Direct and indirect speech revisited: Semantic universals and semantic diversity

Cliff Goddard*, Anna Wierzbicka

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    We present new interpretations of “direct” and “indirect” speech, framed entirely using simple and cross-translatable words and phrases (Goddard and Wierzbicka 2014), i.e. framed in language which can be transparent both to linguists and to the speakers whose ways of speaking we are trying to understand. In relation to “direct speech”, we present linguistic generalisations about two forms of quoted speech, which, we claim, are very likely to be found in all languages of the world. We next examine the semantics of logophoric constructions in West African languages. We look in some detail at Goemai, which has been claimed by Dixon (2006) to have “no direct speech”. Based on Birgit Hellwig’s (2006, 2011) work, we argue that logophoric constructions in Goemai are forms of direct speech on any reasonable, semantically-based definition. We conclude that direct speech is a language universal. The final part of the paper is about “indirect speech”, focusing on the English ‘say that’ construction. An overall theme of our paper is that specialised and hybrid forms of reported speech, including logophoric speech, reflect cultural concerns and practices.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
    PublisherSpringer International Publishing
    Number of pages27
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Publication series

    NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
    ISSN (Print)2214-3807
    ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815


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