Chapter 3 - Deixis 83
Chapter 3 Deixis What he wanted was connected with no particular place; therefore it must be where he was. — William Carlos Williams1 In this quotation, William Carlos Williams was referring to Edgar Allan Poe, a writer much admired by Borges. Like Borges, Poe knew how to relate the cosmic to the individual and personal, and explored the many ways in which each of us attempts to come to grips with that relationship. The inevitability of subjective identity and of our own perspective on the world is not, then, at odds with an appreciation of the universal, but is an integral part of how we know and talk about the world around us. Context is central to meaning; that connection, between context, language and meaning, is the focus of this chapter. Deixis and Space As was outlined in the Introduction, the linguistic category of deixis refers to how certain elements of language depend for their meaning, in a fun- damental way, on the contexts in which they occur. Archetypally, deixis is about location, in the sense that we need to know where a speaker is when they use a deictic term, in order to be able to know what that speaker is referring to. The mere utterance of the word ‘here’ implies a spatial context, 84 Chapter 3 as does the utterance of a demonstrative like ‘this’ in a phrase such as ‘This is a nice place’; knowledge of the context in which such utterances occur is vital if we are...
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