Morphosyntax 3 Lecture 9 Indirect Speech

Morphosyntax 3 Lecture 9 Indirect Speech

Morphosyntax 3 – Lecture 9 – Indirect speech

I enjoy playing football. → Jim said that he enjoyed playing football.

If the verb in the main or reporting clause is in the Past Tense, it is usual for a verb in the reported clause to be backshifted

1. present -» past (including present perfect -» past perfect)

2. past -» past perfect

- sometimes it’s possible to break the concord between reporting verb and reported verb, keeping the tense form of the original utterance:

Ί hate spiders' → John admitted that he hates spiders.

Example of historical statements:

'Virtue is knowledge.' → Socrates said that virtue was knowledge.

or → Socrates said that virtue is knowledge.

Ί am blameless.' → Socrates said that he was blameless.

However → ?*Socrates said that he is blameless.

When the Past Tense has a global indefinite meaning in combination with ever, always, etc., backshift is virtually compulsory:

I always said he was a liar. ( ?*I always said he's a liar.)

With the Present Perfect, however, backshift can be avoided:

I've always said he's a liar.

There is a parallel between backshift of tense and the shift from first- and second-person to third-person pronouns in cases like:

'I don't believe you.' → She told Tom she didn't believe him.

- also reported feelings and thoughts

I forgot you were listening. (rather than Ί forgot you are listening').

Auxiliary verbs and indirect speech

- a modal auxiliary followed by a Perfect Infinitive can in reporting clauses, as in other contexts, be counted as the equivalent of a Past Tense form:

'What's wrong?' → You should have asked the mechanic what was wrong.

'They're bluffing.' → You must have realised that they were bluffing.

'I‘m guilty.' → He may have admitted he was guilty.

- In reported clauses, the backshifting of a primary auxiliary can, may, will, etc. results in the use of the secondary form could, might, would, etc.

- Whereas these secondary forms are not always usable for past time reference in direct speech (e.g. *It might rain yesterday is not the direct Past Tense equivalent of It may rain today), in indirect speech the following backshifts are available without exception: can → could, may → might, will → would

'It may rain tomorrow' → We were afraid it might rain the next day.

- must, ought to, should (= 'ought to'), need(n‘t) and (had) better have no Past Tense forms, but in indirect speech they may themselves be used as if they were Past Tense forms:

'You must / needn't take the written exam' → She was told she must / needn't take the written exam.

- must and need(n‘t) - infrequent in indirect speech - it is more natural to backshift by switching to the Past Tense forms of have to and need to:

She was told she had to take a written exam.

She was told she didn't need to take a written exam.

Free indirect speech

- omitting (or parenthesising) the reporting clauses

Direct speech:

Agnes: 'Why do they always have to pick on me?'

Indirect speech:

Agnes asked why they always had to pick on her.

Free indirect speech:

Why did they always have to pick on her (thought Agnes)?

or simply: Why did they always have to pick on her?

- the use of free indirect speech for describing 'interior monologue'

The reporting verb in the present

- The tenses that follow are usually the same as those used in the original sentence

„I‘ve eaten.“ – „He says he has eaten.“

Reporting questions

- yes-no questions - we use whether/if

- not only the tense changes but also the inversion changes to declarative sentence WO

„Are you ready?“ - He asked me whether/if I was ready.

- the same applies to question tags:

„You‘re ready, aren‘t you?“ - He asked me whether/if I was ready.

- wh-questions - the tense changes and the inversion changes to declarative sentence WO (apart from wh-questions asking about the subject)

„Why haven‘t you finished?“ – He asked me why I hadn‘t finished.

„Who paid the waiter?“ – He asked me who paid the waiter.

Reporting imperatives

- verb + to-infinitive

„Remember to post the letter!“ – He reminded me to post the letter.

- when we report a negative imperative, we use not or never before the to-infinitive

„Don‘t wait!“ – He asked me not to wait.

Reporting offers, suggestions, requests

we use if or whether + tense shift or we use whether to

„Shall I phone her?“

- He wanted to know whether/if he should phone her.

- He wanted to know whether to phone her. (*He wanted to know if to phone her.)

- offers, suggestions or requests with a wh-word:

„How shall I repair it?“

- He wanted to know how he should repair it.

- He wanted to know how to repair it.