The Semantics of Free Indirect Discourse

How Texts Allow Us to Mind-read and Eavesdrop


Free indirect discourse presents us with the inner world of protagonists of a story. We seem to see the world through their eyes, and listen to their inner thoughts. The present study analyses the logic of free indirect discourse and offers a framework to represent multiple ways in which words betray the speaker's feelings and attitude. The theory covers tense, aspect, temporal indexicals, modal particles, exclamatives and other expressive elements and their dependence on shifting utterance contexts. It traces the subtle ways in which story texts can offer information about protagonists.

The study of free indirect discourse has been a topic of great interest in recent years in semantics and pragmatics. In this book, Regine Eckardt proposes a new theory of this domain and applies it to a wide variety of phenomena -- discourse particles, exclamatives, and mood -- in addition to the traditional indexical pronouns and tenses. She situates this project within a larger attempt to extend the tools of semantic analysis to fiction. Most formally oriented semanticists have not paid serious attention to this domain, which has resulted in a major gap in semantic theory; this book is thus a pioneering effort and raises many intriguing points. The total result is an empirically rich and exciting work which will be a profitable read for researchers interested in semantics, pragmatics, and formal approaches to literature. Eric McCready, Aoyama Gakuin University

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Biographical Note

Regine Eckardt Ph.D. (1996) University of Stuttgart, is Professor of semantics/pragmatics at the English department of Göttingen University. She has worked and published on the meaning of focus and information structure, discourse particles, as well as semantic change and grammaticalization.

Table of contents

1 Introduction
1.1 The Challenge of Free Indirect Discourse
1.2 Macro and Micro Level Indicators
1.3 A Little Bit of Grammar
1.4 Two Voices
1.5 Preview

2 The Contexts of Free Indirect Discourse
2.1 Kaplan on Context
2.2 Interpreting Free Indirect Discourse
2.3 Earlier Formal Approaches to Free Indirect Discourse
2.4 Where Does Inner Context Come From?
2.5 Advanced Issues: Recursion
2.6 Summary

3 Story Update
3.1 Information as Common Ground Update
3.2 Narration and Story Update
3.3 Updates by Assertion and Commentary
3.4 Advanced Issues: Expressive Content in Modal Contexts
3.5 Summary

4 Tense and Aspect
4.1 Events, Tense and Aspect
4.2 Forcing Free Indirect Discourse
4.3 Discourse and Free Indirect Discourse
4.4 Advanced Issues: Interface Considerations and Exceptions
4.5 Summary

5 Particles in Free Indirect Discourse
5.1 Speaker as a Parameter in Contexts of Thought
5.2 Speaker’s Attitude: leider
5.3 Speaker and Common Ground: ja
5.4 Speaker’s Agenda: also + Focus
5.5 Speaker’s Epistemic Background: wohl
5.6 Speaker’s Objections: doch
5.7 Advanced Issues: How Temporal and Speaker Oriented Indexicals Interact
5.8 Summary 147

6 Exclamatives
6.1 Exclamatives in Direct and Indirect Discourse
6.2 Rett’s Theory of Exclamatives
6.3 The Temporal Structure of Exclamatives
6.4 Exclamatives, Times, and Tensed Degrees
6.5 Derived Reference to Gradable Post-States
6.6 Advanced Issues: Dead Ends in the Analysis of Exclamatives
6.7 Summary

7 Predecessors and Alternatives
7.1 Banfield
7.2 Schlenker
7.3 Sharvit
7.4 Quotational Theories

8 More Tenses, More Moods
8.1 The Konjunktiv in Reported Speech and Thought
8.2 Advanced Issues: Fabricius-Hansen and Sæbø
8.3 Free Indirect Speech in the Historical Present

9 Forbidden in Shifted Speech
9.1 Banned from Indirect Discourse
9.2 Vocatives
9.3 Imperatives
9.4 Summary

10 Final Panorama
10.1 Looking Back
10.2 New Horizons
10.3 Linguistics, Literature, and the Challenge of Fiction


All those with an interest in the interplay between literary fiction and language, ranging from undergraduate students with a minimal background in semantics to experts in semantics and narratology.

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