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Indexicality by degrees

Francis Cornish


This paper takes as its starting point the ground-breaking claims of Sir John Lyons in his work on deixis and anaphora in the 1970s and early 1980s, developing the pioneering work of Karl Bühler: in particular, the basic insight that deixis is the source of reference. Flowing from this are the claims that anaphora is derivative upon deixis, and that there is an intimate relationship holding within the world's languages between modality and deixis. Lyons's hypothesis is that this asymetrical, "oriented" relation between deixis and anaphora is apparent in the very functioning of discourse in context: for while anaphora serves to refer back to the intensional correlates of entities already present within a given "universe of discourse", deixis is one (central) means of actually entering these discourse representations into such a universe. Taking inspiration from Lyons's conception, deixis and anaphora are conceived here as procedures for coordinating the speech participants' attention throughout the flow of text as produced within a given context to which they are party. These indexical referring procedures are by no means mutually exclusive: indeed, indexical reference is an inherently "scalar" phenomenon; for the continuous nature of the relation between strict deixis and strict anaphora, passing through "anadeixis" (a hybrid procedure type partaking of both these context-bound referring procedures) as an intermediate phase, reflects the priority of deixis over anaphora, which presupposes it both ontogenetically and phylogenetically. 'Strict' anadeictic and discourse-deictic uses both involve reference via the discourse context upstream of the occurrence of a given demonstrative expression; but while the 'strict' anadeictic function consists in simply retrieving a referent already present within a representation of the previous discourse by "pointing" toward it indexically, the discourse-deictic one requires the addressee or reader to operate upon a relevant contextual discourse representation in order to create a referent which was not present as such initially. Anadeictically-functioning demonstrative NPs may perform a discourse-structuring function, by heralding a transition between major discourse units within a given text. They realise this by shifting a hitherto individual-level reference from a macro-topical entity to a more generic class of referents that includes the one(s) in focus up to this point. It is the deictic property of demonstratives, coded morphologically via their proximal vs. distal character, along with the nature of the predicative component of the expression where it is a lexical NP (which as such may not correspond to presupposed information, but rather to a (re-)classifying or implictly-predicating function) which enable such expression types to perform the discourse-structuring roles at issue here.


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hal-00960772 , version 1 (20-03-2014)


  • HAL Id : hal-00960772 , version 1


Francis Cornish. Indexicality by degrees: Deixis, "anadeixis", and (discourse) anaphora. 2009. ⟨hal-00960772⟩
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