Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science






Reported speech behaves much differently in the Conversation register than in the News register. Reported speech also occurs more than three times as often in News than in Conversation. The textbooks do not address these register variations. Additionally, in all registers, the verb say emerges as the most common reporting verb, followed by tell. Most other reporting verbs presented in the textbooks are relatively infrequent. The verb tense "backshifting" process advocated in the textbooks occurs in only 50 to 70 percent of reported speech instances. Therefore, the alternative verb tense combinations, Past-Present, Present-Present, and Present-Past occur more frequently than the textbooks claim. Findings from this study can be used to further inform our grammatical descriptions of reported speech. ESL/EFL textbook and materials writers can use these findings to prioritize their presentations of reported speech according to naturally-occurring usage patterns.This study uses the method of corpus linguistics to investigate a particular grammatical topic in English: Reported Speech. First, presentations of reported speech in seven ESL/EFL (English as a Second/Foreign Language) grammar textbooks are analyzed. The results of the analysis show what information ESL/EFL students currently receive from textbooks about reported speech. Second, a corpus study is implemented to determine how people actually use reported speech in real life. The results of the empirical corpus study represent authentic, naturally-occurring language and reported speech patterns in two registers of American English: Newspaper Writing and Conversation. Third, the results from the corpus study are compared with the results from the textbook analysis. This comparison establishes the extent to which the textbooks present real-life reported speech in terms of 1) reporting verbs used, 2) verb tense changes, and 3) register variation. The findings reveal that some aspects of the textbooks' presentations reflect naturally-occurring language and other aspects do not. Most importantly, the empirical corpus findings point to register variation as an essential component in describing reported speech accurately.


Copyright Owner

Suzanne Eckhardt



OCLC Number


File Format


File Size

99 pages