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A study of signal functions of reporting verbs in english and vietnamese

2016 – 2018


Hoàng Tú Uyên





HANOI, 2018


Hoàng Tú Uyên


Field: English Language
Code: 8220201
Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoàng Tuyết Minh

HANOI, 2018


I hereby declare that this thesis was of my own composition except where
proper use of quotes and references were indicated, and that this thesis has not
been submitted for the award of any other degree.
Author’s Signature

Hoàng Tú Uyên

Approved by

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoàng Tuyết Minh



I owe innumerable thanks to people who give me support and assistance in
completing this research.
The first goes to my supervisor Associate Professor Doctor Hoàng Tuyết
Minh, whose considerable encouragement and valuable feedback kept me from

losing confidence when I got frustrated with my thesis. My project could not
have been completed without her great patience and sustained guidance.
I am deeply grateful to my family who always give me warmth and
Thanks also to my friends who helped me a lot with my data collection.
Thanks to all.


Declaration by Author






List of Tables




1.1. Rationale


1.2. Aims of the Study


1.3. Research Questions


1.4. Scope of the Study


1.5. Significance of the Study


1.6. Research Methods


1.7. Structure of the Study




2.1. Previous Studies


2.2. An Overview of Reporting


2.2.1. Definitions of Reporting


2.2.2. Functions of Reporting


2.2.3. Structures of Reporting


iii Direct Quote Structures

11 Indirect Report Structures


2.3. An Overview of Reporting Verbs


2.3.1. Definitions of Reporting Verbs


2.3.2. Classification of Reporting Verbs


2.4. Signal Functions of Reporting Verbs


2.4.1. Neutral Reporting


2.4.2. Showing the Speaker’s Purpose


2.4.3. Showing the Manner of Speaking


2.4.4. Showing What was Said through the Reporting Verb


2.4.5. Indicating How the Message Fits in


2.4.6. Drawing Attention to the Speaker’s or Writer’s Words


2.4.7. Showing Your Attitude towards What You Report


2.4.8. Showing that You Do Not Accept Responsibility


2.4.9. Showing Your Attitude through Reporting Adjuncts


2.4.10. Showing the Effect of What is Said


2.4.11. Showing whether a Report is of Speech or of Writing


2.5. Summary





3.1. Data Collection


3.1.1. Setting of the Study


3.1.2. Data Collecting Procedures


3.2. Data Analysis


3.3. Summary




4.1. Signal Function of Neutral Reporting in English and Vietnamese


4.2. Signal Function of Showing Speaker’s Purpose in English and


4.3. Signal Function of Showing the Manner of Speaking in English


and Vietnamese
4.3.1. Signal Function of Showing Speaker’s Volume in English


and Vietnamese
4.3.2. Signal Function of Showing Speaker’s Speed in English and


4.3.3. Signal Function of Showing Speaker’s General Behaviour in


English and Vietnamese
4.3.4. Signal Function of Showing Speaker’s Manner in English
and Vietnamese



4.4. Signal Function of Indicating How Message Fits in in English


and Vietnamese
4.5. Summary




5.1. Recapitulation


5.2. Concluding Remarks


5.3. Implications


5.4. Limitations and Suggestions for Further Studies






This study investigates similarities and differences of using reporting
verbs between an English novel “The Lost Symbol” and its Vietnamese
translated version from four signal functions: neutral reporting, showing the
speaker’s purpose, showing the manner of speaking and indicating how the
message fits in. The methods applied in the study are description and contrastive
analysis. 193 reporting verbs are collected from an English novel and ít
Vietnamese version, among which 113 verbs are in Vietnamese corpus and 80
verbs are in English corpus. Findings of this study can be used as a basis for
investigating why Vietnamese learners of English use reporting language
differently compared with native speaker of English, and also can shed light on
pedagogical implication of teaching and learning translation to Vietnamese
learners of English.


Table 3.1: Number of reporting verbs classified into signal functions


Table 3.2: List of the excerpted neutral reporting verbs from The Lost

Table 3.3: List of the excerpted reporting verbs which show the
speaker’s purpose from The Lost Symbol


Table 3.4: List of the excerpted reporting verbs which show the
manner of speaking from The Lost Symbol


Table 3.5: List of the excerpted reporting verbs which indicate how
the message fits in from The Lost Symbol


Table 4.1: Number of occurrences of reporting verbs in English
corpus and Vietnamese corpus to the extent of neutral reporting


Table 4.2: Number of occurrences of reporting verbs in English
corpus and Vietnamese corpus to the extent of showing the speaker’s

Table 4.3: Number of occurrences of reporting verbs in English
corpus and Vietnamese corpus to the extent of showing the speaker’s




Table 4.4: Number of occurrences of reporting verbs in English
corpus and Vietnamese corpus to the extent of showing the speaker’s

Table 4.5: Number of occurrences of reporting verbs in English
corpus and Vietnamese corpus to the extent of showing the speaker’s


general behaviour
Table 4.6: Number of occurrences of reporting verbs in English
corpus and Vietnamese corpus to the extent of showing the speaker’s


Table 4.7: Number of occurrences of reporting verbs in English
corpus and Vietnamese corpus to the extent of indicating how


message fits in


1.1. Rationale
One of the special features of a human language is that it can talk about
itself. No other communication system has this power, which refers to the ability
to report- to build into the talk a reference to other talk. English like all other
languages provide its speakers and writers with a large number of options to
report someone else’s language. The terms such as “indirect speech” or “reported
speech” and “direct speech” are so widespread that we can hardly find any
grammar books and language textbooks without mentioning them. Theoretically,
the study of reporting and its various functions has been a fascinating area of
inquiry for researchers such as Swales (1990), Thompson & Ye (1991), Thomas
& Hawes (1996), Thompson (1996) and Hyland (1999) working in discourse
analysis. Different functions of reported speech have been investigated and
discussed in a number of studies in both native and non-native speaker contexts.
However, the previous researches or theses which focus on the reporting verbs in
Vietnamese in general or the signal functions in particular can hardly be found.
Thus, there have been no comparative analyses of English and Vietnamese to the
extent of reporting signals. Practically, in Vietnam, the background of teaching
and learning English at school has been affected by traditional grammartranslation approach for decades; therefore, it is a general trend in huge numbers
of grammar texts, handbooks, and reference works that try to explain and
illustrate changes in pronouns and temporal adverbs, back-shifting of tenses, and
the position of the reporting verb. Language learners instructed by traditional
teachers spend hours and hours doing mechanically such kind of exercises of

changing direct speech into indirect speech. Nevertheless, problems like the
relationship between a quote and a reported clause cannot be examined from a
purely grammatical point of view. In terms of reporting verbs, for example, they
can perform a number of functions which not only seems appropriate for the
meaning the speakers want to convey but also is most likely to have the effect on
the listeners that they want (Thompson, 1996). However, it is a fact that young
English learners find it difficult to report a language event without grammar
rules for fear that the original talk can be distorted.
On account of all main points listed, this study will more specifically
make an account of the signal functions of reporting verbs in English and
compare them with Vietnamese translated version.
1.2. Aims of the Study
This study is expected to offer an overview of English reporting structures,
reporting verbs and their signal functions in general. By means of descriptive
and contrastive methods, this paper aims at finding out differences and
similarities of using reporting verbs in English and Vietnamese as well as
drawing some implications for language teaching and learning. In order to gain
these aims, some objectives are set up to figure out what signal functions
reporting verbs perform in the novel The Lost Symbol, point out the differences
and similarities between signal functions of reporting verbs in English in the
novel The Lost Symbol and its Vietnamese translated version and imply some
suggestions of translation teaching and learning.
1.3. Research Questions
In order to gain these aims and objectives, the study attempts to answer the
following research questions:

- What signal functions do reporting verbs perform in English in the novel
The Lost Symbol?
- What are the similarities and differences between signal functions of
reporting verbs in the English novel and their Vietnamese translated version?
- What are some implications drawn for translation teaching and learning?
1.4. Scope of the Study
Following functional grammar approach, this study focuses on functions
and structures of reporting verbs. It also brings out an overview of the theoretical
background of reporting verbs, particularly, their signal functions in use based
on Thompson’s basis. The paper investigates the signal functions of 80 reporting
verbs in the novel The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. It also examines the number
of 113 reporting verbs in Vietnamese version which is translated by Nguyễn
Xuân Hồng and published by Hội Nhà Văn Publishing House in 2010. In the
framework of the study, it only pays highly attention to four out of eleven signal
functions suggested by Thompson (1996), which are neutral reporting, showing
the speaker’s purpose, showing the manner of speaking, and indicating how the
message fits in the context.
1.5. Significance of the Study
Theoretically, although English reporting verbs have not been an
unfamiliar subject concerned by plenty of both native and non-native researchers
throughout the world, Vietnamese reporting verbs have attracted a rather modest
concern. In fact, in Vietnamese, a reporting is often categorized into the type of
narrative sentences having the features of any other statements; as a result the
reporting verbs are not paid as much attention as other aspects. Thus, this study
attempts to make contributions to investigating the functions of reporting verbs,

especially their signal functions, compared with English ones in order to clarify
the similarities and differences between them. Practically, thanks to the results of
this research, some notifications will be identified to help English teachers and
learners avoid the frequent mistakes made in language teaching and learning
procedures as well as determine the stereotype of translating English into
Vietnamese in general and English reporting verbs into Vietnamese ones in
1.6. Research Methods
The main research methods used are description and contrastive analysis
which include four techniques namely description, data collection, comparison
and analysis. Firstly, the descriptive approach is applied to come to the nature of
different signal functions of reporting verbs in English. Secondly, data collecting
procedures are employed to list the reporting verbs used in original and translated
version of Dan Brown’s novel in the categories of signal functions. Thirdly, the
comparison is used in the contrast of signal functions which English and
Vietnamese reporting verbs performed in the novel and summarize the
differences and similarities between them. Last but not least, analytical technique
is exploited to generalize the conclusions and implications in translation teaching
and learning.
1.7. Structure of the Study
The study consists of five main chapters which are Introduction, Literature
review, Methodology, Findings and Discussions and Conclusion.
Chapter 1, Introduction, briefly introduces the rationale of the study, the
aims of the study, the research questions, the scope of the study, and the methods
of the study. Chapter 2, Literature review, reviews the findings of the previous

studies of reporting verbs, clarifies some important concepts and presents
Thompson’s basis of reporting structures, reporting verbs and their signal
functions. Chapter 3, Methodology, identifies the way in which this study is
carried out with the detailed procedures described. Then, Chapter 4, Findings
and discussions, compares signal functions performed by reporting verbs in the
novel The Lost Symbol with its Vietnamese translated version. Afterwards,
conclusions and findings of this study are summarized, limitations of this study
are stated and suggestions are put forward for the future research in Chapter 5,
Conclusion. Finally, References comes at the end of the study.


2.1. Previous Studies
There has been growing interest in studies on practices of reporting since
the publication of Swales’ Genre Analysis (1990).

Many scholars have

contributed a lot to study of reporting, for example, Thompson & Ye (1991);
Thomas & Hawes (1996); Thompson (1996); Hyland (1999).
Swales (1981/1986/1990) is a pioneer in investigating reporting.
Alongside Swales’ early work on reporting which focused on its structures and
forms, intensive studies have been carried out to investigate reporting verbs as
the most prominent signal of reporting (Malcolm, 1987; Shaw, 1992; Thompson
& Ye, 1991; Thomas & Hawes, 1996; Thompson, 1996). Most researchers focus
on the categories of reporting verbs, tense and voice of reporting verbs with
sentence function. A lot of studies have analyzed tense usage of reporting verbs
(Malcolm, 1987; Swales, 1990; Shaw, 1992). These studies have examined the
use of present, past tense and present perfect. Lackstrom, Selinker and Trimble
(1970) conclude that present tense indicates a general claim, past tense claims
lack of generality and present perfect tense gives a good generalization about
past events (cited in Shaw 1992, p. 303). Malcolm (1987) holds the similar ideas
and she analyzed tense choice in 20 scientific articles from context-independent
temporal meanings and context-dependent rhetorical uses. Malcolm (1987)
found that generalizations tend to occur in present tense, reference to specific
experiments in the past tense and reference to areas of inquiry in the present
perfect tense (p. 36). Malcolm’s study (1987) throws light on the implications


for the teaching of EST; however, this study only analyzed isolated clauses and
the data is relatively small (p. 41).
Later, Shaw (1992) examines how tense of reporting verbs is used in Ph.D
theses and explores the reasons of correlation of tense and sentence function.
Shaw points out topicalization and topic change should be considered when
analyzing the tense of reporting verbs. Findings of Swales & Feak (1996, 2004)
and Shaw (1992) are similar.
According to the mentioned authors, past tense is used when referring to a
specific study or experiment which may be close to the current study, and the
findings of the study or experiment are limited to the cited study. Present tense is
used in the findings which are believed as fact or supportive of the current study.
Present perfect is often used in generalization of research activity in an area or
used to indicate continued discussion in the current study.
In regard to semantic categories of reporting verbs, the most notable early
research is Thompson and Ye’s evaluation (1991) in reporting verbs used in
academic papers. Thompson and Ye classify reporting verbs in terms of
denotation and evaluation. In analysis of denotation, they propose three
categories: textual, mental and research verbs which are under the heading
‘author acts’ (following Thompson & Ye, we use ‘writer’ to refer to the person
who is reporting and ‘author’ to refer to the person who is being reported):
Textual: verbs referring to processes in which verbal expression is an obligatory
component; for example, state, write, point out, term, deny, etc. Mental: verbs
referring primarily to mental process; for example, believe, think, focus on,
consider, etc. Research: verbs referring primarily to the mental or physical
processes that are part of research work (and to the author’s descriptions of those

processes); for example, measure, obtain, find, calculate, etc. (Thompson & Ye
1991, pp. 369-370)
In analyzing the evaluative nature of reporting verbs, they consider three
factors: author’s stance, writer’s stance and writer’s interpretation. Three options
are identified by Thompson and Ye (1991): Factive: the writer portrays the
author as presenting true information or a correct opinion; for example,
demonstrate, points out, identify, prove, improve, notice, etc. Counter-factive:
the writer portrays the author as presenting false information or an incorrect
opinion; for example, betray, confuse, disregard, ignore, use, etc. Non-factive:
the writer gives no clear signal as to her attitude towards the author’s
information/opinion; for example, believe, claim, examine, propose, generalize,
utilize, etc.
Although this is a useful study, it is not watertight. Some reporting verbs
can be classified into two categories because the distinction between each
category is not so easily distinguishable. Following Thompson and Ye’s study
(1991), Thomas and Hawes (1996) analyze reporting verbs in medical journals
by looking at a small corpus of 11 research articles. They focus on the semantic
categories of reporting verbs and identify function of reports with each category.
They categorize denotation of reporting verbs in terms of experimental/realworld activities, cognition activities and discourse activities. This classification
is similar to Thompson and Ye’s classification of research, mental and textual
verbs. This study provides useful insights that suggest there is a correlation
between choice of verb type and the function of the report in which the verb
occurs (p. 147); nevertheless, their corpus is relatively small and is restricted to
one discipline and the modified categories of denotation are basically the same

as Thompson and Ye (1991). Based on the work done by Thompson and Ye
(1991) and Thomas and Hawes (1996), Hyland (1999) investigated a corpus of
80 research articles of eight disciplines. Hyland regards Thompson and Ye’s
classification (1991) to be an over-complex system and there is no need to
distinguish evaluation of reporting verbs in ten sub-categories (p. 350).
Therefore, Hyland simplified this system by categorizing evaluation in terms of
factive, non-factive and counter-facitve.
Later, Thompson (1996) collects the evidence obtained from studying
corpora of The Bank of English, which contains over 200 million words to draw
out in general the range of structures and vocabulary that are used for the
purpose of reporting language. He at the same time pays attention to the message
functions and message types chosen for different purposes and explains the use
of tense, pronouns, and similar features in reported clauses. He also concentrates
on the functions of the reporting signal and showed what information could be
given about the report by the reporting signal. In particular, it shows how
speakers can indicate different attitude towards the report through the reporting
signal. Using the data employed in journalism, conversation, novels and
academic writing, he puts forward an opinion that one of the main ways in which
the speaker/ writer can use the reporting signal to give information about the
report is by their choice of reporting verbs (Thompson 1996, p. 33).
The present study is conducted thanks to Thompson’s main conclusions of
signal functions of reporting verbs, which are illustrated in the following chapter.
2.2. An Overview of Reporting
This part is supposed to give out an overview and clarify some basic
concepts of reporting.

2.2.1. Definitions of Reporting
Since Swales’ pioneering study (1990) on the typical features in research
article introductions, there has been a growing interest in the phenomenon of
reporting. Reporting is defined by Thomas and Hawes (1996, p. 129) as: “The
attribution of propositional content to a source outside the author of the article in
the current situation, and the marking of this by the presence of any of a number
of signals of attribution”.
In terms of signals that determine whether a statement is counted as
reporting or not, Thomas and Hawes (1996) differ from Swales (1990) in the
way that they consider reporting to be signaled not only by reporting verbs, but
also by other elements such as reporting nouns, reporting adjectives, and
reporting adjuncts.
Sharing the same point of view, Thompson (1996) adds that reports
usually consist of two factors: the reporting signal and the message. The
reporting signal is the part of the report which shows that you are reporting
someone else’s words rather than expressing your own ideas. The message is the
part which shows what was said or written. To a structural extent, Thompson
(1996) declares that there are two main types of reports: direct quote structures
and indirect report structures.
This paper applies Thompson’s definition and classification as the
framework to analyze some significant aspects of using reporting verbs in the
2.2.2. Functions of Reporting
The functions of reporting also attract researchers’ attention. Weissberg
and Buker (1990) propose reporting has three functions: first, giving readers

background information about your study; second, showing readers your
familiarity with the area; third, establishing your study as one link in a chain of
research that is developing and enlarging knowledge in your field (p. 41). Later,
Thompson (1996) claims two main functions of the reporting: reporting signal
function and message function.
Firstly, reporting signal function is carried out by reporting clause,
reporting adjunct, reporting noun, reporting adjective and reporting verb and
play an integral role in signaling that someone else’s words are being reported as
well as expressing the ways they are reported.
Secondly, message function is the way in which the content or the
function of the “original” language is presented. Thompson suggests five
distinguishing ways in which the message may be treated: message can be
quoted, echoed, paraphrased, summarized, or omitted. (Thompson, 1996)
Based on Thompson’s theory, the present study focuses on exploiting the
functions of reporting signal conveyed by reporting verbs, which are clarified in
the following part of this chapter.
2.2.3. Structures of Reporting
According to Thompson (1996), “In structural terms, there are two main
types of reports: direct quote structures and indirect report structures.” (p. 1). Direct Quote Structures
Thompson determines, “A direct quote structure is any structure which
shows that the writer is reporting what someone said, wrote or thought as if he
was using their own words” (p. 1). The basic type of direct quote structure
consists of two clauses: a reporting clause (the reporting signal) and a quote (the

I said, “I’m going out”. (Thompson, 1996, p. 1)
Reporting clause: I said
Quote: I’m going out
When reading a direct quote, it is not known whether the quote is exactly
the same as the words used in the original language event. In a newspaper report,
the quote may only be roughly what the original speaker said. In a novel, there is
no original speaker and language event. The words exist only in the writer’s
imagination. In an academic paper, on the other hand, there is a convention that
the words of the quote will be accurately copied from the original piece of
writing. In all cases, however, the reporter – the person making the report – is
implying that the quote does represent the original words. The most frequent
reporting signal for direct quote structures in writing is the use of inverted
commas or quotation marks around the quote. In addition, they are also signaled
by a reporting clause containing a reporting verb.
‘I’m all right,’ said Jarvis.
He paused and asked, ‘How much do you remember?’
Then he said gently, ‘How have you been, Hannah?’
So how’s things with you?’ he asked.
(Thompson, 1996, p. 2)
To the extent of position of reporting clauses in direct quote structures,
they frequently come before or after the quote.
‘Get out of here,’ Carlyle said.
But Flashman, who at first refused to comment, later said ‘As far as I am
concerned Barry has not been sacked.’
(Thompson, 1996, p. 2)

However, there are some cases in which reporting clauses are also found
in the middle of the quote. A reporting clause can appear after “answer word”,
after the first noun group in the quote, after a clause if the quote contains more
than one clause, after an adverb or prepositional phrase, after a ‘wh’-word in a
question, after a vocative and after an exclamation.
‘No,’ I said, ‘I can’t see.’ (after answer word)
‘The problem, ‘ I explained, ‘is quite simple.’ (after the first noun group)
‘You keep it,’ she said, ‘and let’s start.’ (after a clause)
‘Unfortunately,’ he wrote, ‘your portrait of Eula Hall was not very good.’
(after an adverb)
‘In the final analysis,’ he once said, ‘we must rely on man’s ingenuity.’
(after a prepositional phrase)
‘How long,’ he asked, ‘shall I be held hostage?’ (after a ‘wh’-word)
‘Mom,’ she asked, ‘where am I going?’ (after a vocative)
‘Oh hell,’ Castle said, ‘who would ring us at this hour?’ (after an
(Thompson, 1996, p. 3)
Particularly in written stories, quotes often appear without reporting
clauses. The change of speaker is shown by starting a new line, as well as by the
quotation marks. Moreover, thoughts are also sometimes reported using a direct
quote structure when characters in a novel tell stories about themselves.
He’s never late, she thought, and he always answers his phone.
(Dan Brown, “The Lost Symbol”, 2009, p. 55)

13 Indirect Report Structures
Based on Thompson (1996)’s definition, an indirect report structure is
used to show that the writer is reporting what someone said or wrote in his own
words rather than in the words they actually used.
Indirect report structures consist of the reporting clause (which carries the
reporting signal and contains the reporting verb) and the reported clause (which
carries the message). In each following examples, the reported clause is in bold,
the rest is the reporting clause:
The nurse said that I could see him.
The friend asked what had happened to Clara’s mother.
Somebody’s told you to talk to me.
(Thompson, 1996, p. 9)
Indirect report structures consisting of a reporting clause and a reported
clause with a ‘that’- clause (‘that’ may be omitted), a ‘wh’-clause, a clause
beginning with ‘whether’ or ‘if’, a ‘to’- infinitive clause, and an ‘-ing’ clause.
The following examples are taken from Thompson’s work (1996, pp. 9-16)
The report also points out helpfully that there are more sheep than people
in the north of England. (a ‘that’-clause)
Now Osborne claims the mine has shown a lot of profit for the last five
years. (a ‘that’-clause, ‘that’ is omitted)
I asked the two men why they were taking the risk. (a ‘wh’-clause)
One of the journalists at the Press Conference queried whether sabotage
could have been involved. (a clause beginning with ‘whether’ of ‘if’)
I told her to write about Nancy Reagan. (a ‘to’-infinitive clause)


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