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Term Paper, 2017
9 Pages, Grade: 1,7
1.1 Definition: Deixis
1.2 Types of deixis
2. Time Deixis
3. Deictic Circle
3.1 Converting direct into indirect speech
3.2 Definition: Deictic Circle
In this term paper I will introduce you into the topic “deixis” in the English language, where I will especially focus on one of the main types of deixis: time deixis. First of all, I am going to give a short definition of deixis in general. After that I will mention the types of deixis and give some information about each of them. Moreover, I will explain time deixis in detail and I will also talk about the deictic circle in relation to shifting from the direct into indirect speech with special focus on time deixis.
The main question is what happens with time deixis when converting direct speech into indirect speech?
The noun “deixis” is pronounced /ˈdeɪksɪs/ or /ˈdʌɪksɪs/ and has its origins from the Greek word deiknunai which means “to show” or “to point”. Every language needs deixis however, there are differences because there are not universal deictic expressions. Deixis describes the function or use of deictic words, forms, or expressions in the linguistics (cf. OED). Deixis is the process of pointing through language and its detonation changes from one discourse to another. Futthermore, it is usually needed to use gestures with deictic words like “this one here” or “that one there”. However, deictic words can also have the same “pointing” function without using gestures which is called “the canonical situation-of-utterance” by Lyon (Harmann, 1990: 232) There are three main types of deixis: person deixis, place deixis and time deixis.
“The deictic field is organized around an origo or “ground zero” consisting of the speaker at the time and place of speaking.” (Levinson, 2004: 111)
The three main types of deixis are person deixis, place deixis and time deixis. Person deixis encodes the different persons involved in a communicative event. Moreover, the participants need to be encoded which means that you have to find out who the speaker and who the addressee is (Giergji, 2015: 136). Person deixis refers to the person who the speakers intend to refer to that means that person deixis is realised with personal pronouns. The utterance is directed from the first person (I) to the listener, the second person (you) and the person the speaker is talking about is the third person (he, she, it) (Renkema, 1993: 77).
Place deixis is also called as spatial deixis and describes where the relative location of people and objects are being indicated (Giergji, 2015: 137f.). Demonstrative adverbs for place deixis are here, this, these, that, those, there. There is a gestural use for spatial deixis as well as a non-gestural use. The gestural use can be shown through an eye-glaze or a head movement for example “I dislike the colour of the picture there.” (points to the picture). The non-gestural use refers to an area an example would be saying “I love it here!” whilst walking through a park (Gjergji, 2015: 137).
The third one out of the three deixis types is time deixis which is an expression that is being used to point to a point while the speaker is speaking (Gjergji, 2015: 138). I will explain this type of deixis further in the next point.
There are also two deixis types that Levinson has suggested however, they are not as common as the main deixis types. They are named discourse deixis and social deixis.
Social deixis distincts between the social characteristics between participants in a speech (Levinson, 1983: 63).
Discourse deixis refers to specific parts of the discourse to provide increasing text coherence (Levinson, 2004: 118).
Time Deixis is an expression in relation to a certain point of time when utterance is produced by the speaker (Giergji, 2015: 138f.). Usually the reference point for time deixis is the moment of utterance which is the coding time. There is a distinction between coding time and receiving time in the written or recorded use of language (Levinson, 2004: 114). The coding time is the time of utterance and the receiving time is the time of recovery of information by the hearer (Giergji, 2015: 138). The deictic center or also called origo for time deixis is “now”, the meaning of “now” is the span of time including the moment of utterance (Levinson, 2004: 114). Furthermore, it is being counted either backwards or forward from the coding time in calendrical units. Those expressions are for example, “yesterday” or “the day before” if you count backwards and “tomorrow” or “next Thursday” if you count forward (Levinson, 2004: 114).
The most important aspect of time deixis is tense. It encodes a mix between deictic time distinctions and aspectual distinctions, which are hard to separate (Levinson, 2004: 114). The proximal tense is close to the current situation which means that it is in the present tense and the distal form is distant from the current situation and therefore in the past tense (Giergji, 2015: 138f.). The tense system is important for time deixis because every sentence refers to a certain time of an event. The time of utterance is often needed in order to find out the event time (Grundy, 2000: 31f.).
Time deixis is expressed in time adverbs such as this/last/next Monday/week/month/year, now, then, ago, later, soon, before, yesterday, today, tomorrow (Bublitz, 2009: 216).
Deictic expressions usually change when you turn a direct speech into an indirect speech. That process is called shifting or back-shifting. Thus, first and second person shifts to third person. Place deixis shifts from here → there and this/these →that/those. Time deixis shifts from today → that day, tomorrow → the following day, yesterday → the day before etc. (Harmann, 2004: 231f.). Moreover, verbs in indirect speech are back-shifted one tense:
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Harmann, 2004: 231
Here are some examples of how deictic expressions change when direct speech is converted into indirect speech:
(1) Susan: “I ate a pack of strawberries yesterday.”
→ Susan said that she had eaten a pack of strawberries the day before.
(2) Janice: “I’ll meet you here again tomorrow at 3.30.”
→ Janice said that she would meet me there again the next day at 3.30.
(3) Mary: “I am here now”
→ Mary said that she was there then.
(4) Luke: “I am going to buy a present there.”
→ Luke said that he would buy a present at that place.
(5) Joe: “I will join you this evening.”
→ Joe said that he would join them that evening.
In sentence (1) the tense shifts from simple past to past perfect and “yesterday” shifts to “the day before” in the indirect speech.
In sentence (2) the tense shifts from will-future to “would”. Another option would be “he was going to buy”. Moreover, “here” shifts to “there” and “tomorrow” shifts to “the next day” in the indirect speech.
In sentence (3) the tense shifts from simple present to simple past, “here” shifts to “there” and “now” converts into “then” in the indirect speech.
In sentence (4) the tense shifts from going-to-future to “would” and “there” shifts to “at that place” in the indirect speech.
In sentence (5) the tense shifts from will-future to “would”. Another option would be “he was going join”. Moreover, the personal pronoun “you” converts to “them” and “this evening” shifts to “that evening” in the indirect speech.
The deictic circle shows the relationship between the deictic system and can be used for shifting from direct speech into indirect speech. The heart of situation-of-utterance is the egocentricity of the speaker (Harmann, 2004: 233f.) therefore, the “zero-point” is “I am here now” and that is the point from where deictic co-ordinates radiate (Harmann, 1990: 233). Furthermore, there are three categories of speaking. The first category of speaking is in the proximal zone which is near the speaker at the time of speaking (e.g. “here”, “this”). The second category is the distal category which means that it is distant from the speaker at the time of speaking (e.g. “there”, “that”) and the third category of speaking is the medial time of speaking which exists in languages like Spanish and Japanese. (Harmann, 2004: 233).
The deictic circle can be helpful when it is used for teaching EFL students in the way that they have a picture in front of them instead of a long explanatory grammar text (Harmann, 1990: 237). Furthermore, it can be used to show students that converting a direct speech into an indirect speech involves the subjective interpretation by the reporter where it is his choice to choose the meaning of the indirect speech (Harmann, 1990: 237). It is said that whenever words such as “said” or “told” is used in a sentence the reporter is more likely to make up their own perception on their physical or psychological reality (Harmann, 1990: 237)
“He said he had three children.”
“He said he has three children.”
(Harmann, 1990: 237)
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Harmann, 1990: 233
In this term paper I wanted to show what happens to time deixis when it is being converted into indirect speech. What happens is that the time adverbials shift which leads to a change in the category of speaking as well. Moreover, teaching the deictic circle is a good way to help students when they do not know exactly how deictic expressions change. The deictic circle is also good for visual learners who need to see what they learn in order to understand the topic. Deixis a very important aspect in English pragmatics because without deixis the addressee might misinterpret what the speaker is saying. A reference in an utterance that is not formulated clearly can cause misunderstanding for the hearer.
 “expresses a relation in time between the event and the time of reference” (Wikipedia)
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