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Reporting what other people say

In this video, Professor Lesley Jeffries explains some of the basic concepts involved in a stylistic account of speech presentation.
When my children were young, they spent a lot of time listening to me talking to friends and neighbours in the street, hearing stories about their lives. If they later then heard me tell the same stories to other people, they got very angry if I wasn’t using the exact words of the original. In fact, sometimes they used to accuse me of lying - but was I lying? Let’s listen to Dan talking to Dave and see how it works. So Matt said to me, “Can you give it back to me?” and I said “I don’t even remember borrowing it.” Dan was quoting Matt’s words to Dave directly, wasn’t he?
But what if Matt had actually said, I can’t remember who I lent it to but I seem to remember might have been you. Would you mind having a look for it? So was Dan lying? Or had he just forgotten the words? Does it even matter? What if Dan had said something different? So he basically accused me of stealing it, even though I’d never had it in the first place. This time, Dan hasn’t even tried to reproduce the original words, but he’s interpreting Matt’s words as an accusation of stealing. Now, this seems to be a more serious misrepresentation of what Matt said, doesn’t it? Quoting other people’s words is an everyday occurrence.
But it’s very important because we often draw conclusions about people based on what we think they’ve said rather than what they actually said. But it’s particularly important in the world of news, politics and professional life, where the slight misrepresentations of everyday interactions, such as the ones we’ve heard today, can become much more significant.

There are lots of different ways in which we can report what other people say. And these options each create different stylistic effects.

Watch the video above, in which Lesley Jeffries explains some of the basic concepts involved in speech presentation.

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Stylistics: Using Linguistics to Explore Texts and Meaning

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