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Reported speech in Afrikaans: lexical and semantic associations

Reported speech, both direct and indirect, is usually signalled by communication verbs. These verbs in the matrix clause play an important role in identifying whether a particular instance of reported speech should be taken as a reported statement, question, or command. In speech act terms, these verbs function as illocutionary verbs.

The typical range of speech act functions, for instance Austin or Searl's taxonomy of illocutionary effects, covers most of these uses, except that there is one function that does not neatly fit the categorisation – the question, whether direct or indirect. To complete the classification, the matrix proposed by Halliday and Matthiessen (2014) can be used. They distinguish two roles in a verbal exchange: giving or demanding, and two commodities being exchanged: goods-&-services or information. Reported speech can therefore be used to report any of four kinds of verbal exchanges, listed below with typical Afrikaans verbs that cue this function. The concept proposed by Halliday and Matthiessen (2014) is presented first, followed by the corresponding speech act classification in brackets, with the term "Interrogative" supplementing the speech act classification.

  • Statement [Declarative], which gives information, e.g. to say, skryf to write, vertel to tell, meedeel to inform.
  • Question [Interrogative], which demands information, e.g. vra to ask, uitvind to find out.
  • Offer [Commissive], which (commits to) give goods-&-services, e.g. beloof, belowe to promise, aanbied to offer.
  • Command [Directive], which demands goods-&-services, e.g. beveel to command, waarsku to warn, aanraai to recommend.

These options are illustrated by example (1) to (4).

Bedryfsleiers [dit is beter om vroeër eerder as later dié nuus te kry].
Industry leaders say [it is better to get this news sooner rather than later.]
Die dokter het gevra [of die pasiënt vir enigiets allergies is].
The docter asked [if the patient is allergic for anything].
TK, adjusted
Rynhard beloof [om dit te doen].
Rynhard promises [to do it].
Die hof het in September 2004 die departement beveel [om Brits te bevorder].
The court ordered the department [to promote Brits] in September 2004.

Additional layers of semantic information in reported speech concern verbs that encode not only an act of communication, but also incorporate information about the manner of speaking as part of the lexeme, e.g. the contrast between to say in example (1), and kerm to moan or mompel to mumble, as illustrated by example (5) and (6).

Ek sny myself in drie stukke en dan kerm Hoffe [dit moet vinniger].
I cut myself in three pieces and then Hoffe moans [that it must go faster].
Hy het heeltyd gemompel [hy is jammer].
He mumbled the whole time [he is sorry].

There does not appear to be strong associations between particular verbs and the choice between direct and indirect speech as option. As indicated in the descrption of the syntactic distribution of speech reporting, this choice is mainly a function of register and information structure within texts. The same applies to the choice of word order between initial and non-initial variants, as is indicated in the description of construction forms.

Certain verbs that are semantically most compatible with one subtype of indirect speech can be used in another function, because of the type of complement clause (declarative, interrogative or infinitive). This can be regarded as coercion of the function of the verb into something other than its default function. The verb vra to ask in example (7) illustrates the directive use of the same verb that shows the question use in example (2).

a. Ek het gevra [dat hulle die matrone roep].
I asked [that they call the matron].
[Directive, declarative complement clause]
b. Ek het haar gevra [om met my te trou].
I asked her [to marry me].
TK, adjusted
[Directive, infinitive complement clause]
[+]Additional semantic layers in the reporting verb

Adverbial information relating to the manner of speaking is often incorporated in the verbal lexeme. These verbs simultaneously convey that some act of speech reporting takes place, but also that the speaking (or writing) was done in a particular way. Such options are exercised very frequently in fiction, where the speaking of characters is not merely reported, but the way in which they speak is encoded by the reporting verb, as part of the characterisation process and/or the presentation of non-verbal action in the unfolding narrative. The most typical use of these manner of speaking verbs in fiction is with direct speech.

An extensive range of manner of speaking meanings is attested, as shown by example (8) to (11).

  • Angry and loud speaking (toesnou to snarl at, skel to scold, skreeu to shout, terugkap to retort, uitbasuin to trumpet)
"Sy sal bly wees om te hoor sy't jou so beïndruk", snou sy hom sarkasties toe.
"She will be happy to hear that she impressed you so", she snarls at him sarcastically.
  • Speaking in a dampened tone, often conveying pain, unhappiness and surprise, or seduction (prewel to mutter, mompel to murmer, mor to grumble, brom to grouse, grumble).
a. "Ek het nie geweet waarvan ek praat nie," prewel hy in haar hare.
"I did not know what I was talking about," he muttered into her hair.
b. "O, Moeder van alle Heiliges, genade..." prewel die matrone.
"Oh, Mother of all Saints, mercy..." muttered the matron.
  • A begging or pleading tone (smeek to beg, soebat to implore, paai to appease).
"Ag, nee, Emma, bly nog 'n bietjie by ons, toe " het Ralph gesoebat.
"Oh no, Emma, do stay with us for a little longer," Ralph implored her.
  • A joking or joyful tone (skerts to joke, lag to laugh).
"'n Aantreklike kêrel soos Pa mag nie met 'n stoppelbaard hier voor die mooi verpleegsters lê nie," skerts hy.
"Dad, an attractive chap like you should not lie with a stubby beard in full view of these beautiful nurses," he joked.

A different range of adverbial meanings that are incorporated into reporting verbs conveys the way in which a particular reported statement connects to the larger context, contributing the textual cohesion, while occasionally also encoding an aspect of the manner of speaking in the same breath. These verbs are found more often in journalism and academic writing. The following are typical cohesive meanings:

  • Addition of information (byvoeg to add, bysê to add, toevoeg to add).
'n Kollega beaam dit, maar voeg by: "Hy is sterk. Niemand gaan hom intimideer nie."
A colleague confirms it, but also adds, "He is strong. Nobody is going to intimidate him."
  • Responding (antwoord to answer, terugskryf to write back).
Tutu het die versoek vir 'n vergadering aan hom gerig in 'n brief, maar Buthelezi het teruggeskryf dat hy sy adviseurs ook by die vergadering wou hê.
Tutu directed the request for a meeting with him in a letter, but Buthelezi wrote back that he would like to have his advisors at the meeting as well.
  • Revealing (onthul to reveal, beken to acknowledge, bieg to confess, bekendmaak to make known).
"Dit is hier waar ons besluit het alle Doppers mag dans sonder dat hulle hel toe sal gaan!" het oudpres. F.W. de Klerk gister onder groot gelag onthul.
"It is here that we decided all Doppers may dance without going to hell!", former president F.W. de Klerk revealed yesterday amid lots of laughter.
  • Steps in argumentation (aflei to deduce, argumenteer to argue, verklaar to explain).
Habermas argumenteer dat hierdie belange grondliggend is aan die saamspan van enige samelewing of gemeenskap.
Habermas argues that these interests are at the root of the cooperation in any society or community.

Finally, it is also possible for a verb to hedge or profile the degree of certainty with which the reported words should be accepted. Uncertainty about the validity of the reported clause is encoded by verbs like bespiegel to speculate, skimp to hint or gis to guess, as illustrated by example (16). Certainty is encoded by verbs like stel to state, stateer to state, konstateer to place on record, bevestig to confirm, or beaam to agree, as illustrated by example (17).

Wetenskaplikes het bespiegel dat hierdie hitteverlies heel moontlik die gevolg is van die Aarde wat afkoel.
Scientists speculated that this loss of heat is most likely the consequence of the Earth cooling down.
'n KwaZulu-Natalse onderwyser beaam: "Meeste van die kinders hier doen een of ander vorm van werk. Hulle help hul gesinne om te oorleef."
A KwaZulu-Natal teachers agrees, "Most of the kids here have some kind of part-time job. They help their families to survive."
[+]Coercion to another type of speech reporting

The type of complement clause that a verb selects is an important determinant of the role that the reported clause plays in an exchange: declarative, interrogative, directive or commissive. The verb of the matrix clause is usually a further expression of the illocutionary effect intended for the reported speech. Most verbs therefore typically take one type of complement clause most of the time – finite declarative or interrogative, or infinitive. However, a number of verbs allow more than one complement type with some regularity, and in a few cases, a verb that typically functions in one speech reporting type may be coerced into a different type due to the selection of a different complement clause. This can best be illustrated by the verb vra to ask, which takes interrogative complement clauses when it signals an indirect question, but when it takes an infinitive or finite declarative complement clause, the speech reporting type changes into a directive, as shown by example (18).

a. Toe draai hy na die trotse ma en vra [hoe oud sy is].
Then he turned to the proud mother and asked [how old she was].
[WH-interrogative complement clause, Interrogative function]
b. Ek het gevra [of ek daar kan oornag].
I asked [if I could stay there for the night].
TK, adjusted
[YES/NO-interrogative complement clause, Interrogative function]
c. Ek het gevra [dat hulle die matrone roep en later die uitvoerende hoof].
I asked [that they call the matron and later the chief executive].
[Declarative complement clause, Directive function]
d. Soms word 'n werksoeker gevra [om 'n aansoekvorm te voltooi].
Sometimes a job seeker is asked [to complete an application form].
[Infinitive complement clause, Directive function]

A set of patterns of coercion observed in the data relate to a group of verbs that take finite declarative or infinitive complement clauses. In these cases, both options seem to retain a similar reading, either commissive (e.g., beloof, belowe to promise, as illustrated in (19) or directive (e.g., beveel to command, waarsku to warn, smeek to beg, soebat to implore) as illustrated in (20) and (21). The verbs beveel and waarsku are usually intended to direct the behaviours of others, while the verbs smeek and soebat typically intend to direct the other to give the speaker permission or assistance. However, with the directive verbs, if there is no addressee, it is possible to have a declarative rather than directive reading in combination with a declarative complement clause, as illustrated by example (20b).

a. Hy het belowe [dat hy sou kom].
He promised [that he would come].
[Declarative complement clause, commissive function]
b. Pietman beloof [om môre weer te kom].
Pietman promises [to come again tomorrow].
TK, adjusted
[Infinitive complement clause, commissive function]
a. Hulle waarsku haar [dat sy net moet sorg om warm genoeg aan te trek].
They warn her [that she must take care to dress herself warmly enough].
[Declarative complement clause, directive function]
b. Almal waarsku [dat die vermaaklikheidswêreld baie wispelturig is].
Everybody warns [that the entertainment world is very ficle].
[Declarative complement clause, declarative function]
c. Ek het jou gewaarsku [om te gaan regmaak voor dit te laat is].
I warned you [to set things right before it is too late].
[Infinitive complement clause, directive function]
a. Hy het sy ma gesmeek [dat hy kan saamgaan].
He begged his mother [that he could go along].
[Declarative complement clause, directive function]
b. Sy het Deon gesmeek [om asseblief nie weer te jaag nie].
She begged Deon [to please not speed again].
[Infinitive complement clause, directive function]

Another pattern relates to the choice between declarative and interrogative complement clauses, with verbs like bespiegel to speculate, vertel to tell, verduidelik to explain. These verbs signal declarative meanings with declarative complement clauses, but may extend to interrogative meanings with interrogative complement clauses, as illustrated by example (22).

a. Dié koerant bespiegel [dat Alonso vir een van die kleiner spanne in die Formule Een Reeks gaan jag].
This newspaper speculates [that Alonso will be driving for one of the smaller teams in Formula One].
[Declarative complement clause and function]
b. Die skindertonge het reeds begin bespiegel [wie Minki se nuwe kêrel is].
The gossipers have already begun to speculate [who Minki's new boyfriend is].
[WH-interrogative complement clause, interrogative function]
c. Almal het bespiegel [of dit 'n ongeluk was].
Everybody speculated [whether it was an accident].
[YES/NO-interrogative complement clause, interrogative function]

However, sometimes, especially with vertel to tell and verduidelik to explain, the WH-word of the interrogative complement clause serves as adverb to indicate an information gap, but that gap is often supplied in context. The WH-word functions more as anaphor than as request for information, and the resulting sentence remains declarative in function, as illustrated by example (23).

a. Hy het destyds ook vertel [dat Meg sy suster is].
He also went around telling [that Meg was his sister].
[Declarative complement clause and function]
b. Calvin se pa, Wayne, vertel [hoe hulle rekeninge van tot R126 000 ontvang het].
Calvin's dad Wayned told [how they received invoices of up to R126 000].
[Interrogative complement clause, declarative function]
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