Colorado Research in Linguistics

Document Type

Working Paper


The language used to report direct quotes in a narrative (more commonly known as 'stories' or 'gossip') tends to be stylized. However, the forms used to introduce direct quotes can reveal something about the reporter's opinions of the people and events in a narrative, as well as the actual events. Currently, the American English system of reporting speech or thoughts in a narrative is undergoing change, increasing the emphasis on the reporter's attitude toward the events, and on the degree of certainty that quoted words were actually spoken. This change has driven a re-analysis of various words not used formerly in narrative reports. This research attempts to show that two new forms for reporting speech, be like and be all, are used and that they are functionally differentiated from the 'correct' English say. The study is a preliminary one, and the results are inconclusive. However, be like appears to be used more often when the quote was not actually verbalized by any speaker, whereas be all appears to be used exclusively for actual, spoken quotes.



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