I S S U E N O . 3 [ M A R C H 1 9 9 8 ]
Polyphony and the Layering of Voices in Reported Dialogues
An Analysis of the Use of Prosodic Devices in Everyday Reported Speech
As Bakhtin (1981: 337-338) pointed out in his metalinguistic analysis of discourse in the novel:
In reporting past utterances, the speaker "decontextualizes" speech from its original co- and context and "recontextualizes" it in a new conversational surrounding. In recontextualizing utterances, speakers, however, not only dissolve certain sequences of talk from their original contexts and incorporate them into a new context, they also adapt them to their own functional intentions and communicative aims. Thus, the quoted utterance is characterized by transformations, modifications and functionalizations according to the speaker's aims and the new conversational context. Here, prosody and voice quality play important roles. The use of different voices is an interactive resource to contextualize whether an utterance is anchored in the reporting world or in the storyworld, to differentiate between the quoted characters, to signal the particular activity a character is engaged in, and to evaluate the quoted utterance.
In this paper, I will present different ways of incorporating voices in everyday reported speech and analyze prosodic and voice quality techniques speakers use in reported dialogues to produce "speech within speech, utterance within utterance and at the same time also speech about speech, utterance about utterance" (Volosinov 1929/73: 115).
I shall argue that participants in everyday interactions also use polyphonic strategies described by Bakhtin (1981) as "layering of voices" and "heteroglossia". In contrast to literary texts, "polyphonic layering of voices" in everyday reported dialogues is mainly achieved by means of prosody and voice quality.
The term prosody is used to subsume the following auditory aspects of speech: loudness, duration, pitch and pause. Voice quality is used to subsume paralinguistic cues which a speaker may temporarily use in order to produce a whispery, breathy, falsetto, aspirated voice, etc.
The analysis of polyphonic strategies in everyday reported speech is
based on informal German conversations (dinner table conversations, coffee-break
chats and telephone interactions) among friends and family members. Methods
of interpretative sociolinguistics (Gumperz 1982), conversation analysis
and interactional analysis of prosody (Couper-Kuhlen/Selting 1996) will