Data workshop, Helsinki 19-21 March 2020

The grammatical variation of reported speech across languages: A data-oriented workshop

In connection with coronavirus-related restrictions on international events introduced by the University of Helsinki for the (initial) period of 16 March – 31 May the workshop has been postponed until further notice.

Date: 19-21 March 2020

Location: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (Fabianinkatu 24) University of Helsinki (map)

Information: Stef Spronck


Registration form (please register by 11 March 2020)

Workshop description:

Reported speech is a grammatical phenomenon that allows a speaker to represent an utterance and attribute it to another speaker, or to herself at an earlier moment in time. Reported speech is discussed widely in the typological literature (Buchstaller & Alphen 2012; Güldemann & Roncador 2002;
Janssen & Wurff 1996; Spronck & Nikitina 2019 inter alia). Most commonly, it takes a form as in (1), with a clausal element signalling a speech event and a reported speaker, followed by a clausal element representing an attributed locution, or as in (2), with these same elements in reverse order.

(1) Peter says: “The weather is nice.”

(2) Solega (India; Dravidian)
“o: oḷḷe sakuna no:ḍ-i buddi” avã he:ḷ-in-ã
INTJ good omen look-IMP lord 3SG.M say-PST-3SG.M
“Oh, it’s a good omen! Look, my lord!” he said (Si & Spronck 2019: 283)

Between the clausal elements various linking elements may appear and degrees of syntactic integration (traditionally represented as the distinction between ‘direct’ vs. ‘indirect’ speech). In addition to expressing utterances, the structures used in reported speech are also frequently found to express non-illocutionary meanings, such as thought (as in 3), intent (as in 4 and 5), causation or aspectual meanings, among others. These ‘extended’ meanings of reported speech occur with a
noticeable crosslinguistic frequency and regularity (Spronck & Nikitina 2019: 140-142, and references therein).

(3) Tommo So (Mali; Dogon)
yɛ́llɛ̀ g-àà=sɛ́-m.
come.IMPF say-PFV=have-1SG
‘I think that he’s coming’ (McPherson 2013: 454)

(4) Kalam (Papua New Guinea; Madang)
“laplap d-in!” ag nŋ-i, ktg ow-a-k
clothes take-1SG.HORT say think-SS.PRIOR leave come-3SG-PAST
‘She wanted to take (steal) clothes (but) left (them) behind.’ (lit.: ‘“Let me take clothes!” say, having thought, leaving she came.’) (Pawley & Bulmer 2011: 64)

(5) Maale (Ethiopia; North Omotic)
gém-átsí maatt-ó múʔ-á-ne geʔ-í mágg-ó ʔááɗ-é-ne
ox-M:NOM grass-ABS eat-IPF-A:DCL say-CNV1 cliff-ABS go-IPF-A:DCL
‘The ox fell off the cliff when it was trying to eat the grass’ (Amha 2001: 149) [lit.: ‘The ox fell of the cliff saying: “I will eat the grass”’]

As the literal translations of (3-5) illustrate, in each of these cases a clausal element with a verb glossed as ‘say’ signals a meaning that does not reflect an attributed locution.

In this workshop we explore the range of meanings and structures in expressions of reported speech, with a specific focus on non-illocutionary meanings, i.e. examples of reported speech where no attributed utterance is suggested. The workshop consists of data sessions of 30-60 minutes each.


Amha, A. 2001. The Maale Language. (CNWS Publications, 99.) Leiden: Research School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies, University of Leiden.

Buchstaller, I. & I. van Alphen (eds). 2012. Quotatives: Cross-linguistic and cross-disciplinary perspectives. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Güldemann, T. & M. von Roncador (eds). 2002. Reported Discourse: A meeting ground for different linguistic domains. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Janssen, T. & W. van der Wurff (eds). 1996. Reported Speech: Forms and functions of the verb. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

McPherson, L. 2013. A grammar of Tommo So. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Pawley, A. & Bulmer, R. 2011. A Dictionary of Kalam with Ethnographic Notes. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Reesink, G. P. 1993. Inner speech in Papuan languages. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia 24. 217–225.

Si, A. & S. Spronck. 2019. Solega defenestration: Underspecified perspective shift in an unwritten Dravidian language. Pragmatics. Quarterly Publication of the International Pragmatics Association (IPrA) 29(2). 277–301.

Spronck, S. & T. Nikitina. 2019. Reported speech forms a dedicated syntactic domain. Linguistic Typology 23(1): 119–159.