Motivations for positional variant of reporting clause in English and Chinese

A systemic-functional comparison based on online news corpus


  • Shukun Chen Guangdong University of Finance



Mood, dominance, reporting clause, projection, positional variant


Under the systemic-functional linguistic (henceforward SFL) framework, the phenomenon of (in)direct speech is discussed under the notion of projection. The special nature of projection has generated a great deal of discussion on its thematic structure, its interpersonal meaning in news register and others. However, the motivation for the positional variant of the reporting clause has not received enough attention. This article attempts to explore this issue through a deductive and corpus-based comparative approach. A small corpus of English and Chinese online news reveals that there is a higher frequency of the reporting clause that occurs in the post position in English than Chinese (23% vs none). It is argued that in English, in addition to textual motivation, an important motivation for the positional variant of the reporting clause is logical, while in Chinese, the taxis of projection may be inherently paratactic. Thus, there is no motivation to eliminate the dominant status of the reporting clause by putting it finally. The difference may ultimately originate from the dominant status of Mood structures of the two languages. With this hypothesis, this article also explains why free indirect speech is relatively more favored in the first paragraphs of news stories in English.

Author Biography

Shukun Chen, Guangdong University of Finance

Shukun Chen obtained a PhD in the School of Foreign Languages, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong, China. He is now an associate professor in Guangdong University of Finance. His works appeared in international journals such as Functional Linguistics, Journal of World Languages, Chinese Semiotic Studies, Language in Society, Pragmatics and Society,, etc. His research interests are: functional linguistics, multimodality, and discourse Analysis.


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How to Cite

Chen, S. (2019). Motivations for positional variant of reporting clause in English and Chinese: A systemic-functional comparison based on online news corpus. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 13(1-2), 47–69.