In English and many common languages nowadays, punctuation marks are used to introduce direct speech. This makes it possible to start direct speech without lexical clue, as in the second example here:
- Mary asked, "Could you come here for a minute?"
- "Could you come here for a minute?" asked Mary.
In (mostly ancient?) languages without punctuation, the second example would not contain any clue that direct speech starts, which presumably makes a text harder to narrate (as the narrator would need these clues to use different intonation or the like).
Biblical Hebrew did not have punctuation for a long time, and direct speech rarely occurs without marking. However, the marking is part of the sentence (i.e., pronounced when read out loud, as in example 1 above). It seems then that a language like this lacks freedom to describe dialogue creatively (and indeed, BH dialogue often feels boring to us with a lot of "and he said" — although a native might not have found this to be a problem).
Realising this I'm wondering if there are languages that commonly use direct speech without marking (either lexical, i.e. pronounced, or with punctuation) and if so how they deal with the problem that a narrator needs these clues.