Literary Stylistics:
Workshop Notes no. 19

Speech and Thought Presentation

Direct and Indirect Speech

The most elementary concepts in speech and thought presentation are those of direct and indirect speech. Although you should know how to distinguish between direct and indirect speech, it may be useful to go over some of the salient points of comparison between them as they exist in fictional narratives. We will also be viewing them in relation to the Hallidayan grammatical framework which we have been studying. It may be noted as a preliminary that a feature which both direct and indirect speech share is the reporting clause.

Some of the salient points of comparison between direct and indirect speech in fictional narratives are given in the table below.

Table 19.1 Direct and Indirect Speech: Features

(A) (B) (C)

Direct speech: Indirect speech: Indirect speech:
Use of Character's discourse in 1st & 3rd person narratives Narrator's discourse in 3rd person narratives Character's discourse in 3rd person narratives
1. Inverted
Used. Not used. Not used.
2. Parataxis / Hypotaxis Secondary clause is paratactically linked to the primary clause. Secondary clause is hypotactically linked to the primary clause, and the subordinating conjunction, whether ellipted or realised, initiates the dependent clause. Same as B2.
3. Pronouns Use of 1st person & 2nd person pronouns to refer to personages existing in the discourse situation. 1st & 2nd person pronouns converted to 3rd person pronouns. a) 1st person narratives: 1st person pronouns used by the narrator to refer to himself.
b) 1st & 3rd person narratives -- reported speech embedded within direct speech in character’s discourse:
  • 1st person pronouns are used by the character to refer to himself.

  • 2nd person pronouns to refer to the characters who are being directly addressed to, and who were either the addressers or addressees of the original discourse.

  • Otherwise, all 2nd person pronouns are converted to 3rd person pronouns.
  • 4. Tense Use of present tense to describe circumstances or entities existing within the discourse situation. Change of present tense verbs to their past tense equivalents. Present tense may be used if the original speech is in the immediate past of the act of reporting, and if the circumstances or entities stated or described in the original speech still exist. Otherwise, the past tense is generally used, especially in relation to the reporting verb in the main clause.
    5. Time
    When referring to events which are proximate to the act of speaking, relevant time adverbials like now, today, yesterday, may be used. Time adverbials mentioned in 5A, are converted to then, on that day / the day before, the day after etc. Time adverbials are used according to the currency or proximity of the reported event in relation to the act of speech or narration; i.e. either 5A or 5B may be relevant.
    6. Demon-
    stratives: Near or Remote
    The ‘near’ demonstratives this, these, and here are used to refer to entities or situations existing during the speech event. The ‘near’ demonstratives are converted to ‘remote’ demonstratives: that, those, there. The ‘near’ demonstratives continue to be used if the entities or situations existing during the original speech event still remain. Otherwise, the demonstratives are converted to their ‘remote’ counterparts. Again, either 6A or 6B may be relevant.

    Features analysed in
    speech presentation:

    Direct speech (DS)
    Indirect speech (IS)
    Narrative Report of Action (NRA)
    Narrative Report of Speech Act(s) (NRSA)
    Free Indirect Speech (FIS)
    Direct Speech (FDS)

    Other Ways of Representing Speech

    In addition to direct and indirect speech (DS & IS), the following are also important in the analysis of speech presentation: Narrative Report of Action (NRA), Narrative Report of Speech Act(s) (NRSA), Free Indirect Speech (FIS), and Free Direct Speech (FDS).

    NRA is used to describe the physical action of characters, excluding their speech acts.
    NRSA refers either to the speech acts of characters, excluding the content of their speech, or, to the speech acts of characters plus a vague or general description of what has been said, using a circumstantial adjunct instead of a reported clause (as in FIS and DS).
    FIS and FDS operate when the narrator has less control over the speech of the characters than in IS and DS.

    In relation to the degree of control that the narrator has over the character's speech, it may be useful to view the concepts we have studied in terms of what has been described as the narrator's cline of interference (see chapter 10 of Leech & Short):

    narrator has the most control
    over the narrative
    narrator has the least control
    over the narrative
    NRA   NRSA   IS   FIS →  DS →  FDS

    It may help us to view the concept of FIS from a clearer perspective if we view it as a half-way house between IS and DS. In other words, FIS incorporates features found in both columns (A) and (B); for example,

    The crucial element in FDS which distinguishes it from both DS and FIS is usually the missing reporting clause. In fact, DS minus the reporting clause (at least as far as Leech and Short's definition of FDS is concerned), is FDS. But FDS can also occur without the inverted commas to indicate that it is the speech of a character. In this case, distinguishing FDS from FIS may be quite tricky, as certain examples of FIS also do not have the reporting clause. In this case, we should adopt the following procedure:

    if none of the features indicated in the previous paragraph is converted to their corresponding 'indirect' counterparts, then we are dealing with FDS (this occurs even if the reporting clause is present), but if one or some of the above features are converted to their 'indirect' counterparts, then we are dealing with FIS.

    Thought Presentation

    Thought presentation should not present us with any new major difficulty in comparison with speech presentation, as thought presentation does not confront us with a completely new set of rules. In terms of terminology, all the categories of thought presentation are derived by changing the S in speech presentation to T: i.e. NRTA, IT, FIT, DT, and FDT. The cline of the narrator's interference is also similar, i.e., the narrator has most control in NRTA and least control in FDT. But the 'norm' for thought presentation is different. In speech presentation, DS is the norm, whereas in thought presentation, it is IT.

    Texts to Analyse

    Extract from Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls
    Extract from Woolf's Mrs Dalloway

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    Last revised: 15 May 2017
    © Ismail S. Talib 1997-2017.