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Summary Details

Query:   Summary of Responses to the FDS/FIS Problem
Author:  Adam Glaz
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Semantics

Summary:   Dear Linguists,

This is a summary of the responses I received to my query regarding Free
Direct Speech and Free Indirect Speech

The problem, in short, was this:

Consider the sentence:

He said, they never let him know!

Is it an example of FDS (as suggested by the removal of the quotes relative
to its probable Direct Speech starting point [He said: “They never let me
know!”], by the retention of the reporting clause, and by the retention of
the Simple Past Tense – this is my view) or of FIS (as suggested by the
change of the pronoun from “me” to “him” – this is my students’ opinion)?
There’s an assumption that “he” and “him” are coreferential.

I have received seven responses and wish to thank all the people who have
helped in this way. They are (in alphabetical order):

Alexandra Aikhenvald (La Trobe, Australia)
Alexandra F. D’Arcy (U of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)
Daniela Kolbe (Liebniz U, Hannover, Germany)
Sofia Lampropoulou (U of Lancaster, UK)
Peggy Speas (U of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA)
Mark de Vries (U of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Howard Williams (Columbia U, New York, USA)


Peggy Speas notes that these types of “speech” are actually types of speech
REPORTS (ways of reporting what someone else said or thought) and that
classification into DS, IS and FIS depends on who the “pivot” is for all
kinds of expression of points of view. Thus, in DS

Mary said: “I like the food here today.”

“I”, “like”, “here” and “today” all indicate Mary’s point of view. In IS,
in turn, the point of view is consistently shifted to the reporter’s (say,

Jane’s report: Mary said she liked the food there that day.

“She”, “liked”, “there” and “that day” are all from Jane’s viewpoint. FIS
mixes the two viewpoints:

Jane: Our hero Mary sat down in the restaurant, not expecting much. Today
would be the chef’s last chance to redeem himself. Phew. She liked the food
here today!

Jane’s point of view: “she” and “liked”
Mary’s point of view: “here” and “today”

(Mark de Vries, similarly, notes that the essential difference between
(F)IS and (F)DS is the change in perspective, most clearly expressed by the
use of pronouns. If so, the example in question must be an instance of FIS
rather than FDS (“him” instead of “me”). The same point is made by Daniela

Against this background, Peggy mentions “direct discourse complements” in
Navajo, when pronouns and tense are from the point of view of the person
whose speech is being reported, while other expressions are from the point
of view of the reporter. An English rendition of a Navajo sentence would be:

Mary said I like the food there that day. (“Mary” and “I” being the same

Mary’s point of view: “I”, “like”
Reporter’s point of view: “there”, “that day”

A similar comment, though relating to a somewhat different phenomenon,
was made by Alexandra Aikhenvald, who suggest that we might be dealing
here with something like the “semi-direct speech” (what looks like a direct
speech report has its deictic reference partly shifted as if it were an indirect
speech report) found in African languages, the languages of New Guinea
(Usan, Gaihuku, Tauya and Manambu) and Athapascan languages.
Alexandra has identified three examples in very colloquial English, one of
which is the following. Simon Tully (a native speaker, from North of England
), was telling someone what an administrator had been saying to him:

And Paul said to me (i.e. Simon), come and see him (i.e. Paul).

What Paul had actually said to Simon was “come and see me”. The deictic
shift in Simon’s speech report is incomplete – looks like indirect speech, but
not quite. (I assume the complete IS would be: And Paul said to me that I
should come and see him. or: And Paul told me to come and see him. etc.)

Alexandra also asks in what context and by whom my problematic sentence
was produced, which question I have to leave unanswered – I simply don’t
remember where I took it from.

Howard Williams and Daniela Kolbe, however, consider it redundant to come
up with a new category of speech report with a separate name. For them, it
is an “in-between case”. Daniela remarks that “There are always ‘in
between’ examples, which does not mean that we need another category,
but that the dichotomies in reality are endpoints of a continuum”. She refers
to a work by Fludernik on literary fiction (1993, The Fictions of Language
and the Languages of fiction: The linguistic representation of speech and
consciousness. Routledge, esp. 152-153). Howard, in turn, evokes an article
by Dillon and Kirchhoff in the journal PTL (1976, North Holland Pub. Co.), in
which it is claimed that “the boundaries between FIS and straight reporting
are vague and that it is a good thing - because a narrator can modulate the
degree of empathy he or she wants to project onto the audience”.

So on the whole the respondents most of the time tend to sympathize with
the FIS rather than the FDS reading of the sentence, which supports my
students’ intuition more than mine. As a further criterion, Sofia
Lampropoulou (referring to Leech and Short’s (1981) Style in Fiction,
London: Longman) says that FIS is a mixture of characteristic features of
DS and IS, which is the case here. (Another source worth considering,
according to Sofia, is Semino & Short (2004) Corpus Stylistics: Speech,
writing and thought presentation in a corpus of English writing, London:

Further, Sofia claims that the sentence we’re looking at cannot be FDS
because this category should not have a reporting verb. Daniela Kolbe
refers to Quirk et al. (1985: 1032-33) and says that neither FDS nor FIS
are introduced by a reporting clause. However, to me this show that there
is definitely a certain degree of discrepancy in the treatment of the
phenomenon to be found in the literature on the subject, because Simpson
1993 (Language, Ideology and Point of View, London: Routledge), gives
several examples of FDS with the reporting clause. FIS, he claims, is a
result of removing the reporting clause (pp. 22-23).

Two other comments are worth mentioning. First, Daniela Kolbe suggests
that with a verb like “let” (whose Present and Past Tenses are the same),
there’s no telling whether tense back shift has taken place or not. Thus, we
might interpret the sentence as:

He said, they never let [PRES] him know!

which retains the [PRES] of the DS:

He said: “They never let [PRES] me know!”

Second, Howard Williams points out that in successful FIS the reader should
be able to recognize the person being represented, and “even in the
‘freest’ FIS there is almost always some NEARBY mention of the name of the
person”. The sentence in question is unfortunately decontextualized.

Alexandra F. D’Arcy does not relate to the problem directly but takes up
the issue of pronoun coreferentiality (or a lack thereof) in different
modes of speech presentation. Thus, in the Direct Speech sentence

He said: “They never let him know.”

“he” and “him” cannot be coreferential. In Indirect Speech they can though
need not:

He (Mark) said [that] they never let him (Mark or Peter) know.

and the same applies when there’s a tense shift:

He (Mark) said [that] they had never let him (Mark or Peter) know.

Finally, the criterion of punctuation is deemed unreliable. Mark de Vries
says: “If the only difference between FDS and DS is the use of quotation
marks, it is linguistically totally uninteresting”. Daniela Kolbe: What
were the rules of punctuation when this example was transcribed? Is this a
made-up sentence?. Daniela and Howard Williams, however, do seem to be
paying some attention to the presence of the exclamation mark. Howard
also mentions other features of the spoken language, such as the imitation
of surprise or irritation or the simplistic vocabulary register, which evoke
“the spirit of FIS”.

All in all, I would like to thank my students for pointing out the problem
to me and congratulate them on receiving support form a various parts of
the globe. I also thank all the people who have helped me once more.

Best wishes to all,

Adam Glaz
UMCS, Lublin, Poland

LL Issue: 17.3294
Date Posted: 12-Nov-2006
Original Query: Read original query


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