Gutzmann, Daniel and Erik Stei. 2011. How quotation marks what people do with words. Journal of Pragmatics 43.10. 2650–2663. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2011.03.010.


Most existing theories of quotation are restricted, sometimes implicitly, to certain aspects of quotation mark usage. In this paper, we have the somewhat ambitious aim of outlining an all-encompassing theory of quotation in (written) natural language. We first provide a naive but neutral definition of quotation – quotation is everything between a pair of quotation marks – followed by a brief typology. Then, we develop an account of quotation which relies mainly on pragmatic mechanisms in order to explain what role quotation marks play in achieving communicative ends of writers. Quotation marks, we argue, are best understood as minimal pragmatic markers that block the stereotypical interpretation of the expression they enclose. They thereby indicate that some alternative interpretation ought to be inferred. We then address some worries about our view in order to clarify the aim and scope of our proposal as well as some deep-rooted philosophical preconceptions about quotation. Finally, we present the results of a small corpus study which we consider a confirmation of the predictions our account makes.

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