deixis and deictic

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 14 12:48:16 UTC 2001

At 5:26 PM -0500 1/15/01, susan wrote:
>Greetings Linguists,
>Can anyone help me on a definition of the words deixis and deictic?
>Yes, I have looked them up in the dictionary, but I would like your
>input on these words. I ran across them in an article explaining the
>essence of the transformative nature of technology and literacy--or
>the deictic relationships between them. I begin to see the light, to
>grasp the meaning and then it skitters away from me! I am getting
>frustrated! Also, can you suggest the proper pronunciation for these
>Thank you all very, very much.
>Susan Gilbert
><mailto:mssmith at>mssmith at

As used in the philosophy of language and linguistic pragmatics,
deixis refers to the phenomenon of linguistic expressions whose
reference is determined (at least in part) by the context of
utterance.  Classic examples of deictic expressions include
"shifters" like I, you, he, she, here, now, yesterday, ago, and so
on, but also definite descriptions (the President of the U.S.) and
tensed verbs.  "Deixis" and "deictic(s)" come from the Greek word for
pointing, and often a distinction is made between deictic and
anaphoric uses of pronouns, e.g. "They're winning the game" (pointing
to the Giants, or to their image on TV) vs. I bet on the Giants, and
sure enough they're winning the game".  Others would say that
anaphora is in fact a special case of deixis, where the "pointing"
works via the discourse context.  The usual pronunciation is

['daiksIs] (DIE-ksis)
['daiktIk] (DIKE-tick)

larry horn
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