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Review of  Speech and Thought Presentation in French

Reviewer: Ana Masalagiu
Book Title: Speech and Thought Presentation in French
Book Author: Sophie Marnette
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language(s): French
Issue Number: 17.720

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Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2006 02:21:25 -0800 (PST)
From: Ana Masalagiu
Subject: Speech and Thought Presentation in French

AUTHOR: Marnette, Sophie
TITLE: Speech and Thought Presentation in French
SUBTITLE: Concepts and strategies
SERIES: Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 133
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2005

Ana Masalagiu, Department of Letters, ''Alexandru Ioan Cuza''
University of Iasi, Romania, MA student in Translation Studies, English-


The book analyses the way in which people quote themselves and
others (speech and thought presentation) from a theoretical
perspective, as well as the author's and other scholar's opinions about
this issue. Its purpose, as expressed by the author, is to provide
further understanding of the concept of reported discourse and to
bring to light the strategies of speech and thought presentation that
determine the essence of specific genres. It also aims at giving the
Anglo-Saxon scholars the desire to learn more about the frameworks
elaborated in the French-speaking area. This choice of audience
determined the book to be written in English instead of French, which
is the author's mother tongue. The book presents the
French ''théories de l'énonciation'' (discourse theories), that is, the
rhetorical & narrative strategies that people use when speaking. It is
structured into two parts, 1. Theoretical Concepts, and 2. Discourse
Types. The first part comprises three chapters, which describe the
purpose of the work and the theoretic base for the discussion:
Enunciation Theory and S&TP, What is 'reported discourse'?, and To
the limits of reportability. The second part of the book analyzes, in four
distinct chapters, real instances of written and spoken French,
medieval and modern literature, fiction and non-fiction, and in all these
the expression of the point of view in narratives and the construction
of the Self versus the Other in discourse. The choice of the analyzed
instances was determined by the influence of the oral nature of
French medieval literature on nowadays speech.

Sophie Marnette bases her discussion on a corpus of contemporary
spoken French, gathered at the French University of Provence by
the ''Groupe Aixois de Recherche en Syntaxe'' (GARS). From this wide
corpus, she selects 25 varied texts and uses them to identify broad
trends and types of discourse in speech and thought presentation
strategies in spoken French.

The first part of the book, Concepts, represents a study of reported
discourse, starting from the theory of the 'split subject' developed by
Ducrot. Marnette develops his analysis of the argumentative value of
predicates. In her work, the author also uses Bakhtin's concept of
dialogue and his theory of ''polyphony'', that is, the presence of
several ''voices'' in a single utterance, even if they are not always
identifiable with a specific name or a real person. She also
distinguishes between the speaking voices, between the speaking
subject - the physical person who produces the utterance; the locutor -
the person responsible for the act of enunciation and referred to
as 'I', and the enunciator, or the point of view of the voice(s)
expressed. Marnette also distinguishes between the types of
discourse: direct discourse, in which case the reporting speaker
evokes the original speech or thought situation and conveys the exact
words of the original locutor; indirect speech, in which the speaker
transposes the original utterance in his/her own words; free indirect
discourse, that is, direct discourse reported in the fashion of an
indirect one by means of shifted pronouns and tenses, and narrated
discourse (identified by Genette). All these differences are stated and
analyzed in the book from the syntactic point of view and by taking
into account syntactic rather than semantic markers. Therefore, in the
case of free indirect discourse, the author takes into account the
presence of shifted pronouns and tenses. Also, narrated discourse is
identified by its reference to an activity of speech or thought not
followed by a completive or infinitival clause.

The second part of the book, Strategies, is more practice-oriented as
it analyzes in distinct chapters the strategies used in spoken and
written French. The author distinguishes between the various types of
discourse and presents the specific markers and strategies used in
differentiating them (the direct discourse, the free indirect discourse,
the indirect discourse, the neutral discourse, and the writing
presentation). In analyzing written forms, she starts from medieval
literature -- which has a great influence on the oral features of
nowadays spoken and written discourse -- and develops her study
with examples from nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and
contemporary written press. She analyzes the development of forms
and functions and the evolution of the staging in orality from the
medieval ''chansons de geste'' to contemporary speech acts, as well
as the expression of the rhetoric of truth, and also the evolution of the
point of view as thought presentation from medieval romances. She
then analyzes the emergence and evolution of the free indirect
discourse in nineteenth and twentieth-century literature. In the end,
the author focuses on contemporary press and on the way different
publications can be individualized based on the strategies of the
journalistic discourse. Sub-types of journalistic discourse can be
pointed out according to the speech and thought presentation
strategies used for sharing values, entertaining, or informing and

In a nutshell, the author manages to perform a vast analysis, touching
important issues in the theory of discourse. The main problems that
are discussed and for which a solution is attempted through the study
of speech and thought presentation strategies are: the separation of
literary genres according to the strategies they employ, the point of
view through which a narrative is filtered (the relationship between
author, narrator, characters and the recipients), the relationship
between internal attitudes and external speech, the discourse of the
Other vs. the discourse of the Self, and of the past vs. the virtual, or
the rhetoric of truth. The author analyses the modality of a situation of
communication, that is, the speaker's opinion about the facts that are
discussed, the staging of the discourse (the locutor seen as an actor,
speaking of himself as of somebody else), and the importance of meta-
linguistic comments. She also analyses the reasons why in many
situations, although several strategies are possible for communication,
only a restrained number is favored by the speakers.


The originality of the book consists in the fact that it manages to
establish connections between linguistic, stylistic and narrative
frameworks that had only been analyzed separately in previous works.
It combines the French ''théorie de l'énonciation'' with Anglo-Saxon
approaches of reported discourse and creates a new paradigm for
speech and thought presentation strategies.

The book is very well documented, developing various theories and
concepts regarding speech and thought presentation. It is also based
on thorough research performed on a large corpus of Medieval
French literature, of contemporary French literature, and of
contemporary written French press.

Actually, this effort is consistent with other contemporary trends in
many other scholars and institutions are working on annotating
corpuses according to the SPEECH AND THOUGHT PRESENTATION
strategies they use (Elena Semino and Mick Short's Speech, Writing
and Thought Presentation in a Corpus of English Writing, 2004, The
Lancaster Speech, Writing and Thought Presentation Written Corpus
maintained by Martin Wynne, to name only a few).

The shortcoming of this work, if we can point out one, is the fact that
the book is intended for scholars, and therefore its language and
style -- long sentences and numerous references -- makes it less
accessible to the general public. Also, the perspective of the analysis
is, as the author herself states, grammatical (syntactical) rather than
semantic or pragmatic, which renders some communication situations
ambiguous, especially if the viewpoints of different scholars are
considered for the analyzed utterance.


Bakhtin, Mikhail, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, Harvard
University Press, 1986.

Ducrot, Oswald, Dire et ne pas dire, Hermann, 1991.

I am a graduate student in Computational Linguistics and Translation
Studies (English-French-Romanian) and my main research interests
are related to the translation of culture specific terms and situations.
My diploma paper was concerned with the translation of tourist
brochures from Romanian into English. I also spent a semester in
Middlesex University, London as a Socrates student. I work as a
technical writer and translator.