Week 5


Deixis is an essential feature of narrative ‘point of view’. (Mey, 1993:93-4)
e.g. last week vs. preceding week/week before

in relation to speaker precedes (an)other week(s),
current point of view not from current point of view

Cf.     tomorrow    vs. the day after

French: demain  vs. le lendemain

The context of deixis is egocentric. It depends on the speaker’s her- and-now
(Lyons, 1995:305).

  1. What do you say when writing to a friend in Australia because you want to visit during the summer quarter?
  2. I & here: I: The zero-point of the deictic context will be switched back and forth, together with the reference of ‘I’ and ‘here’.
  3. ‘Now’ does not switch back and forth

“deixis is more basic than anaphora” (Lyons, 1977:667)
“In so far as recency of mention is itself a deictically based notion and is encoded, in one way or another, in the anaphoric pronouns used in particular languages, anaphora rests ultimately upon deixis” (p. 671)
(1) Be careful, he might bite you
(said to a child at the zoo, whilst looking at a lion in a cage: the lion is present in the context-of-utterance, but not in the co-text. It has not not been referred to previously)
(2) I was terribly upset to get the news. I only saw her last week.
(said in condolence to a friend whose wife has been killed in a car accident: again no prior reference in the co-text; but she is a part of the universe-of-discourse.
(3) The man who gave his paycheck to his wife was wiser than the man who gave it to his mistress (Lyons 1977: 674).
The problem here is that it is not (or: is not intended by the speaker to be) co-referential with his paycheck; nor is there any previous mention of an entity to which it refers. This is a case of ‘pronouns-as-laziness’ (Partee; Geach). Lyons argues that it may be better seen as a case of ‘pronouns-as-deictics’.
Cf. He’d been to Italy many times but he still doesn’t speak the language.

(4) No one drives when he is drunk
(5) No x drives when x is drunk (ibid.)
(6) I met this girl the other day (Mey, 1993:95)
Do we really wish to index this particular person, or are we using ‘this’ simply as referring to ‘a certain young female’ whose identity needs no further introduction? (Either because her identity is of no interest to the story, or because it is already sufficiently established in other ways- the case of the so-called ‘reminder deixis’ (ibid.)

“DEFINITENESS is a feature of a noun phrase selected by a speaker to convey his assumption that the hearer will be able to identify the referent of the noun phrase, usually because it the only thing of its kind in the context of utterance, or because it is unique in the universe of discourse” (H&H, 1983:71)
“definite referring noun-phrases [i.e.proper names, definite NPs & pronouns] always contain a deictic element” (Lyons 1977: p. 657)
Are proper names deictic? Yes – and no!
There is a deictic element, because proper names do not normally have unique reference.
e.g. A: Have you met Elizabeth Taylor?
B: Do you mean Councillor Elizabeth Taylor, who won the by-election in Park?
A: No, idiot! I mean the film-star, you know, the one with the drink problem

“There is much in the structure of languages that can only be explained on the assumption that they have developed for communication in face-to-face interaction. This is clearly so as far as deixis is concerned.” (Lyons 1977: 637/8)

“I have no statistics available, but I guess that more than 90% of the declarative sentence- tokens we produce during our lifetime are indexical * sentences and not statements.” (Yeshoshua Bar-Hillel (1970): Aspects of Language. Jerusalem, Magnes Press/Hebrew University; Amsterdam, North-Holland Publishing Co.; page 76)

  • ‘indexical’ = deictic

In fact it is hard to imagine a language without deixis. A language without such deictic terms could not serve the communicative needs of its users (H&H, 1983:68)
Practice (H&H, p67)

Bar-Hillel’s examples.

  1. Ice floats on water.
  2. It’s raining.
  3. I am hungry. Only (1) is non-indexical.
  4. Come here.
    5 * Come there.
    The verb come has a deictic ingredient, because it contains the notion ‘toward the speaker’
    Practice (H&H, p64)

Pure vs. Impure Deixis
• Pure deictic expressions are “expressions whose meaning can be accounted for fully in terms of the notion of deixis” (Lyons, 1995:307) e.g. the English pronouns I and You
• Impure deictic expressions are expressions whose meaning “encode and combine both deictic and non-deictic information” (ibid.) e.g. He and She

  1. What’s that?
  2. What’s that thing?
  3. Who’s that?
  4. Who’s that person? (Lyons, 1995:308)
    Whereas 3 is non-ambiguous, 1 “has both an individual (or entity-referring) and a sortal (or categorical) meaning. “What (or which) individual [thing] is that?” vs. “What kind [of thing] is that? (Lyons, 1995:309)
    Languages vary considerably with respect to the kind of non-deictic information which they combine with deictic information. (Lyons, 1995:309)
    Non-deictic part of the meaning of impure deixis may be either
    • descriptive (propositional) e.g. anta & anti in Arabic or
    • socio-expressive e.g. T/V distinction (Lyons, 1995:309)

Types of Deixis [Saeed §7.2]
Person Deixis. [Saeed §7.2.4]
Deixis grammaticalizes the roles of the discourse participants: speaker and addresses(s) through pronouns.
Cf. English vs. Arabic
Zayse language: mùy vs. we (including addressee)
nìi vs. we (excluding addressee

What are the meanings of we and you, as they are used in this text; i.e. just who is being referred to?
(The source is: Kenneth Burke (1945): A Grammar of Motives. New York, Prentice-Hall Inc.)
“What is invoked when we 1 say what people are doing and why they are doing it? An answer to that question is the subject of this book….
We 2 shall use five terms as generating principle of our investigation. They are: Act, Scene, Agent, Agency, Purpose. In a rounded statement about motives you 3 must have some word that names the act…; also you 3 must indicate what person or kind of person (agent) performed the act…
If you 4 ask why, with a whole world of terms to choose from, we 2 select these rather than some others as basic, our 2 book itself is offered as the answer.” (p. xv)

  1. ___________ 2. __________
  2. ___________ 4. __________
    Time deixis:
    Time Deixis is an expression in relation to a certain point of time when utterance is produced by the speaker.

The most important aspect of time deixis is tense (Past, present and future)

Time deixis is expressed in time adverbs such as this/last/next Monday/week/month/year, now, then, ago, later, soon, before, yesterday, today, tomorrow

Social deixis: honorifics [Saeed §7.2.5]

  1. Your Honour
  2. Mr. President.
  3. Vous êtes Napoléon.
  4. Tu es Napoléon.

Spatial (Place) deixis [Saeed §7.2.1]
(a) proximal = near to SPKR e.g. this, these; here
(b) distal = away from SPKR; perhaps proximal to ADR (addressee)
e.g. that, those; there
este ese aquel see Saeed, p. 174

nân nan; cân; can Saeed, p. 175

Discourse deixis [Saeed §7.2.3]

  1. Have you heard this story about Michael Jackson?
  2. Here we have to leave our hero, on the brink of manhood.
  3. At this point we have to look back to our original premises [Saeed, p. 177]


TASK 1 {= Saeed, Exercise 7.2, pp. 197/8}
Underline the deictic expressions in these sentences and say which type of deixis (person, time, space) is involved.
(a) She was sitting over there.
(b) This is the biggest room in the house.
(c) Bring him in whenever you’re ready.
(d) I’ll see you tomorrow.
(e) They were here, looking at this Cadillac

Pick out all the examples of person and place deixis in this passage from the beginning of George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss. Is the deixis ‘proximal’ or ‘distal’? How does the use of deixis help to build up the author’s ‘point of view’?

And this is Dorlcote Mill. I must stand a minute or two here on the bridge and look at it, though the clouds are threatening, and it is far on in the afternoon. Even in this leafless time of departing February it is pleasant to look at – perhaps the chill, damp season adds a charm to the trimly-kept, comfortable dwelling-house, as old as the elms and chestnuts that shelter it from the northern blast. The stream is brimful now, and lies high in this little withy plantation, and half drowns the grassy fringe of the croft in front of the house.

Underline all the examples of deixis in this excerpt from Alan Bennett’s 1995 Diary. Pick out, too, examples of anaphora.
Say what type of deixis each example is (person, place, time, discourse)
Is the deixis mainly proximal or distal? What effect does it have?

“16 January. Listening to Michael Heseltine justifying the £475,000 of Mr. Brown, the chairman of British Gas, I remember Joe Fitton. During the war Dad was (T) a warden in the ARP, his companion on patrol a neighbour, Joe Fitton. Somebody aroused Joe’s ire ( a persistent failure to draw their blackout curtains perhaps) and one night, having had to ring the bell and remonstrate yet again, Joe burst out: ‘I’ d like to give them a right kick …’ This wasn’t like Joe at all and turned into a family joke, and a useful one too, as Dad never swore so to give someone a kick … became known euphemistically as ‘Joe Fitton’s Remedy’. With Dad it even became a verb: ‘I’d like to Joe Fitton him’, he’d say. And that’s what I felt like this lunchtime, Joe Fittoning Michael Heseltine, and Mr. Brown too.