The protagonist projection hypothesis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The protagonist projection hypothesis was formulated by Holton (1997) in order to account for cases where the speaker seems to utter contradictory statements. Holton argues that in these cases the speaker projects herself into the mind of someone else. Three different sentence-types have been classified as examples of protagonist projection: (i) sentences with factive verbs (tell+wh, know), (ii) sentences that realize free indirect discourse, and (iii) sentences that do not realize free indirect discourse, but are still assumed to be instances of speaking from someone else's perspective. Regarding the sentences in (i), I argue, following Tsohatzidis (1993, 1997, 2012), that neither tell+wh nor know must be considered as factive predicates. As for the sentences of type (ii), I conclude that free indirect discourse is an instance of protagonist projection. Finally, the sentences of type (iii) are accounted for as cases of utterances whose syntax is partially unpronounced.


  • Roberta Colonna Dahlman
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • factivity, free indirect discourse, protagonist projection, unpronounced structure
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-153
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Review of Pragmatics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch