Reported Speech: Towards a Definition as a Communicative and Linguistic Universal

Annamaria Cacchione 1
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1La Sapienza University of Rome

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


Reported speech is a structure that has quite always been investigated from a formal point of view, as the syntactical means by which we can construct the oratio, choosing between embedding or un-embedding sentences, respectively within oratio obliqua or oratio recta. The purpose of this essay is arguing that reported speech corresponds to a universal communicative function, the reporting function, which can realize and show itself as a multiplicity of forms, grouped around few main types, among which one in particular—direct speech—can be considered its formal universal side. So we will first define the traditional syntactical account of RS; next, we will turn to a wider perspective, in which functions are prior then forms. The functional and pragmatic account of RS will be considered the proper theoretical framework in order to identify the universal features of reporting. Finally, we will present the results of some sperimental researches about the acquisition of RS both in L1 and L2. The results will allow us to confirm the main hypotheses: the universality of RS as a basic communicative function, and the universality of (at last) one formal fulfillment of it, the direct speech, related to its prototypical narrative function.

Keywords: reported speech; narrative; rhetoric; direct and indirect speech; theory of mind; L1 and L2 acquisition;



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