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A quotative is a grammatical device to mark quoted speech in some languages, and as such it preserves the grammatical person and tense of the original utterance rather than adjusting it as would be the case with reported speech. It can be equated with "spoken quotation marks". In the English sentence

John said, "Wow,"

there is no word indicating that we are dealing with quoted speech. This is only indicated typographically. In Sinhala on the other hand, the equivalent sentence

John Wow kiyalaa kivvaa

has an overt indication of quoted speech after the quoted string Wow, the quotative kiyalaa.


In Dutch, the preposition van can be used to introduce direct speech:

Ik zei er van Japie sta still (a line from a children's song[1]).
I said, 'Japie [colloquial diminutive of Jaap], stand still.'

Quotative van can be used in combination with a verb of speech, as in the above example, a noun designating something with message-carrying content, or a light verb, e.g. a copula (like for English quotative like).[2]

In the specific colloquial combination zoiets hebben van (literally, "have something suchlike of"), the subsequent quoted speech conveys a (possibly unspoken) feeling:[3]

De ouders hadden zoiets van laten we het maar proberen, wie weet lukt het.
The parents were like, let's try it, who knows it will work.


In English colloquial speech, forms of the verb be like are used as a quotative:

He was like, 'You'll love it.'  And I was like, 'You can't be serious!'

In speech, the word like in this use is typically followed by a brief pause, indicated here with a comma. This quotative construction is particularly common for introducing direct speech indicating someone's attitude.[4]


In Japanese, the quotative と [to] is used to indicate direct speech in this sentence:

石田さん 「トマトが好きじゃない」 言いました。
Ishida-san wa "tomato ga suki janai" to iimashita.
Mr. Ishida top. "tomato-nom. like-neg." quot. say-past-polite
"Mr. Ishida said that he didn't like tomatoes" lit. "that 'I don't like tomatoes'"

The following example shows the preservation of both grammatical person and the tense in a quoted utterance using the quotative particle:

彼女 「あなたが好きだ」 言った。[5]
Kanojo wa boku ni "anata ga suki da" to itta.
She top. me dat. "you-nom. like cop." quot. say-past
"She told me that she liked me" lit. "that 'I like you'"

See Japanese grammar for more examples of when と (to) is used.


Georgian marks quoted speech with one of two suffixes depending on the grammatical person of who made the original utterance, -მეთქი for the first person and -ო for the second and third person.[6]

The following sentences show the use of the first person and non-first person quotative particles respectively. Note the preservation of both the person and tense of the original utterances:

First person quotative

მოხუცმა იტირა, როცა ვუთხარი, რომ თქვენი ვაჟიშვილი ჯარში უნდა წავიდეს -მეთქი.[7]
Mokhutsma it'ira rotsa vutkhari rom tkveni vazhishvili jar-shi unda ts'avides metki.
He-ERG cry-AOR when I told-AOR him that your son-NOM in the army must he goes-OPT 1st person quot.
"The old man cried when I told him that his son had to enter the army" lit. "that 'your son has to enter the army.'"

Second and third person quotative

კახეთში კი ინტურისტის ექსკურსიას უნდა გაყვე ო.[8]
K'akhet-shi k'i int'urist'is eksk'ursias unda gaqve o.
To Kakheti but Intourist-GEN excursion-DAT must you accompany-OPT it 3rd person quot.
"But (they said) that I had to accompany an Intourist excursion to Kakheti" lit. "that 'you must accompany'"

Note that this second sentence omits an overt verbum dicendi since the original speaker is already known, and context makes it clear that the speaker was the original addressee.

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek can mark quoted speech in prose with the subordinating conjunction ὅτι:[9]

οἱ δὲ εἶπον ὅτι ἱκανοί ἐσμεν.[10]
They but said-AOR quot. ready we are-PAI1P.
"They said that they were ready" lit. "that 'we are ready' "


In Turkish, direct speech is marked by following it by a form of the verb demek ("to say"),[11] as in

'Hastayım' dedi.
'I am ill', he said.

In particular, the word diye (literally "saying"), a participle of demek, is used to mark quoted speech when another verb of utterance than demek is needed:

'Hastayım mı?' diye sordu.
'Am I ill?', he asked.

In contrast, indirect speech uses the opposite order. The reported utterance is preceded by the verb of utterance and introduced by the conjunctive particle ki, comparable to English "that":

Dedi ki hastaydı.
He said that he was ill.

See also


  1. "Ik zei er van Japie sta stil". De Liedjeskit. Retrieved June 13, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Peter-Arno Coppen; Ad Foolen (2012). "Dutch quotative van: Past and present". In Isabelle Buchstaller; Ingrid van Alphen (eds.). Quotatives: Cross-linguistic and Cross-disciplinary Perspectives. Volume 15 of Converging evidence in language and communication research. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 259–280. ISBN 978-90-272-3905-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. A. Foolen; I. C. van Alphen; E. J. Hoekstra; D. H. Lammers; H. Mazeland (2006). "Het quotatieve van. Vorm, functie en sociolinguïstische variatie". Toegepaste Taalwetenschap in Artikelen (in Dutch). 76 (2): 137–149. ISSN 0169-7420.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. George Yule (1998). "Quotative be like". Explaining English Grammar: A Guide to Explaining Grammar for Teachers of English as a Second Or Foreign Language. Oxford University Press. pp. 283–284. ISBN 978-0-19-437172-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Japanese example sentences". Retrieved 2013-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Howard I. Aronson (1990). Georgian: A Reading Grammar, §8.5. Slavica Publishers. ISBN 978-0-89357-207-5.
  7. Howard I. Aronson (1990). Georgian: A Reading Grammar, p. 218. Slavica Publishers. ISBN 978-0-89357-207-5.
  8. Howard I. Aronson; Dodona Kiziria (1997). Georgian Language and Culture: A Continuing Course, p. 68. Slavica Publishers. ISBN 978-0-89357-278-5.
  9. Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar, §2590a
  10. Xenophon, Anabasis, 5.4.10
  11. Jaklin Kornfilt (2013). " Direct speech versus indirect speech". Turkish. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-83252-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>