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direct speech

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direct speech

A combination of direct speech and indirect speech from the short story "Fidelity" by Wendell Berry (That Distant Land: The Collected Stories, 2004)

Definition:

A report of the exact words used by a speaker or writer. Contrast with indirect or reported speech.

Direct speech is usually placed inside quotation marks and accompanied by a reporting verb, signal phrase, or quotative frame.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • A South Carolina parrot was the sole witness to the death by neglect of a 98-year-old woman. "Help me, Help me," said the parrot. "Ha ha ha!"
    (reported in Harper's Magazine, February 2011)


  • I went in search of the good beer. Along the way, I caught an intriguing snippet of conversation in the sunroom:

    So if I win at that table, I’ll go on to the World Series,” said the mom I know as some kind of government contractor.

    World Series?” you ask.

    Of Poker,” she replied. “I went last year.

    Whoa.
    (Petula Dvorak, "White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner Has Nothing on Suburban Fete." The Washington Post, May 3, 2012)


  • "How old are you?" the man asked.

    "The little boy, at the eternal question, looked at the man suspiciously for a minute and then said, "Twenty-six. Eight hunnerd and forty eighty."

    His mother lifted her head from the book. "Four," she said, smiling fondly at the little boy.

    "Is that so?" the man said politely to the little boy. "Twenty-six." He nodded his head at the mother across the aisle. "Is that your mother?"

    The little boy leaned forward to look and then said, "Yes, that's her."

    "What's your name?" the man asked.

    The little boy looked suspicious again. "Mr. Jesus," he said.
    (Shirley Jackson, "The Witch." The Lottery and Other Stories. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1949)


  • Direct Speech and Indirect Speech
    "While direct speech purports to give a verbatim rendition of the words that were spoken, indirect speech is more variable in claiming to represent a faithful report of the content or content and form of the words that were spoken. It is important to note, however, that the question of whether and how faithful a given speech report actually is, is of a quite different order. Both direct and indirect speech are stylistic devices for conveying messages. The former is used as if the words being used were those of another, which are therefore pivoted to a deictic center different from the speech situation of the report. Indirect speech, in contrast, has its deictic center in the report situation and is variable with respect to the extent that faithfulness to the linguistic form of what was said is being claimed."
    (Florian Coulmas, "Reported Speech: Some General Issues." Direct and Indirect Speech, ed. by F. Coulmas. Walter de Gruyter, 1986)


  • Direct Speech as Drama
    When a speaking event is reported via direct speech forms, it is possible to include many features that dramatize the way in which an utterance was produced. The quotative frame can also include verbs which indicate the speaker's manner of expression (e.g. cry, exclaim, gasp), voice quality (e.g. mutter, scream, whisper), and type of emotion (e.g. giggle, laugh, sob). It can also include adverbs (e.g. angrily, brightly, cautiously, hoarsely, quickly, slowly) and descriptions of the reported speaker's style and tone of voice, as illustrated in [5].
    [5a] "I have some good news," she whispered in a mischievous way.
    [5b] "What is it?" he snapped immediately.
    [5c] "Can't you guess?" she giggled.
    [5d] "Oh, no! Don't tell me you're pregnant" he wailed, with a whining nasal sound in his voice.
    The literary style of the examples in [5] is associated with an older tradition. In contemporary novels, there is often no indication, other than separate lines, of which character is speaking, as the direct speech forms are presented like a dramatic script, one after the other.
    (George Yule, Explaining English Grammar. Oxford University Press, 1998)

    John Grady studied the filly and he look at the man. That horse is lame, he said.

    Lame.

    Yessir.

    Shit, the man said.

    The man walking the horse looked back over his shoulder.

    Did you hear that, Louis? the man called to him.

    Yeah. I heard it. You want to go on and just shoot her?
    (Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain. Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)


  • Like: Signaling Direct Speech in Conversation
    An interesting new way of signalling direct speech has recently developed among younger English speakers, and is spreading from the United States to Britain. This occurs entirely in spoken conversation, rather than in writing, . . . but here are some examples anyway. (It may help to imagine an American teenager speaking these examples.)
    - When I saw it, I was like [pause] "This is amazing!"
    - . . . so all of a sudden, he was like [pause] "What are you doin' here?"
    - From the first day she arrived, she was like [pause] "This is my house, not yours."
    - So I'm like "Well, sure" and she's like "I'm not so sure . . .."
    . . . Though the construction is new and not yet standard, its meaning is very clear. It seems to be used more often to report thoughts rather than actual speech.
    (James R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge University Press, 1994)


  • Differences in Reported Speech
    [E]ven in the days of audio and video recording, . . . there can be surprising differences in direct quotations attributed to the same source. A simple comparison of the same speech event covered in different newspapers can illustrate the problem. When his country was not invited to a meeting of the Commonwealth of Nations in 2003, the president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, said the following in a televised speech, according to The New York Times:
    "If our sovereignty is what we have to lose to be re-admitted into the Commonwealth," Mr. Mugabe was quoted as saying on Friday, "we will say goodbye to the Commonwealth. And perhaps the time has now come to say so." (Wines 2003)
    And the following according to an Associated Press story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
    "If our sovereignty is to be real, then we will say goodbye to the Commonwealth, [sic; second quotation mark missing] Mugabe said in remarks broadcast on state television. "Perhaps the time has come to say so." (Shaw 2003)
    Did Mugabe produce both versions of these comments? If he gave only one, which published version is accurate? Do the versions have different sources? Are the differences in the exact wording significant or not?
    (Jeanne Fahnestock, Rhetorical Style: The Uses of Language in Persuasion. Oxford University Press, 2011)
Also Known As: direct discourse

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