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Research on fiction dialogue: Problems and possible solutions

Journal article
Authors Karin Axelsson
Published in Corpora: Pragmatics and discourse. Papers from the 29th International Conference on English Language Research on Computerized Corpora (ICAME 29), Ascona, Switzerland, 14-18 May 2008
Pages 189–201
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 189–201
Language en
Keywords English, corpus linguistics, fiction, direct speech, methodology, tag questions
Subject categories English language


It seems quite clear that there must be differences in the language of fiction dialogue and the narrative parts of fiction, but fiction is often treated in corpus linguistics as if it were a homogenous genre, and there is very little quantitative research on the language of direct speech in modern fiction. The main problem is that corpora are seldom annotated for direct speech, and if they are, the mark-up may be difficult to use. If there is no mark-up for direct speech, corpus query matches have to be categorized and sorted manually as being inside or outside direct speech, and the proportion of direct speech in the corpus fiction texts needs to be investigated using, for example, statistical methods. As these procedures are time consuming, there is a need for specially designed corpora where direct speech is annotated. Another problem is how to define direct speech, slightly different definitions may be applied depending on whether comparisons are to be made to the narrative parts of fiction or to real-life speech. A further problem is that existing corpora are not usually sampled with a view to providing a representative sample of fiction dialogue; it seems important that samples are taken from different kinds of books and from different parts of books.

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