Verbal Processes 1

Verbal Processes “contribute to the creation of narrative by making it possible to set up dialogic passages” (H & M, p. 252) and consist of a Sayer and Process plus a secondary clause (not a rank-shifted nominalization). The two clauses function together in one of two ways. The first is as Quoting/Quoted:

She said “I know what it’s like to be dead”
Sayer Process:verbal  
1: Quoting 2: Quoted

The second is as Reporting/Reported:

You say you will love me till the end of time
Sayer Process: verbal  
α: Reporting β: Reported

There are two important points to be made for EFL. The first is that, for both Quoting and Reporting, the Sayer “does not require a conscious participant” (H & M, p. 254). Thus we may have:

  • The sign says “Stop”.
  • The sign says we have to stop.

The second point is that the Reported clause, as in the second example above, is not the exact words but the general meaning or gist of what was said. This is important because traditionally (and still) within EFL the relationship between the two types is seen as transformative, that is the Reported clause is derived from the Quoted clause. Hence, the common EFL activity (and headache) of transforming direct speech into indirect by shifting the verb one tense back. The two types, however, are functionally different and should be treated as such. The Reporting/Reported type allows the speaker the option of projecting their opinion and attitude regarding the content of the Reported clause in ways that Quoting/Quoted cannot:

  • John says he’ll come to the party (it’s possible)
  • John says he’ll come to the party (I don’t think so)
  • John said he’ll come to the party (I think so)
  • John said he’d come to the party (but he’s not here)

On the other hand, direct quotes allow the speaker to distance themselves from the content of the quote by attributing it to someone else. At times a combination of the two is possible, as in this from the Guardian:

Ponting had promised that he would play in the “Australian way” in this match.

In this way, the writer is able to indirectly comment on, or criticise, the content of the quote (often signalled visually with the hands in spoken dialogue).

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