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Deixis

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Deixis means "'pointing' via language" (Yule 1996: 9). Deictic expressions are all linguistic forms that require the knowledge of the immediate context to be interpreted correctly.
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Content Preview
Iwo Iwanov
| Presentation session #11 |
-1-
Ruprecht-Karls-Universitat Heidelberg
Anglistisches Seminar
PS I Pragmatics: The many faces of language use
Dozent: Iwo Iwanov
Referenten: Friederike Fleige, Petra Andary, Carolin Haas
Deixis
Preliminaries:
Definition: Deixis means “'pointing' via language” (Yule 1996: 9). Deictic expressions are all linguistic
forms that require the knowledge of the immediate context to be interpreted correctly. These expressions
can be categorised thus:
non-deictic use: A deictic expression can be used non-deictically.
“You have to be 18 to be allowed to buy alcohol” (On a sign in a supermarket) - The use of you is non-deictic
in this case because it refers to whoever is reading the sign, it could also be replaced with “one has to.. ”
On the other hand, a non-deictic expression can be used deictically.
“Her hair looks nice, but hers doesn't” (While giving a gestural indication on who is meant both times) –
Here her is used in a deictic way, because the reference of her keeps changing.
Gestural & Symbolic: If a deictic expression is used in a gestural manner, then it can only be understood
by physically observing the speech event.
“Put the flowers on this table” - Can only be interpreted correctly if one sees the gestural movement
accompanying this utterance, by for example pointing at the intended table with a hand.
In the case of symbolic use on the other hand, the utterance can also be understood if only the basic
spatio-temporal parameters surrounding the utterance are known.
“This country is very patriotic” - This utterance can be understood without any physical gestures, just by
knowing in which country the speaker currently resides.
Of course there can also be a gesture but it is not necessary. A symbolic use of a deictic expression can
always occur with a gesture but gestural expression cannot be used symbolically.
Deictic centre:
Origo is the central point from where deictic expressions refer to person, time and space. Typically this
can be summarized by “I-here-now”.
Deictic projection is a phenomena where the origo does not adhere to this typical form.
“Now see whether you can tackle Exercise 2 and 3 on pp. 175-6” (Huang 2007: 136) -The deictic centre is
moved because it is not “the now” of the moment when Huang wrote this sentence but it is “the now” of
when the reader reads this sentence. Therefore the temporal anchorage point has shifted.

Iwo Iwanov
| Presentation session #11 |
-2-
Person Deixis:
Definition: Person Deixis deals with the correct identification of the grammatical persons used to refer to
speaker and addressee.
Personal Pronouns:
φ-features are the features a personal pronoun possesses, they are person, number and gender.
Person: In the world's languages there is either a three-way or a two-way distinction for the person
feature. Every language has a first-person and a second-person pronoun. By using a first-person
pronoun the speaker can refer to him– or herself and by using a second-person pronoun the speaker can
address his or her audience. Many but not all languages also have a third-person pronoun that is used to
refer to entities that are not present in the speech event, so are neither speaker nor addressee. Since they
do not directly take part in the speech event, these pronouns are considered non-deictic (keeping in
mind the exception above of course).
Number: The number system for pronouns differ greatly in the world's languages, reaching from no
number distinction at all to a five-way distinction. The two most commonly found number systems
make a distinction between Singular-Plural (e.g. English, German) or between Singular-Dual-Plural
(e.g. Arabic)(Dual being 2 persons). Possible distinctions in more complex systems can be Trial (3
persons), Paucal (a few) or Greater Plural (unusually large number).
Special attention should be drawn to all the plural first-person pronouns. Whenever this pronoun refers
to more than one entity it can either include or exclude the addressee. The English first-person plural
pronoun “we” is therefore ambiguous in the sense that it does not specify whether the addressee is
included or not. Other languages have two different pronouns to differentiate between inclusive and
exclusive, e.g. Malay (kita for inclusive and kami for exclusive).
Gender: In many languages pronouns are also marked for gender. If this is the case then the third-person
pronoun definitely has a gender distinction. The gender can also be realised in first– or second-person-
pronouns, this only applies to some languages though. Another observation is that gender distinction
occurs more often in singular pronouns than plural ones (e.g. in English there is “he/she/it” for singular
but only “they” for plural).
Pro-drop languages can omit pronouns if it is clear from the context (e.g. if the inflection of the verb
makes it explicit) which ought to have been used.
Vocatives:
Vocatives are noun phrases used to address someone. They are not an argument of the predicate (e.g.
“Mary, you have to eat the toast!” - The predicate structure for this sentence is: eat<(SUBJ) (OBJ)> →
eat<('you')(toast)>, Mary is not an argument). Vocatives can be divided into two categories, addresses
and calls/summonses.

Iwo Iwanov
| Presentation session #11 |
-3-
Addresses
Calls/Summonses
symbolic
gestural
At the end or middle of an utterance At beginning of an utterance
Can be used as calls
Only some can be used as
addresses
Socially marked
Time Deixis:
Time deixis deals with the encoding of temporal points and periods in relation to the time at which an
utterance is produced in a speech event.
T
ime :
Time is one-dimensional and unidirectional; two ways to look at time:
1. Regard time as a constant and the “world” as moving through time from the past to the
future (the years ahead)
2. Think of the “world” as stable and of time flowing through the “world” from the future to the
past (the coming years)
We can distinguish between time points (e.g. “five o’clock”) and time periods (e.g. “tomorrow evening”).
• Time periods/units:
o can be uniquely distinct in terms of their beginning and ending points.
o Calendrical (fixed-length sequence of naturally given time units, e.g. “July”) or non-
calendrical (periods of measure in relation to some fixed points of interest, e.g.
“Fortnight”)
o Calendrical periods can be positional (e.g. “Monday”, “April”) or non-positional (e.g.
“week”, “month”)
• moment of utterance
coding time (CT)
moment of reception
receiving time (RT)
Deictic simultaneity: in most cases CT and RT are identical; exception: writing of letters
The encoding of time deixis:
(1) D
eictic Adverbs of time
Now: marks proximal time
→ “pragmatically given (time) span including CT”
Then: marks distal time
→ “not now”; can either refer to time in the future or the past
• Deictic calendrical unit terms: today, tomorrow, yesterday: these words for days split time into
diurnal spans; e.g. today → “the diurnal span including CT”
• These deictic adverbs all can relate to either
a) a time point: “Start the engine now!” or
b) an interminable time period within the relevant span: “John is now working as a teacher.”
or
c) the whole span itself: “Yesterday was a public holiday.”
today/tomorrow/yesterday preempt the calendrical terms for the pertinent days. Instead of saying
“Friday” English speakers will use “today” (if today is Friday).
• Languages vary in how many terms they have for days.
LANGUAG 0-2
0-1
0
0+1
0+2
E
English
yesterday
today
tomorrow
German
vorgestern
gestern
heute
morgen
übermorgen

Iwo Iwanov
| Presentation session #11 |
-4-
Greek and Japanese actually have three lexicalized deictic names of days on either side of the present
day. Some languages use the same word for “tomorrow” and “yesterday”. The possible interpretative
difficulties can be avoided either grammatically (e.g. tense) or pragmatically (e.g. shared knowledge).
The distribution of lexicalized deictic names of days can be irregular (e.g. Spanish, Persian, Vietnamese).
This month, next Monday, last year are complex deictic adverbs of time because they hold two
components, a deictic (this, next, last) + a non-deictic component (month, Monday, year).
Such adverbs can be interpreted with the distinctions calendrical/non-calendrical and positional/non-
positional calendrical units.
This X (X = non-positional calendrical unit such as year) → refers to the unit including CT and is
ambiguous between calendrical (1 January to 31 December)/non-calendrical (365 days that starts on the
day including CT) interpretation.
This Y (Y = positional calendrical unit such as July) → refers to the unit which is included in a larger
calendrical unit Z (year), which includes CT. July is not necessarily the month the speaker is now in, but
to the July of the same calendrical year as the moment of utterance.
(2) T
ense
M-tense (metalinguistic tense): theoretical category
L-tense (linguistic tense): linguistic realization of M-tense usually through verbal inflection
• All languages have M-tense, but some lack L-tense. In this case, M-tense can be lexicalized with
adverbs of time.
a) The giant panda lives on bamboo shoots. → M-tenseless but L-tensed (verb form marked
for present tense)
b) Xiaoming qunian jielehun. (Chinese)
Xiaoming last year get married.
→ M-tensed but L-tenseless (no verbal inflection)
Space Deixis:
Space deixis deals with the specification of location in space in relation to that of the speaker/hearer at
CT in a speech event.
Frames of spatial reference:
Frames of reference
Three linguistic frames of reference that convey spatial relationships between the entity to be located
(referent/figure) + the landmark/ground
1) Intrinsic: object-centered coordinates; here: car (object) is ground; dog is figure → “The
dog is behind the car.”
2) Relative: spatial relation between a viewpoint, and a figure + ground that are distinct
from viewpoint
→ “The dog is to the left of the car.”
3) Absolute: coordinate system based on absolute coordinates
→ “The dog is east of the car.”
• Some languages use all of these three spatial coordinate systems (e.g. English, French). Some use
two (e.g. Mopan), some only one (e.g. Guugu Yimidhirr). A lot of spatial orientated terms as
up/down/front/back are in fact absent from perhaps a third of all languages.
The grammaticalization of space deixis
Spatial deictic notions are conveyed by the use of demonstratives (pronouns+adjectives), deictic adverbs
of space, deictically marked third-person pronouns, verbal affixes/verbs of motion.

Iwo Iwanov
| Presentation session #11 |
-5-
Demonstratives and deictic adverb of space
Deictic parameters distance, visibility, elevation, side
Distance
Languages can be classified according to the number of terms of their demonstratives and deictic
adverbs (Anderson and Keenan, 1985).
1-term-systems

have only 1 demonstrative pronoun or adjective, they are unmarked for distance.

But most 1-term-systems are supplemented by 2-term-systems.
Examples: German: dies / das; Czech: ten; French: ce-cet / cette
2-term-systems

distinguish fundamentally between proximal ≠ distal (non-proximal); close to speaker ≠ close to
addressee,

languages with this system are most typical of space deixis.
Examples: English: here ≠ there; Chinese: zheli ≠ nali; Hungarian: itt ≠ ott
3-term-systems

distance-orientated: Proximal ≠ medial ≠ distal; distance-orientated. has 3 deictic terms, no limit
with person-orientated
Examples: Arabic: hona ≠ honak ≠ honalik; Sc. engl: this ≠ that ≠ yon

Person-orientated: proximal to speaker ≠ proximal to addressee ≠ distal to speaker and addressee;
Latin, Turkish 3-term-system not (easiliy) assigned as distance- or person-orientated
Examples: Japanese: kore ≠ sore ≠ are; Palauan: tia ≠ tilechaa ≠ se
4-term-systems

Distance-orientated: Quadripartite system of space deixis
Examples: Kusaiean: nge ≠ ngacn ≠ ngoh ≠ ngi;
would be in English: this ≠ that ≠ that over there ≠ that way over there

person-orientated:
Examples:
Hausa:
Waray:
nân close to S
adi close to S
nan close to A
itu
close to A
cân away from both, but visible
ini
close to S + A
can further away, less visible
itu? distal
Mor

e than 4-term-systems

Kwakiutl: 6 terms; Koasati: 7 terms; Inuktitut: 686 terms

Some languages are defined along the basic, single deictic dimension of distance, but most are
involved with more than one dimension of contrast.
Visibility
Is the entity in question in sight or not?

Kwakwa'la: basic person-orientated 3-way contrast along dimensions of distance
+ each of 3 persons marked for visibility

Daga: different suffixes for visibility and invisibility

Kashmiri: distinction between distal demonstrative pronoun for visibility and invisibility

Coastal yidiη: demonstrative stem for both distant and visible

Iwo Iwanov
| Presentation session #11 |
-6-

Moroccan Arabic: 3 markers for locatives: proximate, distal and invisible entities

Quileute: set of 3 adverbs of space for invisibility
entities nearby, entities whose location is known, entities whose location is unknown
Three types of invisibility (Imai, 2003)

invisible-remote
→ entity is invisible and far from Speaker

invisible-occlusion
→ entity behind an obstacle or inside a container

invisible-periphery
→ entity invisible but audible and/or olfactory
Most languages encoding invisibility belong to invisible-remote category.
Elevation
(physical dimension of height in relation to speaker)

Geometric parameter: Speaker will set a horizontal line as the zero point and distinguish wether
the entity in question is above or below this line. To mark elevation certain languages use special
terms or prefixes.
Other languages distinguish 3 dimensions of space: above, below and same level

Geographic parameter: variant of elevation: uphill/downhill and upriver/downriver depending
on the geographic environment.
Side

Aleut: distinction between inside and outside the house

West Greenlandic: distinction between in the north and in the south
Stance

Waikurú: demonstratives indicate the stance or motion of entity, whether it is standing, lying. .
D
eictically marked 3 rd person pronouns
specify the location of intended referent in relation to speaker.

in some languages encoding of distance is optional, in others it is obligatory

Diyari: third-person pronouns are suffixed to denote if the referent is near, close by, or distant but
visible

specially marked deictic third-person pronouns exist in many south asian languages

Pittapitta: marking proximity to speaker's front or side, proximity to speaker's back and
remoteness

Western Desert language: quadripartite system: near, mid-distant, distant and not-visible
Deictic directionals
grouped in categories:

kinetic or deictic motion affixes, morphemes and particles meaning hither and thither motion
verbs

deictic motion verbs e.g. "come" and "go", meaning motion to or away from deictic centre

many languages do not have motion verbs → use of prefixes, morphemes. .

Yélî Dnye: "go" is not marked with motion away from deictic centre, it is used with the hither
particle
le → come here

Diyari: indication that movement is directed towards speaker or away from him

Kiowa: set of 3 dimensional markers: movement towards speaker, movement away from speaker
and movement across visual field of speaker

Proto-Polynesian: 5 directionals: towards speaker, away from speaker, upwards, downwards and
along

Iwo Iwanov
| Presentation session #11 |
-7-
motion verbs "come" and "go"

go: motion away from speaker at CT (time of speaking)

come:

movement towards speaker at CT

movement towards speaker at arrival time

movement towards addressee at CT

movement towards addressee at arrival time

movement towards home-base at CT by speaker or addressee
Example: John will come to the library next week. (Example is 5 way ambiguous) Possible situations for
this utterance:

speaker is in library at CT

speaker is in library at arr.time (time when John will arrive in library)

addressee is in library at CT

addressee is in library at arr.time

(addressee is working in library → home-base): addressee is in library at CT or arr.time
Also possible when addressee's nominative location (= home-base) is not his actual location.
Diuxi Mixtec: distinction between movement towards or away from home-base and non-home-base.
Exercise 8
Following the idea of adding the parameter of telicity (with verbs like fall, kick, make, which indicate a
termination in doing) in some languages "go" is to be used instead of "come".

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