Skip to main content Accessibility help

Verbs in speech framing expressions: Comparing English and Spanish 1



In this study, we explore how direct speech is portrayed in English and Spanish Speech Framing Expressions (SFEs). The study has two aims. Firstly, we survey the use of verbs in SFEs and offer a comprehensive inventory of those verbs in English and Spanish as representatives of Germanic and Romance languages respectively in order to determine what verb meanings are used to cue direct speech, what lexical resources express these meanings, and how rich and varied these vocabularies are in the two languages. Secondly, the comparisons across the languages provide the basis for a theoretical contribution to the debate about general typological differences in the semantics and lexicalization patterns of verbs in Germanic and Romance languages to the area of verbs for speech and to meaning modelling in general. Five main semantic categories of verbs were identified: speech, activity, perception, cognition and emotion. We show that Spanish features a much more varied repertoire than English and makes more use of verbs related to the domains of thinking and reasoning, while the physical domain is the preferred one in the English data set. It emerges that even though the same types of lexical resources are available in both languages, the ways of describing direct speech vary greatly.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Verbs in speech framing expressions: Comparing English and Spanish 1
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Verbs in speech framing expressions: Comparing English and Spanish 1
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Verbs in speech framing expressions: Comparing English and Spanish 1
      Available formats


Corresponding author

Author’s address: Facultad de Letras, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Avda. Camilo José Cela, s/n 13071 Ciudad Real, Spain
Author’s address: Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, BOX 201, 22100 Lund, Sweden


Hide All

The present research is funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía and Competitividad MINECO (reference: FFI2013-45553-C3-2-P). We are grateful to three anonymous Journal of Linguistics referees and to the editorial team for their helpful comments.



Hide All
Buchstaller, Isabelle & van Alphen, Ingrid (eds.). 2012. Quotatives: Cross-linguistic and cross-disciplinary perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Caballero, Rosario. 2015. Reconstructing speech events: Comparing English and Spanish. Linguistics 53.6, 13911431.
Caballero, Rosario & Paradis, Carita. 2015. Making sense of sensory perceptions across languages and cultures. Functions of Language 22.1, 119.
Clark, Herbert & Gerrig, Richard J.. 1990. Quotations as demonstrations. Language 66.4, 764805.
Contreras, Hernán. 1988. Los verbos dialogales en inglés y en castellano. Revista de Lingüística Teórica y Aplicada 26, 2327.
Coulmas, Florian(ed.). 1986. Direct and indirect speech. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Cruse, Alan. 2002. The construal of sense boundaries. Revue de sémantique et pragmatique 12, 3752.
De Roeck, Marijke. 1994. A functional typology of speech reports. In Engberg-Pedersen, Elisabeth, Jakobsen, Lisbeth Falster & Rasmussen, Lone Schack (eds.), Function and expression in functional grammar, 331351. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Dirven, René, Goossens, Louis, Putseys, Yvan & Vorlat, Emma. 1982. The scene of linguistic action and its perspectivization by speak, talk, say and tell. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Faber, Pamela B. & Mairal Usón, Ricardo. 1999. Constructing a lexicon of English verbs. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Fagard, Benjamin, Zlatev, Jordan, Kopecka, Anetta, Cerruti, Massimo & Blomberg, Johan. 2016. The expression of motion events: A quantitative study of six typologically varied languages. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (BLS 39), 364379.
Filipović, Luna. 2007. Talking about motion: A crosslinguistic investigation of lexicalisation patterns. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Gärdenfors, Peter. 2014. The geometry of meaning: Semantics based on conceptual spaces. Cambridge, MA & London: MIT Press.
Goldberg, Adele E. 1995. Constructions: A Construction Grammar approach to argument structure. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Goossens, Louis. 1990. Metaphtonymy: The interaction of metaphor and metonymy in expressions for linguistic action. Cognitive Linguistics 1.3, 323340.
Güldemann, Tom & von Roncador, Manfred (eds.). 2002. Reported discourse: A meeting ground for different linguistic domains. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Holt, Elizabeth & Clift, Rebecca (eds.). 2007. Reporting talk: Reported speech in interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jones, Steven, Lynne Murphy, M., Paradis, Carita & Willners, Caroline. 2012. Antonyms in English: Construals, constructions and canonicity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kissine, Mikhail. 2010. Metaphorical projection, subjectification and English speech act verbs. Folia Linguistica 44.2, 339370.
Klamer, Marian. 2000. How report verbs become quote markers and complementisers. Lingua 110, 6998.
Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria. 2015. Semantic typology. In Dąbrowska, Ewa & Divjak, Dagmar (eds.), Handbook of cognitive linguistics, 453472. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Lehrer, Adrienne. 1988. Checklist for verbs of speaking. Acta Linguistica Hungarica 38.1–4, 143161.
Levin, Beth. 1993. English verb classes and alternations. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Levinson, Stephen C. & Wilkins, David P.. 2006. Grammars of space: Explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lucy, John A.(ed.). 1993. Reflexive language: Reported speech and metapragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Majid, Asifa & Levinson, Stephen C.. 2011. The senses in language and culture. Senses & Society 6.1, 518.
Maldonado, Concepción. 1991. Discurso directo y discurso indirecto. Madrid: Taurus Universitaria.
Martínez Vázquez, Montserrat. 2005. Communicative constructions in English and Spanish. In Butler, Christopher S., de los Ángeles Gómez González, María & Doval-Suárez, Susana (eds.), The dynamics of language use, 79109. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Paradis, Carita. 2004. Where does metonymy stop? Senses, facets and active zones. Metaphor and Symbol 19.4, 245264.
Paradis, Carita. 2005. Ontologies and construals in lexical semantics. Axiomathes 15, 541573.
Paradis, Carita. 2015a. Meanings of words: Theory and application. In Hass, Ulrike & Storjohann, Petra (eds.), Handbuch Wort und Wortschatz (Handbücher Sprachwissen-HSW Band 3), 274294. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Paradis, Carita. 2015b. Conceptual spaces at work in sensuous cognition: Domains, dimensions and distances. In Zenker, Frank & Gärdenfors, Peter (eds.), Applications of conceptual spaces: Geometric knowledge representation, 3355. Dordrecht: Springer.
Paradis, Carita. 2016. Corpus methods for the investigation of antonyms across languages. In Juvonen, Päivi & Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria (eds.), The lexical typology of semantic shifts, 131156. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Rodríguez Ramalle, Teresa María. 2008. Estudio sintáctico y discursivo de algunas estructuras enunciativas y citativas del español. Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada 21, 269288.
Rojo, Ana & Valenzuela, Javier. 2001. How to say things with words: Ways of saying in English and Spanish. META 46.3, 467477.
Rudzka-Ostyn, Brygida. 1988. Semantic extensions into the domain of verbal communication. In Rudzka-Ostyn, Brygida (ed.), Topics in cognitive linguistics, 507553. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Slobin, Dan I. 1996. Two ways to travel: Verbs of motion in English and Spanish. In Shibatani, Masayoshi & Thompson, Sandra A. (eds.), Grammatical constructions: Their form and meaning, 195220. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Slobin, Dan I. 2004. The many ways to search for a frog: Linguistic typology and the expression of motion events. In Strömqvist, Sven & Verhoeven, Ludo (eds.), Relating events in narrative: Typological and contextual perspectives, 219257. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Slobin, Dan I. 2006. What makes manner of motion salient? Explorations in linguistic typology, discourse, and cognition. In Hickmann, Maya & Robert, Stéphane (eds.), Space in languages: Linguistic systems and cognitive categories, 5981. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Slobin, Dan I., Ibarretxe-Antunano, Iraide, Kopecka, Anetta & Majid, Asifa. 2014. Manners of human gait: A crosslinguistic event-naming study. Cognitive Linguistics 25.4, 701741.
Suñer, Margarita. 2000. The syntax of direct quotes with special reference to Spanish and English. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 18, 527578.
Tannen, Deborah. 1986. Introducing constructed dialogue in Greek and American conversational and literary narrative. In Coulmas (ed.), 311–332.
Tannen, Deborah. 1995. Waiting for the mouse: Constructed dialogue in conversation. In Tedlock, Dennis & Mannheim, Bruce (eds.), The dialogic emergence of culture, 198217. Urbana, IL & Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Tannen, Deborah. 2007. Talking voices: Repetition, dialogue, and imagery in conversational discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thompson, Geoff. 1996. Voices in the text: Discourse perspectives on language reports. Applied Linguistics 17, 501530.
Talmy, Leonard. 1985. Lexicalization patterns: Semantic structure in lexical forms. In Shopen, Timothy (ed.), Language typology and lexical descriptions, vol. 3: Grammatical categories and the lexicon, 36149. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Talmy, Leonard. 1988. Force dynamics in language and cognition. Cognitive Science 12, 49100.
Talmy, Leonard. 1991. Paths to realization: A typology of event conflation. In Hubbard, Kathleen (ed.), Proceedings of the Seventeenth Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (BLS 17), 480519. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society.
Talmy, Leonard. 2000. Toward a cognitive semantics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Vandelanotte, Lieven. 2012. Quotative go and be like: Grammar and grammaticalization. In Buchstaller & van Alphen(eds.), 173202.
Verschueren, Jeff(ed.). 1987. Linguistic action: Some empirical-conceptual studies. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Wierzbicka, Anna. 1987. English speech act verbs: A semantic dictionary. Sydney: Academic Press.
Zlatev, Jordan, Blomberg, Johan & David, Caroline. 2010. Translocation, language and the categorization of motion. In Evans, Vyvyan & Chilton, Paul (eds.), Language, cognition and space: The state of the art and new directions, 389418. London: Equinox.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0022-2267
  • EISSN: 1469-7742
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed