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Review of  The Pragmatics of Quoting Now and Then

Reviewer: Nahed Mourad
Book Title: The Pragmatics of Quoting Now and Then
Book Author: Jenny Arendholz Wolfram Bublitz Monika Kirner-Ludwig
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Historical Linguistics
Cognitive Science
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 27.2613

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Reviews Editor: Robert A. Cote


Based on papers presented for the most part at two international conferences, this book entitled “The Pragmatics of Quoting: Then and Now” by Jenny Arendholz, Wolfram Bublitz, and Monika Kirner-Ludwig, provides an innovative look at the pragmatics of quoting and does so in both a diachronic and a synchronic view, hence “Now and Then” in the title. The book is divided into two parts corresponding to synchrony “Now” and diachrony “Then”.

An industry of publications on quotatives exists within the field of sociolinguistics; however, they are limited to not only a sociolinguistic perspective but concentrate on the quotative marker in spoken colloquial speech, specifically the explosion of ‘be like’ in that environment. This book, however, cleverly abstracts away from this now arguably ubiquitous element of study to provide the reader with a more comprehensive look at the forms and the functions of quoting. The papers included in this book take into consideration a vast array of data ranging from informal online communication through blogs to newspapers and even a paper on the academic investment involved in quoting, known as credibility. Furthermore, shaped as an interdisciplinary work, the editors chose papers that reflected most fields of linguistics that would be relevant: sociolinguistics, semantics, pragmatics, etc.


The book is prefaced by an introduction written by Dr. Wolfram Bublitz that lays the groundwork for the papers to follow. In this introduction, he defines ‘quoting’ as it should be understood for the purpose of this work. He also outlines its forms and functions and contextualizes the subject matter to come.

Part 1 “Now”

This part consists of a series of eight papers whose main link is the synchronic element. Consequently, here we find that four of the papers are dedicated to the understanding of the use (form and function) of quoting drawing from online sources. Innovative and well-written, these papers provide in-depth analyses of topics ranging from “the factuality” or evidentiality of quoting to the “creation of stronger interpersonal relations between interlocutors in an online forum”. These papers, which are well-written and edited, provide a substantial overview of the contemporary work on this topic. The following are a few examples of papers included in this section.

In the first paper “Reportable Facts and a Personal Touch: The Functions of Direct Quotes in Online News”, Daniela Landert discusses the shifts in the functions of quoting in online reports. In data extracted from the Times Online 2010, she argues that quoting serves two main functions: the obvious first being that of reporting facts, and the other being one of “expressing personal experience and emotion” (page 29). By comparing this data from 2010 to data from the printed Times 1985, she argues a shift from the former function to the latter, where emotional expression is the more prominent function of quoting in online new today.

Next, Jenny Arendholz in “Quoting in Online Message Boards: An Interpersonal Perspective”, discusses the pragmatic function of quoting on online message boards, where the participants seem to use quotes to strengthen or weaken the interpersonal between the contributors (on any particular message board).

In “The Complexities of Thread-internal Quoting in English and German Online Discussion Fora”, Birte Bös and Sonja Kleinke, in the third paper in this collection, remark the same interpersonal as Arendholz by comparing two fora. They note distinct qualitative and quantitative contrasts between the two in the macro- and micro-level uses of quoting.

Anita Fetzer and Elisabeth Reber, in “Quoting in Political Discourse: Professional Talk Meets Ordinary Postings” argue that in political discourse, quoting is context-dependent and can be used as an instantiation of stance-taking, alignment or disalignment with a particular political party or figure.

In “Quotation and Online Identity: The Voice of Tacitus in German Newspapers and Internet Discussions”, Andreas Musolff presents an account of the use of quoting Tacitus’s work when discussing or evaluating historical figures, especially those pertaining to the Germanic Revolt under Arminius.

Rita Finkbeiner presents her paper “Ich kenne da so einen Jungen...kennen ist gut, wir waren halt mal zusammen weg” On the Pragmatics and Metapragmatics of X ist gut in German”. She analyzes the use of quotations in the formulaic expression X ist gut (X is good), i.e. either the quotation is around the X ( and the predication ist gut optionally) or not and how they serve no pragmatic function for distinction and should be disregarded.

In “Only “nur”. Scare Quoted (Exclusive) Focus Particles at the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface”, Jorg Meibauer discusses how scare quotes are used to trigger ironic meaning when used with ‘only’ or ‘nur’ in German.

In the last paper in this section on quoting now, “Manufacturing Credibility: Academic Quoting Across Cultures”, Klaus P. Schneider discusses the academic use of quoting in order to support argumentation and provide credibility to the idea presented. Although differences in usage exist across disciplines and cultures, the main use remains for support of argumentation.

Part 2 “Then”

Composed of eight papers based in diachronic literature, these papers use non-contemporary written texts dating as far back as the 17th century. A main thread links the papers in this part - the linguistic art of quoting. These papers range in topics from the evolution of the quotative verb and the variation in its usage to the evolution of the concept of plagiarism and to what extent there was a medieval consciousness of originality and plagiarism. The following is a brief summary of the papers included in this section.

In her paper “Quotative Markers in a Corpus of English Dialogues”, Karin Aijmer addresses the quotative marker system (which includes be like in contemporary speech) at an older stage of English, Early Modern English to be specific and traces the weakening of the verb ‘say’ and its grammaticalization into the quotative system.

Colette Moore presents a paper entitled “Histories of Talking about Talk: Quethen, Quoth, Quote” tracing the history of the verbs used to introduce quote and the pragmatic differences between them.

Winfried Rudolf in “Quoting and Translating Latin in the Old English Homilies of the Vercelli book” examines the remaining vernacular Latin citations in the Vercelli Homilies (p. 271). This paper provides preliminary evidence that these citations derive from various ages and texts and are not representative of a homogeneous vernacular norm.

In “Quoting and Plagiarizing - Concepts of both Now and Then?”, Monika Kirner-Ludwig and Iris Zimmerman provide a diachronic and cross-linguistic (Medieval English and Middle High German) study comparing the use of citations and conclude that the concept of plagiarism is not modern by any sense.

Jenny Arendhloz and Monika Kirner-Ludwig examine the hearer’s ability retrieve the proper quote by looking at online messages and medieval texts in their paper “In-between Cognitively Isolated Quotes and References: Looking for Answers Lurking in Textual Margins”.

Ursula Lutzky looks at witness depositions in Early Modern English to determine the lexical items used in speech reporting as well as the pragmatic functions associated with the different strategies.

In “Haunting Evidence: Quoting the Prisoner in 19th Century Old Bailey Trial Discourse. The Defences of Cooper (1842) and McNaughten (1843)”, Alison Johnson examines the choice of direct versus indirect quotes made by the scribe in both of these trials. She also examines a new category of quoting specific to these trials: metatalk for suppressing quotation (p.369).

Bettina Lindner, in “Quotations from 17th and 18th Century Medical Case Reports” evaluates the use of various quotation devices in medical literature. This is a diachronic assessment using a corpus of German medical reports dating from the 1600 to 1800.


As a whole, this book is an excellent compilation of innovative work in the field of socio-pragmatics, interactional linguistics, and corpus analysis. The papers are of excellent quality and provide the reader with a detailed account of the diachrony and synchrony of the forms and functions of quoting in different linguistic contexts. Separated into two main parts, based on ‘now’ and ‘then’, the papers in this book are cohesive. Aimed at an audience interested in the intersections between pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and historical linguistics, this book provides them with a robust list of introductory papers to meet their needs.
Nahed Mourad PhD Candidate in Linguistics University of Ottawa Ottawa, Canada Reserach interests: Language contact, language variation, pragmatics, socio-pragmatics, syntax