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Lecture 11. Deixis. Pronouns.

1.1. Deixis as a category

The word ‘deixis’ is of Greek origin (deikava – to point out, to show). It serves reflect the relationship between language and context in linguistic structures. Deixis as a category of language is egocentrically organised and its centre coincides with the speaker, its location and time of speaking.

The following linguistic units form the categorial space of this linguistic category:

Central deictic word

  • the personal pronouns (I, we, you),

  • the demonstrative pronouns (this, these, that, those),

  • adverbs of place and time (here, now, there, then).

Marginal deictic word

  • tense forms,

  • some verbs (come, go, bring, fetch, take),

  • some adjectives (far, far away, near, nearby, left, right, front, back, opposite, remote, close, next, previous, distant),

  • some adverbs and adverbial phrases (today, tonight, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, yesterday, the day before yesterday, this week, next month, last year),

  • some prepositions and prepositional phrases (across, beyond, over, in front of, behind, in the back of),

  • some nouns (passer-by, spectator, onlooker, participant, passenger, customer, driver, tourist).

The oppositional variant of this category is

I (we) – here – now vs. you – there – then

Further from the central point there are found most distant and less definable references to: any, some, one, anywhere, somewhere, anybody, somebody, any time; and even least known and most categorical references to participants of discourse, or its place and time: everybody, everywhere, a/ways, ever, nobody, none, nothing, nowhere, never.

In between there are numerous proximal and distal place and time references shown lexically or lexically-grammatically, like in: since, before, after, so far, just now, now and then, recently, lately, as early as, long before, long age, ahead, aside, behind, etc.

Tense forms express time of the action as being tightly anchored to the time of the utterance, or speech situation; having placed the Present Tense, 1st person word-form in the centre of the imaginative sphere we will get a space with the Indicative Mood forms closer to the centre, and all Oblique Mood forms scattering around.

On the border of the Indicative Mood forms versus Non-Indicative Mood forms there are located forms with a more certain reference to Futurity (I’ll go and its equivalents: will go, shall go, is about to go, have to go, must go, (immediately, soon, next minute),less certain futurity (can go, may go, could/might go, would/should go); less certain past (could have gone, must have been, can't have done, should have seen, would have wade (before now, long before, then and there).

Types of deixis:

  • Person deixis;

  • Discourse deixis (the reference is being made to the current discourse or part thereof. Examples: ‘see section 8.4’, ‘that was a really mean thing to say’, ‘This sentence is false’)

  • Empathetic deixis (different forms of the deictic are used to indicate the speaker’s emotional closeness or distance from the referent – Look at that disheveled hair of mine! I don’t like that husband of yours!)

  • Place deixis (a spatial location relative to the spatial location of the speaker: be proximal or distal, or sometimes medial, bounded (indicating a spatial region with a clearly defined boundary, e.g. in the box) or unbounded (indicating a spatial region without a clearly defined boundary, e.g. over there)

  • Social deixis (the use of different deictics to express social distinctions)

  • Time deixis (the reference made to particular times relative to some other time, most currently the time of utterance: the use of the words now or soon, or the use of tenses).

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