Colorado Research in Linguistics

Document Type

Working Paper


This paper presents an overview of research on deixis in linguistic anthropology. In line with other recent deixis theorists (e.g. Hanks), I suggest that deixis has not yet received sufficient theoretical nor empirical attention. I argue for the centrality of deixis, and demonstrative reference in particular, to an understanding of the fundamentally social and interactional nature of linguistic meaning. As an exercise in the analysis of deixis in interaction, I analyze the use of two nominal demonstratives (ini and itu) in colloquial Indonesian conversation. These demonstratives occur in what are known as “placeholder uses,” frequently in the context of a “word search.” Several instances of placeholder demonstrative use are analyzed, showing that differing types of “access” (perceptual, cognitive, social) (Hanks 2009) to the referent, as well as distinct indexical grounds, are what distinguish the meaning and use of these two demonstratives. These findings point to the importance of interactional data in the analysis of basic linguistic meaning.



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