In Issue 1/2024


The conventional term “verbatim report” is only a useful simplification of official transcripts. Not all sections in a report are usually verbatim. Most reports alternate between verbatim and non-verbatim approaches.

In this article, I will discuss the two main approaches to speech-to-text reporting: mimetic (transcription) and diegetic (narration). I will illustrate this division with the plenary session report of the Finnish Parliament, concentrating on non-verbatim, administrative sections which are seldom discussed. Finally, I will consider the different types of impact that the two approaches might have on the official report.

Two Approaches to Reporting

I have borrowed the terms mimetic and diegetic from Plato’s Republic (c. 375 BCE) and Aristotle’s Poetics (c. 335 BCE), that use the terms to make a division between imitation and narration in poetry (see Rimmon-Kenan, 2002 [1983]; also Kalliokoski, 2005, in the context of reporting thought and speech as a linguistic phenomenon in general [in Finnish]).

In mimetic reporting, the speech is transcribed, which gives the reader an insider’s perspective. This creates a sense of transparency and direct access to the original speech. It is usually chosen when the original formulations of the speech are considered potentially important for the reader, such as in a parliamentary speech.

In diegetic reporting, the events are narrated with the reporter’s voice. It is openly selective in terms of the contents and formulations of the report. It is often chosen when specific wordings are considered important for the report, such as in the formal sections of the parliamentary session.

The examples below illustrate the two ways to report the end of an agenda item in the session. (For the purposes of this article, I have translated all the original Finnish language examples in English.)

Mimetic reporting

First vice chairman Paula Risikko: Thank you. Now I don’t see other speeches. So the discussion has ended. The matter will be sent to the finance committee.

Diegetic reporting

The discussion ended. The matter was sent to the finance committee.

In academic discussion, the mimetic approach relates roughly to litteratim(sound-for-letter) and verbatim(word-for-word) reporting methods. The diegetic approach relates more to sensatim(meaning-for-meaning) and signatim(sign-for-sign) methods where linguistic meanings and non-verbal activities are depicted verbally (cf. Eugeni & Gambier, 2023). In practice, different hybrid combinations are also possible.

Mimetic Reporting

In parliamentary reporting, the mimetic approach, or transcription, is mainly used for MPs’ speeches. The principles of parliamentary transcription have been discussed in detail (e.g. Slembrouck, 1992; Mollin, 2007; Cucchi, 2013). In the Finnish Parliamentary Office, the main principle is to edit transcripts delicately so that the reader gets an accurate view of both the content and style of the speeches. Finnish reporters also include the chairperson’s administrative turns between speeches, such as giving the floor to MPs and remarks about technical matters or the norms of the session. This is done to give a reliable account of the interaction in the session – not just a collection of individual speeches. (For the aims and principles of Finnish parliamentary reporting, see Voutilainen, 2023.)

Besides administrative turns within the debate, the chairperson also manages the agenda items and provides information about the rules of procedure. The chairperson often reads these parts straight from their notes. For the most part, these turns are edited in the similar light fashion as the speeches. However, those parts that introduce agenda items are edited more strongly for the sake of readability, uniformity and following the rules of procedure of the parliament.

Chairman Jussi Halla-aho: For the preliminary debate, the third item of the agenda is presented. The chairperson’s council suggests that the matter is sent to the social affairs and health committee to which the employment and equality committee must give a statement.

This may be problematic for the transparency and accessibility of the report, because readers cannot know that some parts of the report are edited more than others, but reporters are prepared to deviate from the guidelines if these sections differ considerably from the norm.

Diegetic Reporting

In the Finnish parliamentary report, the diegetic approach, or reporter’s narration, is used in certain administrative sections where it is considered essential to use a specific formulation, as instructed by the office guidelines. I will present some essential cases below.

Topic Headlines and Background Information

This initial metatext informs the reader about, for example, the order and topic of the agenda item, related material (e.g. a legislative proposal) and the stage of proceedings. In the Finnish parliamentary report, this text is located before the opening turn by the chairperson:

4. Government’s proposal to the parliament for legislation concerning the change of unemployment security, public workforce and company services and salary security

Government’s proposal HE 11/2023 vp

Preliminary debate

The text follows a standard formula and does not depend on how it is presented by the chairperson.


Routine announcements by the chairperson are located mostly at the beginning of the session. They are reported diegetically and without a transcript and include, for example, announcements of new government proposals that have arrived in committees:

On 17.5.2023, the government has given the government’s proposal HE 4/2023 vp which is taken in preliminary debate in this session.

Special announcements, such as those announcing a new MP or making a public notice about an MP’s unsuitable behavior, are nonetheless transcribed mimetically.


Voting is reported in a concise manner:

Sofia Virta’s proposal “aye”, Minja Koskela’s proposal “nay”. The vote result: aye 116; nay 38; absent 45 (vote 1). Sofia Virta’s proposal has won in this vote.

Because of the standardised format, some remarks by the chairperson are excluded from the report, such as “There has to be a vote on the matter at the beginning of the vote. The explanations of vote by the MPs are also reported diegetically with conventional formulations, so that the content of the explanations is easily found:

Eeva Johanna Eloranta (sd) meant to vote “nay” in vote 3.

The explanations of vote do not affect the result of the vote.

Announcing Procedures and Decisions

Announcements on procedures and decisions are normally reported diegetically with specific formulations:

The discussion ended.

The vote order was accepted.

The parliament accepted the law proposals 1-4, the contents of which were decided in the first reading, and which were included in the HE 188/2017 vp.

As with other diegetic sections in the report, a mimetic transcript may be added if the chairperson utters something out of the ordinary.

Consequences for Accessibility

The chosen reporting approach has strong consequences for the accessibility of the report. In mimetic reporting, the transparency of the transcript is dependent on the commitment to light editing. With heavy editing, the transparency may seem a deceptive illusion. In some cases, the essential content may have limited accessibility due to complex or vague formulations.

Diegetic reporting, on the other hand, pursues clear access to selected content. It is used when the original formulations are not considered appropriate for the report. Diegetic reporting may face challenges with transparency if readers feel that they cannot get a reliable account of the reported speech event.

The Finnish parliamentary report works both as the official record and as the text alternative for the plenary session videos required by the European Union. These functions may vary extensively in, for example, how they tolerate selective and non-verbatim reporting. The future will show whether this double function is seen as useful or whether a separate text alternative, such as captions, is considered appropriate. This will have important consequences for parliamentary reporting.

Eero Voutilainen is a senior specialist in the Records Office of the Finnish Parliament and Tiro’s editor-in-chief.


Aristotle (2013 [c. 335 BCE]). Poetics. Oxford World’s Classics. Translated by A. Kenny. Oxford University Press.

Cucchi, C. (2013). Dialogic features in EU non-native parliamentary debates. – Review of the Air Force Academy 22, pp. 5–14.

Eugeni, C. & Y. Gambier (2023). La traduction intralinguistique: les défis de la diamesie. Timisoara.

Kalliokoski, J. (2005). Referointi ja moniäänisyys kielenkäytön ilmiöinä [Reported speech and polyphony as phenomena of language use]. In M. Haakana & J. Kalliokoski (eds.) Referointi ja moniäänisyys [Reported speech and polyphony], pp. 9–42. Finnish Literature Society.

Mollin, S. (2007). The Hansard hazard: gauging the accuracy of British parliamentary transcripts. – Corpora 2, pp. 187–210.

Plato (2012) [c. 375 BCE]. Republic. Translated by Christopher Rowe. Penguin.

Slembrouck, S. (1992). The parliamentary Hansard ‘verbatim’ report: the written construction of spoken discourse. – Language and Literature 1, pp. 101–119.

Rimmon-Kenan, S. (2002 [1983]). Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. Methuen.

Voutilainen, E. (2023). Written representation of spoken interaction in the official parliamentary transcripts of the Finnish Parliament. – Frontiers in Communication 8. URL:

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