Speech reporting verbs

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English exercise: speech reporting verbs

Look at a few pages in a novel or short story in English and see how many different speech reporting verbs you can find in the direct speech of the characters. Think of how you might make those same reports in ordinary conversation.

Do the same with a newspaper, looking for examples of quotations of the words of politicians, famous people, etc. Arethe reports the same as in the novel/short story? Are they the same as / different everyday conversation?

Book extract : F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Penguin Books, 1950, chapter I, p. 23-24

In this extract, we quote nine different speech reporting verbs in the direct speech of the characters: say, remark, explain, confirm, call, inquire, ask, demand, and advise. In writtendialogues it is common to use various verbs. It permits to avoid redundancies in order to keep the reader fascinated. For instance, for direct reporting of questions, the author uses the verbs inquire, demand, and ask. If compared with everyday conversation, these speech reporting verbs from literature are really more eloquent and sophisticated that the ones we would use in an ordinary conversation,which are the verbs say, tell and ask. Moreover, say is a way to introduce a question, an answer but also covers most types of direct speech reporting verbs in a conversation. For example, verbs such as explain, inquire, advise or confirm are not much used in ordinary conversation because they would sound too formal but are common in written dialogues. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions.Indeed, in fairy tales, the authors often use say as reporting verb in the direct speech because children understand it easier. In the same way, in a conversation with a higher language register (a more formal language), we can use various reporting verbs. We can add that in a conversation, we use indirect speech to report the speaking of someone else. There are numerous reporting verbs, and theseverbs take a variety of structures (for instance, advise + object + infinitive ; deny + ing form, etc.) Moreover, we have to pay attention to the tense.

Article from The Guardian, Mick Jackson: 'Taking pity on the reader'

In this article, we can see six different reporting verbs: say, allow, explain, find, add, remember. As a consequence, the reporting verbs in a newspaper are as variousas in a novel or short story. However, in this article the reporting verbs are in present tense. Direct speech makes events more vivid than in indirect speech. In this article, it's all the more true because the journalist uses present tense. It gives to the reader the feeling that Mr Jackson is in front of him. In addition, the journalist uses six times the verb say, whereas he could chooseother reporting verbs. To finish, he cuts sentences with reporting verbs. For instance, he writes: "You can't teach creative writing," he allows, "but you can support writers while they're developing their skills." Articles from newspapers contrast between novel and ordinary conversation. In the one hand, the utilisation of various reporting verbs is more common to written formal language (in anovel or short story) but on the other hand, the present tense, the recurrence of say and cut quotations by a reporting verb are more usual to an ordinary conversation or to an informal written reported speech. But this conclusion can be reappraised in function of newspapers kinds (tabloids, politics, economics, etc.).
We can also notice that in a newspaper, a journalist has to be neutral.Nevertheless, a reporting verb can betray the journalist opinion. For instance, it matters considerably whether the reporting verb is "professed" or "claimed", which both have negative connotations, or "explained", "announced" or "pointed out", which have a more positive sound.

To conclude, we can notice that in a novel or short story, speech reporting verbs are more diversified than in an ordinary...
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