Introduction: Approaches to Fictional Dialogue


  • Aino Koivisto University of Helsinki
  • Elise Nykänen University of Helsinki



Narratology, Pragmatics, Stylistics


This special issue is devoted to a cross-disciplinary investigation of a specific literary phenomenon, fictional dialogue. Fictional dialogue is used to refer to passages of character-character conversation within a literary text. More specifically, the articles of the issue deal with fictional dialogue as a narrative mode in prose fiction. The issue aims to engender an appreciation and a better understanding of the workings of dialogue by drawing on the insights and methods from both literary studies and linguistics. These methods include a rhetorical-ethical approach to narrative, cognitive and “natural” narratology, the study of everyday conversational storytelling, and Conversation Analysis (CA). Combining these methods helps us to understand that while dialogue is a central means to depict character-character relationships it also serves other levels of communication in a narrative and thus contributes to the reader's comprehension of the narrative design's rhetorical and ethical dimensions. The articles also suggest that while understanding dialogue depends partly on the reader’s experiences of real-life conversation, the interpretation of dialogue is determined by the overall design of a literary text and the historically changing conventions.