Speech and thought
Based on Leech and Short’s study in “Style in Fiction” (1981)
Analysis of Joyce’s short story “Eveline” (1914)
Francesca Bellante
Maria Vagheggini
Wang Hui
Zhao Weichen
Speech and thought presentation can be a problematic
area of investigation, especially when it comes to discourses
which can’t be fitted into traditional categories [
=direct/indirect speech/thought].
Three main areas of discourse analysis are newspaper
reporting, use of citations in academic discourse and study
of literature, which is the one we are going to focus on.
Areas of discourse analysis
Newspaper reporting
The focus in the literature has been on manipulative
aspects of reporting, which involves an investigation of the
way the reported message is expressed—how and why
reports may differ from the original, of the source—whether
or not the report is attributed to a specific source (and
why), and of the reporter's attitude (often conveyed
indirectly rather than explicitly stated) towards what is
being reported.
Areas of discourse analysis
Use of citations in academic discourse
Because of the highly developed set of conventions for
signalling citations [fig. 1], is usually quite simple to
identify whether a stretch of language can be counted as a
language report or not; however, there are some cases of
ambiguity even in quotations in academic discourse.
fig. 1
Areas of discourse analysis
Study of literature
Main categories:
Narrative Report of Speech/Thought Act (NRSA/NRTA)
Indirect Speech/Thought (IS/IT)
Free Indirect Speech/Thought (FIS/FIT)
Direct Speech/Thought (DS/DT)
Free Direct Speech/Thought (FDS/FDT)
Narratorial “Interference”
When a novelist reports the occurrence of some act or
speech act we are apparently seeing the event entirely from
his perspective.
But as we move along the cline of speech presentation
from the more bound to the more free end, his
interference seems to become less and less noticeable until
he apparently leaves the characters to talk entirely on their
(Leech and Short 1981)
Narratorial “Interference”
(Leech and Short 1981, 260)
“Eveline”, James Joyce
"Eveline" is a story by the Irish writer James Joyce,
featured on his 1914 collection of short stories
The whole story is presented from Eveline’s perspective
and recalls the steps leading to her final decision to not
escape with her lover, Frank, a sailor who offers to take
her to Buenos Ayres in order to save her from the
abusive father.
(Leech and Short 1981, 255)
Converting DS -> IS
Inverted commas, which mark quotation as syntactically
independent of the reporting verb “said”, are removed, making the
reported speech dependent on the reporting verb.
That dependence can be marked explicitly by the introduction of a
subordinating conjunction (e.g. “he said that…”)
The first- and second-person pronouns change to third-person
The tense of verbs undergo ‘backshift’, as do time adverbs (e.g.
“Now I see” -> “then he saw”)
‘Close’ deictic adverbs (e.g. “here”) change to more remote (e.g.
(Leech and Short 1981, 256)
Converting DS -> IS
The effect of these changes is to remove all those features which
are directly related to the embedded speech situation only and to
subordinate the reported speech to the verb of saying.
N.B. There can be occasions in conversations (though these
are relatively rare in the novel) where some of the extra
linguistic referents will be the same for both the primary and
the secondary speech situations. The relevant deictic can
then remain unchanged.
(Leech and Short 1981, 256)
E.g. “What did Carlo say?”
“Carlo said that he will come here tomorrow.”
Conversion IS->DS
He had fallen on his feet in Buenos Ayres, he said
A reader faced with an indirect string cannot automatically
infere the original direct speech; the sentence above could
be an indirect version of any of the following:
[1] ‘I have fallen on my feet in Buenos Ayres.’
[2] ‘Against all odds, I made my fortune in Buenos Ayres’
[3] ‘When I arrived in Buenos Ayres, I finally landed on my
Free Direct Speech (FDS)
Direct speech has two features which show evidence of
the narrator’s presence, namely the quotation marks
and the introductory reporting clause.
It is possible to remove either or both of these features,
and produce a freer form, where the characters
apparently speak to without the narrator as an
A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt him seize her hand:
—Come! [FDS] -> there are quotation marks, but
reporting clause is missing.
(Leech and Short 1981, 258)
Narrative Report of Speech
Acts (NRSA)
The possibility of a form which is more indirect than
indirect speech is realised in sentences that merely
report that a speech act (or number of speech acts) has
occurred, but where the narrator does not have to
commit himself entirely to giving the sense of what was
(Leech and Short 1981, 259-260)
He held her hand and she knew that he was speaking
to her, saying something about the passage over and
over again. [NRSA] -> there’s no clear information
about “the passage”.
Free Indirect Speech (FIS)
As its name implies, FIS is normally thought of as a
freer version of an ostensibly indirect form. Its most
typical manifestation is one where, unlike IS, the
reporting clause is omitted, but where the tense and
pronoun selection are those associated with IS.
(Leech and Short 1981, 260-261)
He had tales of distant countries.
He had started as a deck boy at a pound a month on a
ship of the Allan Line going out to Canada. [FIS] ->
no reporting clause.
Presentation of thought
A writer who decides to let us know the thoughts of a
character at all, even by the mere use of thought act
reporting, is inviting us to see things from that
character’s point of view.
As with speech presentation, the crucial factor is the
semantic status of the type of thought presentation
used, and the categories may be differentiated by one
or more of a group of formal features.
(Leech and Short 1981, 271)
Presentation of thought
In the presentation of speech, the use of DS or FDS
produces the impression that the character is talking in our
presence, with less and less authorial intervention. Similarly,
in DT and FDT authorial intervention appears minimal;
but as the result is effectively a monologue, with the
character ‘talking’ to himself.
Like the direct forms, the free indirect form takes on a
different value when we turn from the presentation of
speech to the presentation of thought. Instead of indicating
a move towards the narrator, it signifies a movement towards
the exact representation of a character’s thought as it occurs.
(Leech and Short 1981, 274)
Presentation of thought
She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise?
She tried to weigh each side of the question. [NRTA] In her
home anyway she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had
known all her life about her. Of course she had to work hard, both in
the house and at business. What would they say of her in the stores
when they found out that she had run away with a fellow? Say she
was a fool perhaps; and her place would be filled up by
advertisement. [FIT]
Apart from the third sentence, this entire paragraph is in FIT.
Eveline carries on a dialogue with herself, asking questions and
trying to answer them.
Presentation of thought
The fact that she is questioning her decision must
make us suspect that she is going to reverse it, and even
here, near the beginning of the story, she seems to find
more reasons for staying than for going.
Throughout the story, other hints mount:
Her father was becoming old lately, she noticed; he would miss
her. Sometimes he could be very nice. [FIT]
In conclusion, we want to emphasise how wide is the range
of options to chose from to present speeches and thoughts.
“Like a hall of mirrors, each mirror capable of replicating
the image in another, a discourse can embody narrators
within narrations, reflectors within reflections, and so on ad
infinitum.” (Leech and Short 1981, 279)
In practical terms, this means that an author can potentially
present the same subject from infinite viewpoints.
James Joyce. 1914. “Eveline” in Dubliners.
Geoff Thompson. 1996. Voices in the Text: Discourse
Perspectives on Language Reports. University of Liverpool.
Leech and Short. 1981. “Speech and thought
presentation” in Style in fiction. Lancaster University.

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