DIRECT AND INDIRECT SPEECH
In indirect speech, verbs are generally ‘backshifted’ in tense to align them with the time of reporting, and other changes, such as in pronouns and adverbials of time and place, are made for the same reason: Doris told Robert, ‘You can now watch television’ would possibly be reported as Doris told Robert that he could then watch television. This backshift relationship of verb tenses in the reporting and reported clauses is known as the sequence of tenses. Backshift, however, is optional when what was said applies equally at the time of reporting: Benjamin said that he is/was coming over to watch television tonight. Such traditional shifts are not, however, used in certain kinds of relaxed, colloquial reporting and storytelling: Then he says he's coming and she says that he could come or not for all she cared.
Apart from direct and indirect statements, there are: (1) Direct and indirect questions, the latter normally following the statement order of subject and verb: direct ‘Do you understand?’ she asked becoming indirect She asked if he understood; direct ‘Where has he gone?’ I wondered becoming indirect I wondered where he had gone. (2) Direct and indirect exclamations, as when direct ‘What a clever boy you are!’ David told his son becomes indirect David told his son what a clever boy he was. (3) Direct and indirect instructions, such as direct Jane said to Jenny, ‘Phone me if you need any help’ becoming indirect Jane told Jenny to phone her if she needed any help. In such reports, care may sometimes be necessary to ensure that pronoun reference does not become unclear. Two variants of reported speech occur mainly in fiction: free direct speech and free indirect speech:
Free direct speechlacks a reporting clause to show the shift from narration to reporting; it is often used in fiction to represent the mental reactions of characters to what they see or experience. In the following extract from James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), Leopold Bloom reflects on what he sees as he walks along (italics not in the original have been added to mark the free direct speech):
By Brady's cottages a boy for the skins lolled, his bucket of offal linked, smoking a chewed fag butt. A smaller girl with scars of eczema on her forehead eyed him, listlessly holding her battered caskhoop. Tell him if he smokes he won't grow. O let him! His life isn't such a bed of roses! Waiting outside pubs to bring da home. Come home to ma, da. Slack hour: won't be many there. He crossed Townsend street, passed the frowning face of Bethel. El, yes: house of: Aleph, Beth. And past Nichols' the undertaker's. At eleven it is. Time enough.
Free indirect speechresembles indirect speech in shifting tenses and other references, but there is generally no reporting clause and it retains some features of direct speech (such as direct questions and vocatives). In this extract from the South African novelist Dan Jacobson's A Dance in the Sun (1956), Fletcher moves into free indirect speech in the course of a conversation with Frank (italics added):
He gave Frank the name of the house he had been in at school. He challenged Frank to look his name up in the school calendar, so that Frank would be able to see for himself the truth of what he was saying. That was where he had learned what was right and what was not. It had not been his fault that his father had died and that the estate had been in disorder and that he had had to make his own way. But he had, and he had not done so badly either. But he was not a snob. He repeated that he was not a snob, as though Frank had accused him of being a snob, as though Frank could see anything for him to be particularly snobbish about. He was not a snob. All he wanted was decency, decency, decency, he said.
See CONVERSATION, DIALOG(UE).
"DIRECT AND INDIRECT SPEECH." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/direct-and-indirect-speech
"DIRECT AND INDIRECT SPEECH." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved May 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/direct-and-indirect-speech
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