Deixis

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In linguistics, 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 said to be deictic. Deixis is closely related to both indexicality and anaphora, as will be further explained below. Although this article deals primarily with deixis in spoken language, the concepts can apply to written language, gestures, and communication media as well. And even though this article is primarily concerned with English, deixis is believed to be a feature (to some degree) of all natural languages.[1] The term’s origin is Ancient Greek: δεῖξις ""display, demonstration, or reference"", the meaning "point of reference" in contemporary linguistics having been taken over from Chrysippus.[2]

Contents

Types of deixis

Traditional categories

Possibly the most common categories of contextual information referred to by deixis are those of person, place, and time - what Fillmore calls the “major grammaticalized types” of deixis.[3]

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