Echo Utterance in Speech

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An echo utterance is speech that repeats, in whole or in part, what has just been said by another speaker. Sometimes called simply echo.

An echo utterance, says Óscar García Agustín, isn't "necessarily an utterance attributable to a specific person; it can refer to a group of people or even to popular wisdom" (Sociology of Discourse, 2015). 

A direct question that repeats part or all of something which someone else has just said is called an echo question.

Examples and Observations

  • Claire Dunphy: All right, everybody back to work!
    Gloria Delgado-Pritchett: Everybody back to work!
    Claire Dunphy: I just said that.
    Gloria Delgado-Pritchett: And I co-said it.
    (Julie Bowen and Sofía Vergara, "Dance Dance Revelation." Modern Family, 2010)
  • Olivia: If the temperature is dropping, this mess could freeze up. We got to get outta here.
    Cassie: We got to get out of here.
    Olivia: I just said that. Where are you going?
    Cassie: If the temperature is dropping, this mess could freeze up.
    Olivia: I just said that.
    Cassie: We got to get out of here.
    Olivia: I just said that!
    (Marsha A. Jackson, "Sisters." The National Black Drama Anthology, ed. by Woodie King. Applause Theater Books, 1995)

Echo Utterances and Meanings

"We repeat one another. This is how we learn to talk. We repeat one another, and we repeat ourselves." An echo utterance is a type of spoken language that repeats, in whole or in part, what's just been said by another speaker, often with contrasting, ironic, or contradictory meaning.

'How old are you,' Bob asks.
'Nineteen,' Gigi says.
He says nothing, as this does not deserve the courtesy of response.
'Seventeen,' she says.
'Well, not quite,' she says. Sixteen until I get to my next birthday.'
'Sixteen?' Bob asks. 'SIX-teen?'
'Well, maybe not exactly,' she says."

(Jane Vandenburgh, Architecture of the Novel: A Writer's Handbook. Counterpoint, 2010)

Echo Utterances and Attitudes

Wolfram Bublitz, Neal R. Norrick, "A phenomenon that is not extra communicative and still represents hardly an instance of metacommunication is the so-called echo-utterance, where the speaker echoes the preceding speaker by repeating some linguistic material yet giving a specific turn to it . . .. Echo statements such as in the following example usually just convey attitudes toward the propositional state of affairs quoted/echoed."

He: It's a lovely day for a picnic.
[They go for a picnic and it rains.]
She: (sarcastically) It's a lovely day for a picnic, indeed.
(Sperber and Wilson, 1986: 239)

(Axel Hübler, "Metapragmatics." Foundations of Pragmatics, ed. by Wolfram Bublitz et al. Walter de Gruyter, 2011)

The Fifth Type of Sentence

"The traditional classification of major sentences recognizes statements, questions, commands . . . and exclamations. But there is a fifth type of sentence, used only in dialogue, whose function is to confirm, question, or clarify what the previous speaker has just said. This is the echo utterance.

"Echo utterance structure reflects that of the preceding sentence, which it repeats in whole or in part. All types of sentences can be echoes.

A: John didn't like the film
B: He didn't what?
A: Have you got my knife?
B: Have I got your wife?!
A: Sit down here.
B: Down there?
A: What a lovely day!
B: What a lovely day, indeed!


"Echoes sometimes sound impolite unless accompanied by an apologetic 'softening' phrase, such as I'm sorry or I beg your pardon. This is most noticeable with the question What did you say? often shortened to What? 'Don't say what, say 'pardon' is a common parental plea to children.'"
(David Crystal, Rediscover Grammar. Pearson Longman, 2004)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Echo Utterance in Speech." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Echo Utterance in Speech. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Echo Utterance in Speech." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).