On anaphora and discourse deixis

Stephen Lewis stephen.lewis at gmail.com
Tue Jul 15 16:15:48 UTC 2014

In English, there seems to be a distinct usage difference between "this"
and "that" in discourse reference, and casting them as instances of
discourse deixis provides an explanation for the distinction. If we
essentially reject discourse deixis, we have to account for these
differences in another way.

Off the top of my head, I don't have any other examples.


On Sat, Jul 12, 2014 at 5:45 AM, Mira Ariel <mariel at post.tau.ac.il> wrote:

> Dear Marta,
> I agree, and this is certainly how *I counted my referring expressions.
> The reason is that the immediately preceding mention renders the discourse
> entity quite accessible, often  more accessible than the speech situation
> does. For example, I argued that clearly deictic expressions (e.g., Hebrew
> 'I') are pronounced differently, as related to how accessible the referent
> is deemed (shorter when highly accessible, longer when less accessible).
> But you couldn't explain this based on deixis, because the referent is
> equally accessible in the speech situation. Rather, it's their previous
> (and recent) mention in the discourse that may raise their accessibility.
> This shows that what counts is the mental accessibility of the antecedent
> which is sensitive to linguistic mentions. I'm pretty sure I discuss this
> issue in: 1998. The linguistic status of the “here and now”. Cognitive
> Linguistics 9: 3. (pp.189-237). Most likely also in 2001. Accessibility
> theory: An overview. In Ted Sanders, Joost Schliperoord and Wilbert Spooren
> eds. Text representation. John Benjamins (Human cognitive processing
> series). (pp. 29-87).
> Best,
> Mira (Ariel)
> -----Original Message-----
> From: funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu [mailto:
> funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu] On Behalf Of MARTA BEGONA CARRETERO
> Sent: Saturday, July 12, 2014 12:24 PM
> To: Funknet
> Subject: [FUNKNET] On anaphora and discourse deixis
> Dear all,
> After some years’ experience in lecturing on semantics and pragmatics, and
> revising references on deixis, I wonder whether many cases often signalled
> as instances of discourse deixis are really anaphoric.
> For example, if I say “I love swimming in the sea because it is very
> relaxing”, “it” refers to the situation expressed by “swimming in the sea”.
> I see no great difference between the function of “it” in this example and
> in “I’m tired of this lift because it breaks down every now and then”, in
> which “it” is unanimously considered as anaphoric.
> And I find little difference between these cases and the function of “this”
> in
> “Did you know that Sally finally won the prize? This is great news.”
> And the same for pronouns such as “it”, “this” or “that” referring to
> previous or forthcoming long stretches of discourse: why shouldn’t these
> pronouns be considered as anaphoric or cataphoric, since they stand for
> information transmitted elsewhere in discourse?
> Similarly, discourse markers such as “however”, “therefore” or “in
> addition” could be considered as anaphoric, since they point to the
> previous linguistic context.
> In sum, I feel tempted to restrict discourse deixis to chapter numbers,
> section numbers, page numbers and other similar expressions; these need the
> extralinguistic context (in this case, the document to which they belong)
> in order to be interpreted.
> Many thanks in advance for your responses.
> Best wishes,
> Marta Carretero
> Universidad Complutense, Madrid

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