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DEIXIS. Compiled by : “ Deixis ” means “Pointing” via language. Any linguistic form used to achieve this “Pointing” is called a Deictic expression or “ Indexicals ”. If you notice a strange object and ask “What’s that?”, you are using a deictic expression. .

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Compiled by :


“Deixis” means “Pointing” via language. Any linguistic form used to achieve this “Pointing” is called a Deictic expression or “Indexicals”. If you notice a strange object and ask “What’s that?”, you are using a deictic expression.


Deixis signals a referent and it relates that referent to a common ground shared by the speaker and the addressee. Typical deictic include this, that, here, and now. All of these words have the ability to situate the speaker and hearer in relation to one another and to the world around them.


Within  linguistic view, deixis refers to the phenomenon wherein understanding the meaning of certain words and phrases in an utterance requires contextual information. Words are deictic if their semantic meaning is fixed but their denotational meaning varies depending on time and/or place. Words or phrases that require contextual information to convey any meaning – for example, English pronouns – are deictic.


Deixis is reference by means of an expression whose interpretation is relative to the context of the utterance, such as

  • who is speaking
  • the time or place of speaking
  • the gestures of the speaker
  • the current location in the discourse
  • The topic of the discourse

Near speaker  proximal terms ( this, here, now)

  • Away from speaker  distal terms (that, there, then)

The example 1- from CBS (American) Evening News broadcast.

  • The Americans arrested three suspects, but they met many enemies here,
  • When our soldiers shot back, the gunmen hiding in these houses
  • “Here” (line 1) and “these” (line 2) are two deictic words.
  • These lines are a voice-over accompanying the video of the attacked village. Listeners and viewers know that “here” does
  • not mean in their own living room, although that is the
  • point from which the television sound comes from, but
  • that “here” refers to a location proximal to the speaker.
  • In the same manner, “these houses” is understood to
  • refer to the houses in the video broadcast.

The example 2

  • 1. But it’s clear the situation here could grow far
  • worse
  • 2. before the U.S. even has a chance to win it.
  • In this case, “here” is equivalent to “here in Iraq” or
  • possibly “here in Baghdad” due to the context of the
  • previous few sentences, in which the reporter interviews
  • a U.S. general regarding the current situation on the
  • ground. It is clear to all involved that “here” does not
  • mean “here the area that can be seen on the screen
  • around the me [the reporter].”
kinds of deixis
Kinds of Deixis
  • 1. Person Deixis (me, you)
  • 2. Spatial Deixis (here, there)
  • 3. Temporal deixis (now, then)
person deixis
Person Deixis
  • Person
  • Person deixis dealing with the grammatical persons  within an utterance, (1) those directly involved (e.g. the speaker, the addressee), (2) those not directly involved (e.g. over hearers—those who hear the utterance but who are not being directly addressed), and (3) those mentioned in the utterance.

In English, the distinctions are generally indicated by pronouns. The following examples show how. (The person deictic terms are in italics)

  • I am going to the movies.
  • Would you like to have dinner?
  • They tried to hurt me, but he came to the rescue.
unique instances
Unique instances
  • 1. Would his highness like some coffee?
  • This ironic or humorous phrase “His highness” refers to an occurrence when one person, who’s very busy in the kitchen, addresses another, who’s being very lazy to help the others.
  • 2. Somebody didn’t clean up after himself.
  • This is a potential accusation that there is someone who violate the rules since each person has to clean up after him or herself.
spatial deixis
Spatial Deixis
  • Spatial /Place deixis, also known as space deixis, related to the spatial locations relevant to an utterance. Similarly to person deixis, the locations may be either those of the speaker and addressee or those of persons or objects being referred to. The most famous English examples are the adverbs “here” and “there” and the demonstratives “this” and “that”.

Some examples:

  • I enjoy living in this city.
  • Here is where we will place the statue.
  • She was sitting over there.
  • Unless otherwise specified, Spatial deictic terms are generally understood to be relative to the location of the speaker, as in
  • The shop is across the street.

Here / There

  • This / That
  • They indicate distance or proximityfrom the speaker,
  • Physical distance or proximity
  • Mental and psychological distance or proximity (Ex. deictic projection in the direct speech)
unique examples
Unique examples
  • 1. I am not here now.
  • This can be semantically illogical but pragmatically it can be true since it’s an utterance recorded on phone answering machine. The word “now” refers to any time someone tries to call me, and not to when I actually record the words.

2. I was looking at this little puppy in a cage with such a sad look oh her face. It was like, “Oh, I’m so unhappy here, will you set me free?”

  • This is an utterance of someone who visit to a pet store and he is looking for his lost pet. The word “here” of the cage is not the actual physical location of the person uttering the words (the speaker), but is instead of the location of that person performing in the role of the puppy. Do you remember Ace ventura in Pet detective the movie?
temporal deixis
Temporal Deixis
  • Time
  • Time, or temporal, deixis concerns itself with the various times involved in and referred to in an utterance. This includes time adverbs like "now", "then", "soon", and so forth, and also different tenses.

Now proximal

  • Then distal (both past and future)
  • Temporal events that move toward us (into view)  this weekend
  • Temporal events that moveaway from us (out of view)

Choice of the verb tense

  • Present – proximal form
  • Past – distal form, not only in time but also because unlikely or impossible: Ex: If I had a yacht….
  • The distal forms of temporal deixis are used to communicate not only distance from current time but also distance from current reality or facts.
social deixis
Social Deixis
  • Social deixis concerns the social information that is encoded within various expressions, such as relative social status and familiarity. Two major forms of it are the so-called T-V distinctions and honorifics.
  • T-V distinction
  • T-V distinctions, named for the Latin “tu” and “vos” (singular and plural versions of “you”) are the name given to the phenomenon when a language has two different second-person pronouns. The varying usage of these pronouns indicates something about formality, familiarity, and/or solidarity between the interactants. So, for example, the T form might be used when speaking to a friend or social equal, whereas the V form would be used speaking to a stranger or social superior. This phenomenon is common in European languages.[6]

Exophoricdexis: person, spatial and temporal deixis

  • (External factor)
  • Endophoricdeixis: anaphoric and cataphoricdeixis.
  • (internal factor)
anaphora anaphoric reference
Anaphora (Anaphoric reference)
  • In most of our talk and writing, we have to keep track of who or what we are talking about for more than one sentence at a time, we use anaphoric reference.
  • A: Can I borrow your dictionary?B: Yean, it’s on the table.
  • Here, word it refers back to the word dictionary. The previous word dictionary is called the antecedent , and the second word it is called the anaphor or anaphoric expression.
anaphor and antecedent
Anaphor and antecedent
  • In English, initial reference,, or introductory mention, is often indefinite (a man, a woman, a cat). In the example the definite noun phrases (the man, the cat, the woman) and the pronouns (it, he, her, they) are examples of subsequent reference to already introduced referents, generally known as anaphoric reference, or anaphora. In technical terms, the second or subsequent expression is the anaphor and the initial expression is the antecedent.
  • Cataphora: I turned the corner and almost stepped on it.
  • What’s “it” here is not clear. It can be anything in the mind of the hearer if the speaker doesn’t tell the hearer about it.