Deictics Definition and Meaning

In order to discover the meaning of the deictic term, it is necessary, first of all, to know its etymological origin. In this case, we can state that it is a word that derives from the Greek, exactly from “deiktikós”, which can be translated as “demonstrative” or “proper to point out”.

The deictic adjective qualifies what is linked to deixis : the pointing to a linguistic expression, a time, a place or a person that is carried out using a grammatical element. This grammatical element that allows deixis to be specified is also called deictic.

Deictics make a point whose understanding depends on the context.

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What are deictics

The deictics, therefore, are terms whose meaning depends on the context, since it can only be known depending on the speaker. Deixis always develops from a point of reference that depends on who expresses it.

The interpretation of deictics is related to the communicative situation. The speaker has to show in some way what they refer to so that the interlocutor is in a position to contextualize their content.

In this sense, it must also be taken into account that deixis can be of two types depending on its area of ​​marking. Thus, we come across what is outside the text, which comes to establish what is a reference to someone’s spatial, temporal or personal context, and what is within the text. In this case it refers to specific aspects of that text.

“Yesterday” and “tomorrow” are deictics of time.

An example

Take for example the sentence “We went there yesterday”. The expression has three deictics: “we”, “there” and “yesterday”. To understand the content, we must first know who “we” refers to. We also need to know where “there” is and even if the expression appears in writing or we hear it on a recording, it is essential to find out when “yesterday” was.

On the other hand, other expressions without deictics present the information in such a way that no further references are needed for their meaning to be understandable: “Juan Pérez, Martín López and María González went to the San Jacinto Museum of Natural Sciences on January 3, 2015 ”.

Deictic types

In addition to everything indicated, we cannot ignore that there are basically three types of deictics:

-Deictics of time, where adverbs of time are included. Examples are: today, tomorrow, yesterday… A sentence with this kind of deictic would be: “My cousin will come home to sleep tomorrow”, where the deictic would be tomorrow.

-Deictics of person, among which are personal pronouns, demonstratives and also possessives. Examples are me, you, mine, that… A sentence to understand these other types would be the following: “You are her friend”, where the deictics would be both you and hers.

-The deictics of space, where adverbs of place are included, such as here, there, farther… A phrase to understand this other class would be: “Manuel, take the book there”, where the deictic would be over there.


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