates adroitly in the conclusion. What is
at stake is the Discourse Structure (Short 1996) of
the reporting process: who is represented as reporting
what to whom about whom in which context and for what
purposes? Layering means that we have many SELVES
competing for expression (this is the essence of
heteroglossia) (Triki, 1989, 1991, 1998a, 1998b, 2000,
2001, forthcominga, forthcoming b; Triki and Bahloul
2001). SELF is realised in narrative in the form of a
Deictic Centre, a Perceptual or Sentient Centre, a
Cognitive or Ideological Centre or any combination of
these centres. Reporting is an exercise of some degree
of intervention by the reporter in the speech and
thought of the represented persons (including the
reporter's own self as part of the reported story).
Measuring this degree of intervention is a complex
process since, if we take the three previously
mentioned centres as constitutive of SELF and the act
of reporting as necessarily bringing about some
confrontation of these SELVES, then the various
possibilities for the interaction between the I-sayer
and the 'not-I' could be classified along the
following cline ranging from total distinction to
total overlap:
total alienation total overlap
- ------------------------------------------------------------------->
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
D=D D=D D=D D=D D=D D=D D=D D=D
P=P P=P P=P P=P P=P P=P P=P P=P
C=C C=C C=C C=C C=C C=C C=C C=C
(borrowed from Triki, 1989 and also cited in Triki 2000)
The complexity stems from the various possibilities
potentially emanating from this confrontation. Total
or partial or nil overlap can be obtained at all, some
or none of any of these parameters. What adds to the
complexity of this process is the fact that deictic
mediation (at the levels of person, place and time)
can be partial, that is limited to one or two of these
co-ordinates. Similarly, at the level of perception,
not all the five senses are necessarily equally
relevant all the time in the narrator's report.
Indeed, sometimes, the narrator can choose to remain
silent at all about perception. The same is true for
cognitive/ideological mediation which can be partial.
The more complex the layering, the more Selves compete
for expression, the more complex the reporting process
gets. A typology of narratives should be based on all
these possibilities emanating from this basic
mechanism.
Chapter Eight turns to the various modalities of
reporting the verdict, which the author sets apart
from the patterns found elsewhere in the documents.
These norms consist in a concise third-person,
past-tense narrative devoted exclusively to actions.
In terms of footing, the author notes the prominence
of the judges in the verdict. They are no longer
moderators but decision makers and their voice is the
only perspective presented in a maximally
integrated/mediated form, hence the preference for
NRSAs. Moreover, the author reiterates a number of
fundamental positions defended throughout the book.
For instance, the positioning of the tags is discussed
in detail, particularly the pragmatic effects of
intercalated verba dicendi. The reporter's
interference is an inevitable consequence of
reporting. The difference between showing deference to
the interpreter or assuming full responsibility for
the report is a question of degree of interference,
which is part and parcel of the reporter's strategy.

The concluding chapter is, perhaps, the most succinct
and cogent chapter in the whole book as it provides,
over and above a summary of the major findings, a good
insight into the methodology of Pragmaphilology.
First, summarising the main functions of the reporting
strategies in his corpus, Collins distinguishes
compact from diffuse types as follows: 'Reporting
strategies may be classified as relatively compact in
proportion as they blend in with the surrounding
nonreported discourse, and as relatively diffuse in
proportion as they stand out from it' (p.288). This
scalar approach is very helpful for any typology of
narratives. Because of this scale, instances of
'slippage' from one reporting strategy to another are
also very interesting. When the speaker's orientation
towards an accommodation of or neglect of the needs of
the interpreter are taken into consideration, compact
reporting could be construed as speaker-based whilst
diffuse reporting is more hearer-based. The
determining factor (the overarching phenomenon) is the
degree of effort ascribed to the interpreter (the
degree of speaker control or deference to the
interpreter).
Turning to some methodological implications of this
research, Collins makes a number of claims:
1 The justified need to pay attention to residual
forms for analysing variations, hence paying attention
to fine-grained details of context and genre.
2 The usefulness of the concept of prototypes in
Speech and Thought Representation whereby a rigorous
analysis of the observable formal properties of
discourse strategies is anchored in the needs of
speech genres and text-kinds.
3 Conventions tend to be functionally motivated, hence
the social locus of intentionality.
4 Purposiveness informs 'unmarked' as well as 'marked'
patterns
5 Literary techniques have their basis in ordinary
language.
6 Diachronic findings need to be based on nuanced
synchronic investigation of contextual factors.
Notwithstanding some minor problems such as the
occasional lack of balance between chapters
(especially chapters two, five and six as opposed to
the other heavy-weight chapters), the rather technical
and forbidding use of terminology, the absence of a
helpful list of abbreviations of technical terms or of
a glossary of terminology, in addition to some typos,
the book remains largely a first-class piece of
scholarship revealing a great deal of erudition. It is
simply indispensable to any academic programme
teaching literary pragmatics.
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About the Reviewer: Dr. Mounir Triki is Associate
Professor of Literary Pragmatics. He is currently
Chairman of the English Department, Faculty of Letters
and Humanities, Sfax, Tunisia.



 
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