Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 March 2018
This study is a corpus-based diachronic analysis of English reporting parentheticals, i.e. clauses introducing direct speech, placed after or in the middle of the reported message. The aim of the investigation is to trace the development of the construction throughout the history of English, establishing the main factors influencing the choice between VS and SV patterns (i.e. with and without quotative inversion respectively), showing how various reporting verbs were increasingly attracted to the construction, and demonstrating the gradual morphological reduction of the main reporting verbs: quoth and say. The study is based on syntactically annotated corpora of Old, Middle, Early Modern and Late Modern English, and uses other corpora to illustrate more recent changes. The study reveals that reporting clauses do not show regular quotative inversion with all subject types until the Early Modern English period and links this development to the emergence of the comment clause with say. It is also claimed that quotative inversion is not directly derived from the V-2 rule and that parenthetical reporting clauses have functioned as a separate construction since the Old English period.