Language shifts in free indirect discourse

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Free indirect discourse is a way of reporting what a protagonist thinks or says that is distinct from both direct and indirect discourse. In particular, while pronouns and tenses are presented from the narrator's perspective, as in indirect discourse, other indexical and expressive elements reflect the protagonist's point of view, as in direct discourse. In this paper I discuss a number of literary examples of free indirect discourse in which the narrator slips into the language, dialect or idiolect of the protagonist. I argue that the leading formal semantic analyses of free indirect discourse, which rely on semantic context shifting, fail to account for such language shifts. I then present an alternative account that treats free indirect discourse as a form of mixed quotation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-167
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of literary semantics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2014


  • free indirect discourse
  • formal semantics
  • direct vs. indirect discourse
  • quotation
  • context shift
  • dialect
  • narrative

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