Fiction—One Register or Two? Speech and narration in novels

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  • Northern Arizona University


In this paper our focus is on analyzing register variation within fiction, rather than between fiction and other registers. By working with subcorpora that separate text within and outside of quotation marks, we appromixate fictional speech and narration. This enables us to identify and compare linguistic features with regard to different situational contexts in the fictional world. We focus in particular on the novels of Charles Dickens and a reference corpus of other 19th-century fiction. Our main method for the register analysis is Multidimensional Analysis (MDA) for which we draw on altogether four dimensions from two previous MDAs. The linguistic distinctions we identify highlight similarities between fictional speech and involved registers such as face-to-face communication, and between narration and more informational and narrative prose. In addition to the detailed information on register features that characterize speech and narration, the paper raises more general questions about the ability of register studies to deal with situational contexts within fiction.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-101
Number of pages30
JournalRegister Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2020


  • register variation, corpus stylistics, fictional speech, narration, 19th-century fiction, Charles Dickens