Speaking for Bakhtin: Two Interpretations of Reported Speech A Response to Goddard and Wierzbicka (2018)

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Vološinov ([1929]1973) is one of the most frequently cited works in studies on reported speech, but its interpretation varies considerably between authors. Within the linguistic anthropological tradition, its central message is often conflated with Erving Goffman’s ‘speaker roles’, and in a recent publication, Goddard and Wierzbicka (2018) marry ideas they attribute to Vološinov (1973) and Mikhail M. Bakhtin to those by the formal semanticist Donald Davidson. Responding to Goddard and Wierzbicka (2018) (and a shorter version of a similar argument in Goddard and Wierzbicka (2019), this paper seeks to explore the philosophical foundations of reported speech research, particularly in relation to Vološinov/Bakhtin. It suggests that reported speech research is motivated by two fundamentally distinct goals, one here labelled ‘Fregean’ and the other ‘Bakhtinian’. Questions and methods used in both of these research traditions lead to two radically different understandings of reported speech. This affects the applicability of the definition of direct/indirect speech Goddard and Wierzbicka (2018) propose. It also motivates an alternative approach to reported speech advocated by the current author and others that is criticised by Goddard and Wierzbicka (2018). The article further seeks to rehabilitate the analysis of Wierzbicka (1974), which Goddard and Wierzbicka (2018) partially reject. Whereas Wierzbicka (1974) treats direct and indirect speech as constructions of English, Goddard and Wierzbicka (2018) elevate the opposition to a universal, which belies the cultural sensitivity to semantic variation the authors display in other work. The paper concludes with a brief note about the semantic status of ‘say’ in Australian languages and states that the relevance of Vološinov ([1929]1973) is undiminished, also in the light of recent developments in language description. It remains a highly original study whose implications are yet to fully impact research on reported speech.

About the authors

Stef Spronck

University of Helsinki

Email: stef.spronck@helsinki.fi
PhD The Australian National University 2016) is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and previously at the University of Leuven, Belgium. After his training in Slavic and General Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, he carried out extensive documentary fieldwork in Aboriginal Australia, working on reported speech and stance in Ungarinyin. His research focuses on typology, dialogic linguistics and reported speech/TAME PL 24 (Unioninkatu 40) Helsinki, 00014, Finland


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