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Submitted To: Dr. Iqbal Butt
Submitted By: Kosar Parveen
NCBA & E Gujrat Campus
Any linguistic form that we use to accomplish the
task of pointing out is called deixis. The deictic
words such as I, we, you, he, she, this, that, it, now,
then, here, there, tomorrow, yesterday, etc., are
different linguistic forms and are called deictic
expressions. The meanings of deictic expressions
can be understood only in terms of speakers
Speaker A: Have you brought the book?
Speaker B: Yes
The word the is obviously a deictic expression
whose exact meaning can only be understood in
terms of speaker A’s intended meaning.
When we indicate something we
use expressions. These
expressions are called indexicals,
e.g. now, then, I, come, go etc.
these expressions require an
addressee to be able to pick out a
person, place or time relevant in
understanding how the words
refer. This is called deictic
1. It is now 12:15.
2. She is the mother of Napoleon.
3. This is Iqbal.
4. That will end then.
5. Letizea was the mother of Napoleon.
In the above examples, the underlined
words i.e. It, she, the, this, that, the, are
deictic expressions or indexicals.
The point of positioning of a speaker is
called deictic centre or deictic point. If a
speaker is sitting at a specific place and
Come here. The word here in this case is
deictic expression which shows that the
location of the speaker is away from the
It has two types:
Deictic use and non deictic use
The deictic use can be further divided into 2 types, that is,
1. Deictic use plus gesture.
2. Deictic use minus gesture.
The example of deictic use plus gesture
When a teacher says:
You will have to read the chapter. In this sentence the word you is
deictic expression, used for only one particular student and it
conveys the meaning that you have to read the chapter , you have
to read the chapter , you have to read the chapter.
The example of deictic use minus gesture
I know you will enjoy reading the chapter.
In this example, the statement is general and is without gesture.
The examples of non-deictic expression
I went to this city one time….
I broke this finger.
I love this city.
In these examples, there is a non deictic use of
this which does not reference anything specific.
Rather, it is used as an indefinite article, much
the way a could be used in its place. If we use
“the” in place of “this” , it will be deictic .
In deictic expressions, immediate context or
immediate setting must be present, but in non-
deictic expressions, there is no immediate
The deixis is a borrowed term
derived from a Greek word, meaning
pointing to or picking up.
The property of language in which
we study indexical, is called
indexicality and the dexical terms
which encode context are called
In linguistics, deixis refers to words and
phrases that cannot be fully understood
without additional contextual
information (words are deictic if their
semantic meaning is fixed but their
denotational meaning is varied
depending on time and/or place). In
reality, words or phrases that require
contextual information to convey any
meaning are deictic e.g. English
pronouns are deictic.
Deictic words or deictics are a closed class, that is,
there is a limited set of these words which can be
used deictically but some of them can also be used
non-deictically . On the basis of semantic criteria
deixis can be classified into three major categories
1. Person deixis which is based on person reference
2. Place deixis: Which is based on place reference e.g.
3. Time deixis: Which is based on time reference e.g.
4. Fillmore calls these three categories of deixis as
“major grammaticalized types”.
Any expression used to point a person is called person
deixis e.g. all pronouns such as I, you, he, she, me, him,
Person deixis concerns the persons involved in an
utterance, such as:
1. The persons directly involved e.g. the speaker and the
2. The persons not directly involved e.g. those who hear the
utterance but are not being directly addressed.
3. The persons mentioned in the utterance.
Certainly, the distinctions are generally indicated by
pronouns. The following examples are self explanatory.
i. I am going to bazaar.
ii. Would you like to have dinner.
iii. They tried to hurt me, but he came to the rescue.
It is also known as space deixis. Any expression or word used
to point to a location is called place deixis.
Actually place deixis concerns with itself with the spatial
locations relevant to an utterance.
The locations may be either those of the speaker and the
addressee or those persons or objects being referred to, such
as here, there, where, yonder etc.
The following examples are worth mentioning:
I enjoy living in this city.
Here is where we met last month.
She was sitting over there.
These examples show clearly that place deixis may be of two
A Proximal place deixis, such as this, these, here.
B Distal place deixis, such as there, that, those.
In case of place deixis the position of
the speaker is the most important
and then comes the addressee
position e.g. :
Speaker: come upstairs.
Speaker: go upstairs.
Speaker: follow me up, follow me
Any expression used to point to a time is called
temporal or time deixis.
In other words, time deixis concerns itself with the
various times involved in and referred to in an
utterance, such as, tonight, last week, yesterday,
before, after etc.
Actually, time deixis includes time adverbs like
now, then, soon and so forth, and also different
For explaining time deixis, a good example is the
word tomorrow, which denotes the consecutive
next day after every day. The tomorrow of a day
last year was a different day from the tomorrow of a
day next week.
A renowned linguistic Fillmore explains that in case
of time deixis, the time adverbs can be used relative
to the time when an utterance is made. Fillmore calls
this time as the “encoding time”, or ET.
On the contrary, he calls the time, when the utterance
is heard as the “decoding time”, or DT.
While these are frequently the same time, they can
differ, as in case of pre-recorded broadcast or
correspondence e.g. If one were to right:
“It is raining now, but I hope when you read this it
will be sunny”, the ET and DT would be different,
with the formal deictic term concerning ET and the
latter concerning DT.
Moreover, when I say, “I am going to
start a new chapter”, it is an excellent
example of ET. But when a teacher
conveys a written message to his/her
class, by writing on the white board: “I
will back in an hour”, he is referring to
the decoding time or DT.
In addition to 3 traditional types of
deixis based on time, place or
person, there are two other types of
deixis similarly pervasive in
These are discourse deixis and social
These were first discussed by
Fillmore and Lyons.
It is also called text deixis. It refers to the use of
expressions within an utterance. It is used in
conversation and in discourse practices. When
deixis is used for rhetoric purposes, that is called
discourse deixis. In discourse deixis second
person is used.
In Urdu language for Allah Almighty, sometimes
we use Aap and sometimes Tu to emphasize the
power of Allah Almighty, we switch from aap to
tu. In Urdu language, the words ap and unhon
are used in a plural sense but when are used for
rhetoric purpose, they are used in terms of
authority and respect.
Jab unhon na Iqbaliat pesh ki.
Aap ka tasawar-e-riasat aj bhi usi Tarah istimal kia ja
Ap and unhon are discourse deixis.
Ap and unhon are used here as discourse deixis not as
Lyons points out that it is possible for an expression to be
both deictic and anaphoric at the same time. In his
I was born in London and I have lived here/there all my
“here” or “there” function anaphorically in their
reference to London and deictically in that, the choice
between here and there indicates whether the speaker is
or isn’t currently in London.
Social deixis concerns the social information that is
encoded within various expressions, such as social
status of a person and social familiarity.
For example, I can call my colleague “tum” but not
“tu” because tu is not comfortable in particular
environment. It can be used in case of best friends.
Social deixis changes from language to language .
Deixis is a powerful way of positioning yourself, subtly,
amongst the people you want to interact with, in a way that
shows you can see things from their perspective. It is very
important to note that single lexical items such as I, here
,now are part of a highly grammaticalized system and
assume addressee knowledge of the identity [in the case of
I], the spatial location [in the case of here] and the temporal
location [in the case of now] of the speaker . The meaning
of the deictic words change with respect to position of the
speaker and the addressee but the position of the speaker is
more important , for example come here, go there. In these
sentences , deictic words here and there indicate the
position of the speaker. The references concerning the
person place and time can only be understood by an
addressee who is able to reconstruct the speaker’s view
Davies, W. H. (1911). poem Leisure. Retrieved January
30, 2014, from Wikipedia:
Grundy, P. Doing Pragmatics (second ed.). New York,
USA: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Levinson, S. C. (1983). Pragmatics. Newyork:
Cambridge University press 1983.
Lyons, J. (1997). Semantics 2. Newyork, Newyork,
USA: Cambridge University press.