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I hate how we format dialogue. I believe convention has gotten too heavy and we need to think a little more about logic. That being said, my question, to be more specific, is asking about labels for sentences with dialogue.

Let's use this sentence for an example: Bob said, "I like steak."

Now, I have seen grammars look at the structure in a few different ways. For one, you could look at it as if the speech is a direct object following the reporting clause. However, the problem with that is that this would be the only case where the subject and verb are separated from the object with a comma.

Another way that you could look at it is in comparison to a comment clause. However, if you do that, then the reporting clause, "Bob said", would technically not be obligatory, and at times, this may be true, as we see dialogue existing all by itself. However, there are times when the reporting clause is obligatory to its fullest regard; "I like steak", Bob said, and then he picked up piece of meat.

So, what is it? What is the relationship between the speech and the reporting clause? Or, is structures featuring dialogue simply so engulfed within their own gradient that we simply have to recognize it as something independent?

  • Have you not answered your own question? Sometimes, the "reporting clause" isn't needed, and you see passages of speech without them. Sometimes, they're needed (or, at least, helpful) so the reader can keep track of who is saying what, and sometimes they're needed when linking speech and other actions. How would you like to do it differently? – TripeHound Dec 17 '18 at 16:18
  • Per the text in my question, I explained that I knew the different ways it could be done; however, I want to know the reason behind the structure. Is it supposed to be examined as a comment clause, a normal structure with a subject and a direct object, or is it something entirely on its own? – Allex Kramer Dec 17 '18 at 16:21
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    You're talking about the written conventions of dialog reportage, not English per se. The big problem is that one has to identify participants like a play, but without using scripts, so the reporting verbs -- say, declare, ask, reply, and the like --get overused, to the extent that there are special constructions with odd syntax for reporting dialog, just to relieve the monotony, said he. So there is very little in the way of fixed grammatical rule here; we're verging on literary technique. – John Lawler Dec 17 '18 at 16:49
  • @JohnLawler I think I know which "special constructions" you are talking about, but can you clarify? Are you referring to the structure that we currently have for dialogue (e.g. comma placement and such)? If so, this is where the problems I talk about lie. I am a fiction writer, but I work in the technical writing field, so everything I do is based on logic--and that's also how I am built to see things. So, I am just trying to find a way to sleep at night with the way things are structured. Do we simply say that dialogue is something entirely independent? Is it its own structure? – Allex Kramer Dec 17 '18 at 17:45
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    Well, Linguistics is no better place for it. Maybe Writing. This question isn't about English; this is about the English writing system, in particular the current American conventions regarding representing dialog in English spelling in English narrative prose (primarily fiction). Logic has little to do with it, but you may get some benefit from the Logic study guide and the Verb Phrase study guide, both made for a Grammar and Writing class. – John Lawler Dec 18 '18 at 0:47

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