The pragmatics of attraction: Explaining unquotation in direct and free indirect discourse

In Paul Saka & Michael Johnson (eds.), The Semantics and Pragmatics of Quotation. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer (2017)
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The quotational theory of free indirect discourse postulates that pronouns and tenses are systematically unquoted. But where does this unquotation come from? Based on cases of apparent unquotation in direct discourse constructions (including data from Kwaza speakers, Catalan signers, and Dutch children), I suggest a general pragmatic answer: unquotation is essentially a way to resolve a conflict that arises between two opposing constraints. On the one hand, the reporter wants to use indexicals that refer directly to the most salient speech act participants and their surroundings (Attraction). On the other hand, the semantics of direct discourse (formalized here in terms of event modification) entails the reproduction of referring expressions from the original utterance being reported (Verbatim). Unquotation (formalized here also in terms of event modification), allows the reporter to avoid potential conflicts between these constraints. Unquotation in free indirect discourse then comes out as a special case, where the salient source of attraction is the story protagonist and her actions, rather than the reporting narrator and his here and now.

Author's Profile

Emar Maier
University of Groningen


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