Kaisa_2012_3_photo by Veikko Somerpuro

Limits of grammar

This course examines reported speech, defined as ‘speech about speech, a message about a message’ (Voloshinov 1973: 115).

Typical sentence constructions associated with this phenomenon are direct speech constructions, such as ‘John said: “Look at the sky!”’ and indirect speech, such as ‘John said that he would go on holiday to Bladibibla Island, or something’.

All languages seem to have reported speech, but we find an extraordinary variety of forms in the languages of the world. What is more, although languages have clearly identifiable structural features associated with reported speech (sentential constructions, particles, inflections etc.) reported speech often does not seem to be marked in a consistent or distinctive way. For example, switching to a funny voice when repeating the words of some other person or an elliptical sentence such as ‘Hear him, “I don’t even like chocolate”’ can be sufficient to express reported speech. How can we consistently describe a phenomenon that shows such a great degree of variation?

In this course we examine reported speech in order to pose philosophical, descriptive and typological questions about what counts as structural encoding in language. Based on cross-linguistic data of ‘speech about speech’ we examine where grammar ends and where interaction begins in linguistic analysis. The course should both suit students with an interest in typology and morphosyntax as well as students with an interest in stylistics, interaction and philosophy of language.

1.10.2019 at 09:00 - 1.11.2019 at 23:59


Here is the course’s teaching schedule. Check the description for possible other schedules.

Fri 1.11.2019
12:15 - 13:45
Fri 8.11.2019
12:15 - 13:45
Fri 15.11.2019
12:15 - 13:45
Fri 22.11.2019
12:15 - 13:45
Fri 29.11.2019
12:15 - 13:45
Fri 13.12.2019
12:15 - 13:45

Conduct of the course

The course will be evaluated on the basis of class participation/assignments and a final essay. Students will be assigned a one reading and offered an optional reading each week, and are expected to complete short weekly assignments on reported speech in two languages of choice (preferably one language they speak themselves and one language they study on the basis of a descriptive grammar/text materials).


Belongs to MA Programme Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age.

Belongs to module Studies in General Linguistics (LDA-G3100).


The course is available to students from other study tracks and other degree programmes.



After successfully completing the course, you are able to:

  • explain the main approaches in the field of the topics covered by the course
  • critically review relevant literature with respect to the topics covered by the course
  • apply the theoretical/methodological concepts/approaches of the field to relevant concrete questions/data.

Spring of first year or autumn of second year of MA studies. Teaching events that can be registered under this course code may be given at different times depending on the year.

Course contents vary according to the topic of the course. They will be specified in the teaching programme and in the description of the actual teaching event.


These vary according to the actual teaching event to be subsumed under this course code. Typically the course will consist of lectures, group discussions, project work, presentations by students and/or other suitable activities.

These vary according to the actual teaching event to be subsumed under this course code.

Grading scale: usually 0-5

The assessment practices used are directly linked to the learning outcomes and teaching methods of the course.

The course will be offered in the form of contact teaching or as a distance learning course.

Attendance requirements will be discussed at course start.