Comparing bilinguals' quoted performances of self and others in tellings of the same experience in two languages

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article lends empirical support to the notion that quoted speech is "constructed dialogue" by exploring empirically how narratives of personal experience involve creative performance of locally imaginable personas, rather than accurate or faithful representation of actual people and their words. This work examines quotation in narratives of personal experience as a site where speakers use language pragmatically to enact socio-culturally localable identities. Using a corpus of narratives in which French-Portuguese bilinguals told the same narratives of personal experience once in each language, it demonstrates that speakers do not quote more extensively when recounting experiences in the language in which those events "originally" occurred. Ultimately, what differs most in speakers' quotations in French and Portuguese tellings of the "same event" are the nonequivalent kinds and ranges of registers in which narrated characters are quoted. More specifically, speakers are more likely to quote themselves as speaking or having spoken in creative, marked registers in French than in Portuguese. This difference in the registers put in the mouths of quoted characters, in particular of quoted selves, may point to ways in which these bilinguals' multiple identities are instantiated within and across their two languages. More broadly, this work reveals ways in which all speakers may use narrative not only to describe the past but also to perform a variety of cultural selves, reinventing and reenacting characters as quoted selves and others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-558
Number of pages46
JournalLanguage in Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2001


  • Bilingualism
  • Identity
  • Narratives of personal experience
  • Reported speech
  • Retellings
  • Stylistic variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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