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Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar

DR. Shadia Y. Banjar 1

The word ‘deixis’ is a technical
term (from Greek) for one of
the most basic things we do
with utterances, which means
‘pointing’ via language.'
DR. Shadia Y. Banjar 2
1: any linguistic form used to
accomplish ‘pointing’ is called a
deictic expression.
2: deictic expressions are also
known as indexicals.
DR. Shadia Y. Banjar 3
Deictic expressions
Deictic expressions are meaningful in a given
They are among the first words acquired by
In order to be interpreted correctly, the speaker
and listener have to share the same context.
They are particularly useful in face-to-face

DR. Shadia Y. Banjar 4

PERSON DEIXIS : Any expression used
to point to a person ( me, you, him, them) is an
example of PERSON DEIXIS.
Words used to point to a location ( here, there)
are examples of PLACE DEIXIS.
expression used to point to a time ( now, then,
tonight, last week, yesterday) are examples of

DR. Shadia Y. Banjar 5

: DISCOURSE DEIXIS: any expression used
to refer to earlier or forthcoming segments
of the discourse: in the previous/next
paragraph, or Have you heard this joke?
SOCIAL DEIXIS: honorifics (forms to show
respect such as Professor Li).

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Person Deixis
a speech event includes at least two persons:
– first person = speaker
– second person = addressee
If the two persons do not only refer to themselves while talking, there is a
third person ( = the person they are talking about), that does not have to
take part in the conversation.
Usually the third person is not grammatically marked, because the only
two persons of importance are the first person (speaker = most important)
and the second person (addressee = less important).
only in English: the suffix (-s) for the third person.
The traditional category of plural is not symmetrically applied to first
person (we) in the way it is to the third (they)
– In addition there are two first person `plural` pronouns, corresponding
to `we-inclusive-of-addressee` and `we-exclusive-of-addressee`:
Let`s go to the cinema.
= `we-inclusive-of-addressee`
Let`s go to see you tomorrow.
(Levinson :1983)
DR. Shadia Y. Banjar 7
Person Deixis
grammatical category for a person: personal pronouns
– All languages have personal pronouns or at least
words, that refer to the participants of the speech
The pronouns of the first (I-my-mine) and second
person (you- your-yours) are deictic:
– reference to the speaking person.
It is also possible to have deictic pronouns for the third person.
Definite and specific pronouns: this, that, those, or these.
Indefinite and specific pronouns: somebody , something , who,
Indefinite and non-specific pronouns: someone , something ,
nobody, nothing.
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Place Deixis
concerns the locations relative to anchorage points in the speech event (speaker
= centre),
two basic ways of referring to objects: by describing or naming them and by
locating them,
locations can be specified relative to other objects:
– The station is two hundred yards from the college.
locations can be specified relative to the location of participants;
– It's two hundred yards away.
some pure place-deictic words: here and there (adverbs); this and that
(demonstrative pronouns);
=> symbolic usage of here = pragmatically given unit of space that includes the
location of the speaker;
– I'm writing to say I'm having a marvellous time here.
Adverbs: here and there = contrast on a proximal/distal dimension;
– here = proximal (near); there = distal ( more distant)
Bring that here and take this there.
Demonstrative pronouns are more clearly organized in a proximal/distal
DR. Shadia Y. Banjar 9
Place Deixis

this = the object in a pragmatically given area close to the

speaker's location,
that = the object beyond the pragmatically given area close to
the speaker's location,
some languages have demonstratives with 3 and 4 way
distinctions on the proximal-distal dimension;
( North West American language Tlingit) – demonstratives
distinguish between
– this one right here
– this on nearby
– that one over there
– that one way over there
Directions: to the left from; to the right from

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Place Deixis

motion verbs = signs of place deixis

– come vs. go makes distinction between the direction
of motion
He's coming = he is moving towards the speaker's
He's going = he is moving away from the speaker's
I'm coming = the speaker is moving towards the
location of the addressee.
– come = movement towards either the location of the
speaker, or towards the location of the addressee.

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Time Deixis
makes ultimate reference to participant-role
=> ex.: now = the time at which the speaker is producing the utterance
containing “now”.
distinguish the moment of utterance (= coding time (CT)) and the moment of
reception (= receiving time (RT)).
in the canonical situation of utterance (deictic simultaneity)
=> CT =RT
– It is cold outside. (normal speech act)
complexities in the usage of tense, time adverbs and other time-deictic
morphemes (letter writing, or pre- recording of media programmes)
=> deictic centre remains on the speaker and CT:
– This programme, is being recorded today, Wednesday April 1st, to be
relayed next Thursday.
=> deictic centre is projected on the addressee and RT:
– This programme was recorded last Wednesday, April 1st, to be relayed
today. (deictic centre was projected into the future)
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Time Deixis

Tenses = time relations in connection to a given point in time
– present = an event/action simultaneously to the speech act (work)
– past = an event/action before the speech act (worked)
– future = an event/action after the speech act (you will work)
there are language systems with more than 3 possibilities
– they distinguish between levels of past, dependent on their distance
from the speaker's utterance
– tense of immediate past
=> ex.: frz. Jean vient de resoudre le problème.
John has just been able to solve the problem.
difference between absolute tense
– absolute tense refers immediately to the time of the speaker's
utterance: simple past, simple present
Relative tenses refer to other tenses:
– past perfect: event refers to another event, that happens afterwards

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Time Deixis

tenseless eternal sentences:

– Two and two is four.
languages without true tenses:
– Chinese
time deixis is relevant to various other deictic elements
in language:
– ex.: greetings
=> Good morning.
can only be used in the morning
– expressions:
=> the former president, my ex-husband

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Deictic center: the time of the utterance’s time; the place of the
utterance’s place, the person just giving the utterance

“Near speaker” —“away from speaker”

︱ ︱
Proximal distal
︱ ︱
This, here, now that, there, then

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Discourse Deixis

also called text deixis.

concerns the use of expressions referring to apart of the
while within time deixis: next week, last week,discourse
deixis: in the next chapter, in the last paragraph.
in discourse deixis, there are many words and phrases in
English that indicate the relationship between utterance
and the prior discourse:
– but, therefore, in conclusion, to the contrary, still,
however, anyway, well, besides, actually, all in all, so,
after all
– all these words make reference to a statement,
sentence etc. that was said before
some languages have morphemes that mark such
discourse notions

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Social Deixis

concerns those aspects of language structure that

encode the social identities of participants, or the
social relationship between them,
but these usages are only relevant to the topic of social
deixis in so far as they are grammaticalized:
– polite pronouns e.g.“Vous”, address titles.
social relations concern in all those examples the
relation between the speaker and the addressee,
especially the countries.
in East Asia are known for having several levels of
politeness, based on the social difference between the
persons concerned.

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Using Deixis
• Certain words like here there, this, that , now , then,
yesterday as well as most pronouns such as I , you,
him, her , them can only be understood if we know
about the context in which they are used.
• For example, the sentence, “ you’ll have to bring that
back tomorrow, because they aren’t here”, out of
context will be quite unintelligible.
• Because this sentence contain large number of
certain expressions ( Deixis) which depend for their
interpretation on the immediate physical context in
which they are uttered.

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All these expressions have to be interpreted in
terms of what person , place or time the speaker
has in mind. There is a broad distinction between
what is marked as distant( that ,there, then). It is
also possible to mark whether the movement is
happening towards the speaker’s location( come)
or away from speaker’s location (go) If you are
looking for someone and he or she appears
moving towards you, you tend to say “ Here she
Comes! If , however, she/he is moving away from
you in the distance, you are more like to say
There she goes!
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People can actually use Deixis to have fun.
The coffee shop owner who puts up a big sign
that reads “ Free snacks Tomorrow” ( to get
you to return to his shop) can always claim
that you are one day too early for the meal.

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Deixis and Grammar
Grammar :
• the study of the rules governing the use of a given natural language,
and, as such, is a field of linguistics.
•Traditionally, grammar included morphology and syntax.
•In modern linguistics these subfields are complemented by phonology,
semantics, and pragmatics.
•how do people use sentences in communication,
•Characterize acceptable/unacceptable use.
•It is no longer possible to consider sentences in isolation: we need to
take the context into account.
•We look beyond truth-conditional meanings.
• those words in a language that entirely depend on context (Fromkin, et.
al., 1991). The meaning of deixis is 'pointing to' something. In verbal
communication however, deixis in its narrow sense refers to the
contextual meaning of pronouns, and in its broad sense, what the
speaker means by a particular utterance in a given speech context.
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Deixis and Grammar

The basic distinctions for person, spatial, and

temporal deixis can be seen in English grammar
are presented in direct and indirect speech.

Are you planning to be here this evening?

I asked her if she was planning to be there that
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When reporting a previous utterance, the utterance is
marked deictically as relative to the original circumstances.
the proximal forms will be shifted to the corresponding
distal forms.
The proximal deictic forms of a direct speech give the sense
of being in the same context as the utterance.
The distal deictic forms of an indirect speech give the sense
of being remote as the original speech event.
The regular difference in English reported discourse marks a
distinction between the ‘near speaker’ meaning of direct
speech and the ‘away from speaker’ meaning of indirect

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