Deixis and its Different types

  • Categories English Lesson
  • Total Enrolled 0
  • Last Update February 22, 2021


Deixis in Pragmatics




Deixis refers to the phenomenon wherein understanding the meaning of certain words and phrases in an utterance requires contextual information.

Deictic Words:

Words or phrases that require contextual information to convey meaning are deictic. (Levinson, 1983:54)

A word that depends on deictic indicators is called a deictic word,
and is bound to a context. Hence, words that are deictic hold a denotational meaning which varies depending on time and/or place, and a fixed semantic meaning (Levinson, 1983). Deictic terms are words whose meaning shifts depending on the point of view of the speaker.


Kinds of Deixis:

  1. Spatial Deixis (here, there)
  2. Temporal Deixis (now, then, tense)
  3. Person Deixis (pro-nominals)
  4. Discourse Deixis (co-reference or reference to prior talk)
  5. Social Deixis (honorification and any indicators of social identity or status relations among participants and contexts).


  1. Spatial Deixis:

The most salient English examples are the adverbs “here” and “there” and the demonstratives “this” and “that”, e.g.:
I enjoy living in this mountain house
Where we will place the statue
she was sitting over there.

2. Temporal Deixis:

Time, or temporal, deixis concerns itself with the various times involved in and referred to in an utterance.
This includes time adverbs, e.g.  “Now”, “then”, “soon”, etc.  And also different tenses
example: tomorrow denotes the consecutive next day after every day. The “tomorrow” of a day last year was a different day from the “tomorrow” of a day next week.

3.Person Deixis:

The first and second person pronouns I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, you, your, yours are always deictic because their reference is entirely dependent on context. Bear in mind that e.g. in a conversation each person shifts from being ‘I to being ‘you’ constantly.

4. Discourse Deixis:

Discourse deixis, also referred to as text deixis, refers to the use of expressions within an utterance to refer to parts of the discourse that contain the utterance — including the utterance itself: e.g. This is a great story.

5. Social Deixis:

Concerns the social information that is encoded within various expressions, such as relative social status and familiarity.
Two major forms of it are the so-called T–V distinctions and honorifics.
T–V distinctions, named for the Latin “tu” and “vos” – the name given to the phenomenon when a language has two different second-person pronouns.
The varying usage of these pronouns indicates something about

between the interactants, e.g. the T form might be used when speaking to a friend or social equal, whereas the V form would be used speaking to a stranger or social superior – common in European languages.






About the instructor

Waseem Ahmad

Lecturer in English at UCMS

3.76 (46 ratings)

12 Courses

138 students