Reporting Verbs as a Stylistic Device in the Creation of Fictional Personalities in Literary Texts

Pablo Ruano San Segundo


This article presents an analysis of how reporting verbs can contribute to the creation of fictional personalities in literary texts. The examination of verbs was carried out using Caldas-Coulthard’s (1987) taxonomy, in which verbs are classified in self-contained categories according to the reporter’s level of mediation on the words glossed. The examples under analysis were all taken from Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1839). For the sake of consistency, I focused on one character, Ralph Nickleby, whose words are reported using twenty-six verbs a total of 501 times throughout the story. As will be shown, Dickens’s choice of verbs projects a specific way of speaking that triggers information about the villain’s personality, thereby contributing to shaping his well-known evil character. The analysis will also illustrate how reporting verbs can influence the way in which readers form an impression of characters on the basis of their ways of speaking during the course of a story.

Keywords: reporting verbs; fictional personalities; characterisation; Charles Dickens; Nicholas Nickleby; Ralph Nickleby

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