Reported speech in journalistic discourse: The relation of function and text

Linda R Waugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


There is agreement among many linguists that we should study all linguistic categories in real discourse usage. But what has not received as much theoretical attention, and what will be addressed here, is the fact that general discourse types (genres) set a frame which determines the functional nature of the categories which are used within that frame. This will be exemplified with reported speech in journalistic discourse (using examples from the French newspaper Le Monde). In news reporting, reported speech functions differently from the way in which it functions in, for example, fictional narrative and conversation. This is due to the fact that news reporting is focused on conveying information and concerned with issues of referentiality, truth, reliability and accountability—none of which are the main concerns of fiction and conversation. The functional nature of all linguistic categories used in journalistic articles, including reported speech, is skewed by this particular kind of focus on the real world outside of the text. In particular, journalistic use of reported speech is based, as elsewhere, on the relation between a reporting speech event and a reported speech event, but in addition, contrary to other uses of reported speech, it claims that it represents a really existing, original text outside of the quoting text. The major division of reported speech in journalism, as elsewhere, is into direct speech vs. indirect speech. By convention, direct speech is interpreted by the reader as being an authentic, accurate, verbatim replication of what was originally said, whereas indirect speech is interpreted as a paraphrase. This division is categorical in the orthography and prototypical in its gram-matical-syntactic-discursive correlates (with respect to the behavior of deictic terms and the syntactic nature of the reported speech clause). The third type of reported speech usually discussed, free indirect style, is a cover term for many different types of reported speech, only some of which occur in journalism. Semantic-pragmatically, direct speech is image iconic, isomorphic and replicative with respect to the original utterance, whereas instances of indirect speech are indeterminate with respect to how much rewording, condensing and inferencing has been done. We can conclude that the general functional nature of the discourse type in which linguistic categories occur influences the functional nature of those categories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-173
Number of pages45
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995


  • direct speech
  • free indirect style
  • genre
  • indirect speech
  • journalistic discourse
  • reported speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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