The importance of being indirect A new nomenclature for indirect speech

Marina Terkourafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Standard accounts of indirect speech share two assumptions: That indirect speech always has a direct alternative, and that it is strategic. I survey a number of cases that challenge one or both of these assumptions and propose a new nomenclature for indirect speech that crucially includes, in addition to cases where indirect speech is strategic, cases where it is 'enabling.' The enabling potential of indirect speech lies in allowing us to give voice to thoughts or experiences that may be possible to express propositionally only in part. In such cases, the speaker does not start off with a direct alternative in mind but rather uses speech to invite the hearer to help her develop an inchoate thought. Including these cases under the same scheme allows us to consider ways other than recognition of the speaker's intention in which indirect meanings may arise, such as through shared experience and the interlocutors' habitus. The proposed nomenclature thus yields a multi-faceted view of indirect speech that goes beyond its current, formally driven, understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-70
Number of pages26
JournalBelgian Journal of Linguistics
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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