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Deixis ( / ⁠ dɛɪ̯ksɪs ⁠ / to ancient Greek δείκνυμι deíknymi "show"), even indexicality , is a term of art of linguistics , in particular the Pragmatics . Deixis is the reference to persons, objects, places and times in the context of linguistic utterances using deictic or indexical expressions such as I, you, that, there here, this, tomorrow, today ... is done. A deictic expression is called a deicticon (plural deictics ).

Personal deixis, place deixis and time deixis. The “deictic center” is the origins of a linguistic reference system.

The verbal subject - the language producer or speaker - is the instance of deixis and its point of reference. The reference point of deixis is called the origo ("origin") and arises from the act of speaking . The linguistic order created in relation to this Origo is its own. Their time structures are not those of physical time or extralinguistic reality . The center of a deictic order system is the speaking situation, the time of speaking is the origo for temporal relationships with which one situates prematurely, simultaneously or afterwards.

The same applies to references to spatial relationships, objects or people. The speakers become the authority for “I”, “own”, “here” and “now”. By referring to himself, the person of the speaker represents a deictic center that functions as the origin of his linguistic reference system.

The connection between the speaker and the language creates a semiotic process in which the speaker brings a fact to the table or an event is presented in language. The deixis can be understood as a process in which the speaker, as Origo, can or must refer what is to be presented to certain semantic domains and thus "locate".

A sentence is one of a word existing or more words self-contained linguistic unit with which a speech is performed. Sentences or the words of a sentence can only be interpreted if the listener or recipient knows in which context or in which situation they were spoken . Situational expressions are necessary for understanding, as they function as a kind of guide within the language by referring to a speaker . Deictic expressions refer to the situation out of the language (exophoric), in contrast to the anaphoric (endophoric). It refers to the previous speech or text .

The deixis as a semantic component refers to the relative orientation between the speaker location, a reference area and a reference area (see also Reichenbach's tense system ), which in turn is divided or differentiated into deixis of personnel, space or time. “Here” belongs to a different deictic conceptual system than “now” and thus to the opposition between locality and temporality. “Before” refers to a different time relation than “soon” and shows the prematurity versus the later .


A speaking situation is a situation in which a speech act is performed. In the broadest sense, it summarizes all information that is implicitly given during the speech act , i.e. not explicitly expressed verbally. This includes, for example, the room in which the communicators are located, the world knowledge that the people involved in the speech act have, or information about the point in time at which communication takes place.

Basically, the categories of space and time are the most important areas of human orientation . The basic functions of language are the representation of the spatiality and the time references of actions, facts or facts. The relations of space to be promised are recorded as three-dimensional and static and those of time as one-dimensional and dynamic, which results in a linear direction of orientation in the sense of a time line.

When a speaker and a listener or simply listener enter into a common speech act, the speaker uses deictic expressions to focus the listener's attention on specific characteristics of a space of reference or reference that is common to both the speaker and the listener. In the simplest case, the speech act takes place in a reciprocally accessible and sensually perceptible space of perception, here the reference space is also the perception space. In general, however, one can distinguish a near area from a far area in a reference space, for example here as an expression of nearness, there the near distance and over there as an expression of the distant distance. Deictic expressions describe or better refer to individual characteristics of this perceptual space, like this:

  • the actors involved in the communication, i.e. speakers and listeners (personal deixis)
  • the speaking location (local or local diaxis)
  • the speaking time (temporal or time deixis)
  • the objects in the reference space (object deixis).

The deixis is structured in a speaker-centered manner, the deictic center is the speaker as the central person, and the central time also starts from this center as the point in time at which the utterance is made and as the central location that indicates the whereabouts of the speaker at the time of utterance.

Deictic expressions are those expressions that relate to one of this information that is not given verbally, the meaning of which only becomes apparent in the particular speech situation. One calls such expressions also indexicals , deictic expressions , index expressions , deictics (singular: Deiktikon ), indicators or Show (s) words .

“Deictic are those expressions that refer to the personal, temporal or local characteristics of the speech situation, e.g. B. I - you, now - then, here - there . "

- Dürr / Schlobinski : Descriptive Linguistics. Basics and methods. 2006, p. 294

Depending on the situation and point of view, deixis is either assigned to semantics or pragmatics , or is seen as their link.

Real deixis, anaphor and "deixis in phantasm"

In a communicative situation the speaker or addressee marks a deictic reference point or starting point for his speech with the utterance “ I ” (according to Karl Bühler (1934) Hier-Jetzt-Ich-Origo or deictic center) . It allows and demands a personal, spatial and temporal orientation. The place where the speaker is at the moment of the utterance is set here, now describes the moment of the utterance. The listener will only understand this in the further course of the story and will be able to deal with the corresponding adverbs, such as yesterday , tomorrow , there , behind , if this starting point has been marked.

The Organon model of Karl Buhler
The here-now-me-origins are marked in the speaker's speech. With deictic means of expression, a speaker can give the listener orientation in a reference space (situation, idea, text, discourse). Here as an example the local or local deixis, in the sense of a near deixis.

With the beginning of the speaker's speech, the here-now-me-origins are marked. But it turns out that this Origo is shifted in the course of the speech. If the speaker and listener are in the same framework, the Origo identifies itself with less effort than in situations in which the speaker and listener or reader are in different structures. Here it is important to signal the addressee where the deictic reference point starts. Then the listener can identify the speech through the use of deictic expressions and the reference to points in time, periods of time, places and acting subjects. Deictic expressions are part of different parts of speech . Deictic expressions can only be understood in connection with the verbal utterance and are meaningful carriers for communicative usability in communicative action .

Deictic expressions are means of expression with which a speaker orients the listener in a reference space (situation, idea, text, discourse). The basis is the here-now-I-Origo ( Latin hic-nunc-ego-Origo ), as described by Karl Bühler . This is the zero point ( Latin origo ) of the reference system from which it is shown.

The zero point can result from the speaker's real I-Here-Now coordinates. The reference to something is then made “in the speaker's concrete perception space”.

In addition, according to Bühler, there is also the anaphoric showing and the “deixis in phantasm”. In the deixis on the phantasm , the speaker relates the zero point to a point that is supposed to be the starting point for his representation of an event.

The grammatical theories on perspectives or speaker's perspective should build on this.

Dimensions of Deixis

There are different conceptions of deixis. (. see indexicality ) Some authors also speak of a social deixis (also: social deixis ), the refer to the social status of the speech involved the leave ( you, you ). The social deixis is seen in part as "specifying personal deixis".

Personal Deixis

The staff or person deixis refers to a communication partner, such as B. I, you : In order to know who or what this deixis is pointing to, you have to know who the speaker or addressee is, i.e. know the situation in the conversation. The words for personal deixis are the following personal pronouns in German:

  • me for the speaker who makes a statement
  • we for a group on whose behalf an utterance is made or to which the speaker wishes to express himself as belonging
  • you , her and you for addressed persons, i.e. the addressees for whom a statement is intended as a message. A distinction is made between addressees who are sociolinguistically close to the speaker ( you / her ) and those who are remote from the speaker or his group ( you ).

In pro-drop languages or null subject languages, in which the subject (- personal pronoun ) is not or not always realized, the personal dictic subject can be expressed and clearly defined solely by the conjugated verb , i.e. its personal form. Example Czech :

  • píš u - " I write"
  • píš - " you write"

A special deictic form of the noun is the vocative .

Local deixis and object deixis

The local or place diaxis refers to a communicated place. Local adverbs like here, there or pronominal adverbs like there, so they can refer to more or more details with reference to the speaker or the listener. The designation of places relative to the whereabouts of the participants in the speech act is ensured by the local deixis (see also spatial relation ). Local deixis thus constitutes the (human) three-dimensionality of the space in which objects can be located. For example, if the speaker wants to identify an object, he can name, describe and / or localize it in space. Here, an object to be pointed out can be distinguished at least according to whether it is near or far with respect to the speaker. This fundamental distinction between proximity - near or proximal - and distant - far or distal - can be further differentiated. In the case of medial local deixis, a reference is made to the listener for positional relationships in the room, for example to an object near the listener.

Levels of local deixis

Based on the person of the speaker (1st person) and the listener (2nd person), the following levels of local deixis can be distinguished:

  1. Proximal, Nahdeixis, Deixis of the first person : Reference is made to the speaker ( I ), to the room near the speaker ( here ), or to an object or person from this room ( this ),
  2. Medial, deixis of the second person : A reference is made to the listener ( you ), the room near the listener ( Spanish ahí ), or an object or a person from this room (Spanish eso , Italian codesto ); in German there are no special means of expression for the local media deixis,
  3. Distal, distant deixis, deixis of the third person : A person (the so-called 3rd person) who is neither a speaker nor a listener, a room that is away from the speaker and listener ( there ), or an object or . a person expelled from this room ( that ).
  4. Obvial : For some indigenous languages ​​of America and Sinhala , a further (rare) level is assumed, the obvial local deixis, with which one can refer to a space that is extraordinarily far from the speaker and listener.

In most languages ​​there is at least a distinction between Nahdeixis and Far-Deixis. If a language has means of expression of local medial deixis, it also has a distinction between proximal and distal .

Object deixis

Object deixis can refer to a proximal or distal object with demonstrative pronouns such as this or that .

Temporal deixis

Temporal deixis constitutes the experience of time. Starting from the utterance situation, time intervals are spanned linearly by referring to points in time. The tenses are also deictic, their interpretation depends on the time of speaking and the concrete utterance situation. The prerequisite for this is knowledge of the relationship between speaking time and event time. The deixis is self-centered, the speaker is a central person and temporally a deictic center. The central time is the point in time at which the speaker expresses himself; the central location is the speaker's whereabouts at this utterance time.

The grammatical category of " tense " results in a structuring that is not directly related to (physical) time , but must always be related to the speaking time S (event time E - speaking time S - reference time R ) and relations to expression can bring (prematurity - simultaneity - laterality). In the sense of Hans Reichenbach's terminology, different times have been distinguished for the semantic determination of the tenses.

According to Horst G. Klein (1969) the tense is deictic-relational, i. H. it refers to a period of time relative to the contextual opening time S is given. While tenses show events E in the past, present and future depending on the speaking time S , aspect and type of action are viewed as non- deictic time categories. The latter two are not about “locating” an event on a ( virtual - metaphorical ) timeline .

The human species designs time metaphorically according to the understanding of space, the "period". After a here-now-I-Origo has been marked, there is a “before” and “after”. When the speaker says that something is happening “now”, then one promises that event time and speaking time will coincide. By using further temporal deictics, the event can be classified based on the speaking time and then relative to this, for example in the following order:

einst – neulich – vorhin – jetzt – sofort – gleich – nachher – bald – demnächst – in ferner Zukunft

It should be noted that different languages offer different orders. The temporal Deixis determined points in time or time intervals relative to the opening timing S . An essential feature of a time relation that is formed from this is that it relates the time of the action, the event or incident to which the spoken or written sentence refers to the time of the utterance. Such a set point in time is also called the coding time. The coding time can differ from the reception time, the time in which the utterance is received by the addressee. But if both agree, it is a deictic simultaneity. This seldom occurs, especially in written communication. Then it has to be decided whether the deictic center remains with the speaker and the coding time, example “I write this letter while I am sitting in the café” or should be projected onto the addressee and the reception time as in “I wrote this letter while I am Café sat ”. The fundamental opposition of time deictic relations is derived from the coding time; it divides into a “now” and a “not now”. Through the tenses present (present), past (past tense) or future (future tense) , time adverbs such as then , after , today , now , the day after tomorrow or complex time adverbials such as last Friday with a deictic modifier (last) and an indication of a non-deictic type ( Friday) the time deixis can be grammaticalized.

The tenses are therefore deictic, they can only be understood and interpreted if the speaking time S is known or if there is knowledge of the concrete utterance situation. The speaking time S is a moment in time, it relates to the moment of speaking. Considering the tenses , so when is present the talk time point identical to the event time point E , while simple past the event time is E before the talk time point S and at Futur the event time is E after opening timing S . The event time E of a statement is the time interval in which the expressed state applies or the verbalized action or event takes place. This terminology came from the philosopher Hans Reichenbach . He described the tenses by means of two relations between the three reference points mentioned above. For the characterization of the different tense forms, the relation between the speaking time S and the reference point R as well as that between the event time E and the reference point R was set . In the approach he originally formulated , however, only temporal relationships between these three reference points could be described. Further developments of his theory were then also able to explain complicated descriptions of past tenses, such as that of the imperfect tense . Rainer Bäuerle , for example, developed this original model further.

At the time relation of the present tense, the talk time of overlap S and the reference point R , in the past, the reference point is R the talk time point S prepaid in full and in time relation of the future tense talk time goes south to the reference time R ahead. The reference time R in a statement is understood as a time interval different from the speaking time S in order to localize the event or the action on the time axis. It is the interval that is referred to in a sentence and that is characterized by e.g. B. a temporal adverb is introduced.

The "time axis" required for the temporal display function can be explained with three further reference points; these are the speaking time, English point of speech S or the deictically situated speaking time English time of utterance , then the moment of the utterance, the point of event English point of event , E , i.e. the situation of the event which is to be designated on the time axis and the Reference point, English point of reference R , i.e. the point from which the event is situated. The temporal deictic center is the speaking time S for both the speaker and the listener . Two pieces of information are needed for full-temporal deictic determination of an event, the action time, or time relation and the reference point R .

The temporal or temporal deixis refers to a communication time, such as B. now, then, yesterday, tomorrow : A reference to the time of utterance is established. Temporal deixis means a deictic expression that relates to the temporal dimension of the speech situation. Compared to personal or object deictic expressions, temporal deictic expressions are less concrete, since time eludes sensible pointing aids. This must be derived from the sequence of events. While the personal deixis or local diaxis have a spatial effect, the temporal pointing function is linear, whereby the action time or time relation in relation to the speaking time can be premature , simultaneous or late .

Text deixis

The text or discourse deixis refers to the preceding or following elements of a text: In many languages demonstrative pronouns can also be used for this. ( What I want to say is this / the following: ... )


Deixis can not only be expressed through free words, such as demonstrative pronouns , but also through linked morphemes , such as suffixes that can be added to the noun - for example in Macedonian :

žena (unbestimmt: ‚(eine) Frau‘)
žena=ta (bestimmt-medial: ‚die Frau‘)
žena=va (bestimmt-proximal: ‚diese Frau hier‘)
žena=na (bestimmt-distal: ‚jene Frau dort‘)

Here congruent each suffix flexivisch with the corresponding noun in gender and number:

Plural: ženi=te (medial), ženi=ve (proximal), ženi=ne (distal)

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Deixis  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: I-Now-Here-Origo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Claus Ehrhardt; Hans Jürgen Heringer: Pragmatics. (UTB 3480), Fink, Paderborn 2011, ISBN 3-8252-3480-0 , p. 147.
  2. compare the term “speaking time” (S) in the terminology of the tense system by Hans Reichenbach .
  3. Comparison also with the terminology of Hans Reichenbach speaking time S (which describes the moment of speaking, also speaking time or utterance time, utterance time, speaking act, S point of speech )
  4. Joachim Born, Robert Folger, Christopher F. Laferl, Bernhard Pöll (Eds.): Handbook Spanish, Language, Literature, Culture, History in Spain and Hispanoamerica. For study, teaching, practice. Erich Schmidt, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-503-13793-0 , p. 329
  5. The semantic domains define the sets of semantic values ​​to which syntactic constructs can be assigned. A semantic domain represents the set of all possible results for a certain semantic function. In these domains, determined by the common attributes of different words, a main characteristic of the meaning of a word is reflected by its position in relation to the other words of a domain .
  6. Gabriele Diewald : The modal verbs in German: grammaticalization and polyfunctionality (= Germanistic linguistics. Volume 208). Doctoral thesis University of Erlangen-Nuremberg 1998. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-11-094594-0 , p. 167 (reprint: De Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2012, ISBN 978-3-11-094594-2 ).
  7. Wolf Tugendhat: Logical-semantic propaedeutics. 1983, p. 22: “the smallest unit of understanding”, with which a speech act is performed.
  8. Peter Auer (Ed.): Linguistics. Grammar interaction cognition. JB Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02365-0 , p. 14.
  9. Veronika Ehrich: Here and now: Studies on local and temporal deixis in German. Vol. 283, Linguistic Works, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-11-135393-1 , p. 3.
  10. Deixis. Project to develop and test online tutorials for the focus on linguistics and communication science, TU Berlin 2007
  11. a b c Indexicality. In: Arnim Regenbogen, Uwe Meyer (Hrsg.): Dictionary of philosophical terms. Meiner, Hamburg 2005.
  12. Deixis. In: Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the assistance of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .
  13. Language theory. The representation function of the language. G. Fischer, Jena 1934; 2., unchanged. Edition with a foreword by Friedrich Kainz, G. Fischer, Stuttgart 1965; 3. Edition. G. Fischer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1999 (UTB for Science; 1159).
  14. ^ Claus Ehrhardt, Hans Jürgen Heringer: Pragmatics. W. Fink, Paderborn 2011, ISBN 978-3-7705-5168-2 , pp. 19-29.
  15. ^ Karl Bühler: Language theory. The representation function of the language. Ullstein, Frankfurt / Berlin / Vienna 1978, p. 102 ff. (First edition 1934)
  16. a b c Christa Dürscheid : Syntax. Basics and theories. 5th edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8252-3319-8 , p. 177. (UTB, 3319)
  17. See father: Reference Linguistics. 2005, p. 16.
  18. Ehrhardt, Heringer: Pragmatik. Fink, Paderborn 2011, p. 134. (UTB 3480)
  19. Horst G. Klein : The behavior of the telic verbs in the Romance languages ​​discussed on the interference of aspect and type of action. Egelsbach, Frankfurt am Main 1994 / Hänsel-Hohenhausen, Washington 1994. also: Dissertation, Frankfurt (Main) 1969.
  20. ^ Claus Ehrhardt, Hans Jürgen Heringer: Pragmatics. W. Fink, Paderborn 2011, ISBN 978-3-7705-5168-2 , p. 25.
  21. Nam-Seok Lee: Deixis and Honorifica: general deictic phenomena and the pragmatic component of Korean. Bd. 421, Tübingen contributions to linguistics, Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen 1996, ISBN 3-8233-5086-2 , p. 90 f.
  22. ^ Björn Rothstein: Tempus. Winter, Heidelberg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8253-5310-0 .
  23. ^ Hans Reichenbach: Elements of Symbolic Logic. Macmillan Co., New York 1947.
  24. Martin Becker: The Ingredients of the Roman Imperfect ( Memento of the Original from January 13, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF.) In: Günther Grewendorf, Arnim von Stechow (Ed.): Linguistic reports. Issue 221. Helmut Buske, Hamburg 2010, ISSN 0024-3930 , pp. 79-108. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / 
  25. ^ Rainer Bäuerle: Temporale Deixis, temporal question, on the propositional content of declarative and interrogative sentences. Results and methods of modern linguistics 5, Narr, Tübingen 1979, ISBN 3-87808-305-X
  26. Sebastian Löbner: Approaches to an integral semantic theory of tense, aspect and types of action. In: Veronika Ehrich, Heinz Vater (Ed.): Temporalsemantik. Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1988, pp. 163-191.
  27. ^ Hans Reichenbach : Elements of Symbolic Logic. Macmillan Co., New York 1947.
  28. 1. Basic concepts: tense, aspect, type of action, constitution of time . Wolfgang Hock, Manfred Krifka: Aspect and Constitution of Time. WS 2002/3, Institute for German Language and Linguistics, Humboldt University Berlin, October 30, 2002.
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  31. Rolf Eberenz: Tempus and text constitution in Spanish: an investigation into the behavior of the tense on sentence and text level. Vol. 153 Tübingen Contributions to Linguistics, Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen 1981, ISBN 3-87808-153-7 , p. 44