‘It's not good saying “Well it it might do that or it might not”’: Hypothetical Reported Speech in Business Meetings

Almut Köster, Michael Handford

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


This article examines the use of directed reported speech in business meetings that is framed by the speaker as hypothetical. While the past two decades have seen many empirical studies on direct reported speech (DRS) in spoken interactions, fewer have focused specifically on hypothetical reported speech (HRS). This study identifies and examines the discourse patterns and sequences used to perform HRS in a 1-million-word corpus of business interactions, and explores the reasons why HRS is used. As such, it is the first study to pinpoint and examine this discourse phenomenon across a larger spoken business corpus. Through the application of an original methodology, HRS was found to occur as part of specific sequential patterns, and was used largely as a persuasive device, fulfilling a range of related rhetorical functions. Like DRS, HRS can project either a sense of involvement or detachment, but unlike DRS, also allows speakers to generalize; detachment and generalizability being particularly relevant to a business context. The research provides a theoretical contribution on the use of HRS, indicating that HRS is used strategically in professional contexts, often by senior employees, not only to persuade others but also to bring about change in action relevant to the professional practice of the organisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67 - 80
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 602004 General linguistics
  • 602008 English studies

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