Discourse deixis vs anaphora

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Korsivo

Member
Italian
Hello everyone

I have recently acquired an interest in linguistics and I am struggling to understand what the subtle difference between the two is.

As far as I understand, and generally speaking, a deixis is a word that cannot be understood without person/space/time contextual information, whereas an anaphora always relate to other parts of the text or other text altogether. (Is that right?)

But take for exemple this sentence:
"I was born in Rome and I lived there all my life."
Is that "there" deixis or anaphora?

I would be grateful if anyone could give me the easiest possible explanation
 
  • joanvillafane

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    Hi Korsivo - I think in this case it's anaphora, since Rome is already mentioned and "there" refers to Rome.
    For deixis, it would be a sentence like, "Put it there." (without context, we don't know where "there" is)
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I used to think of deixis as "words which only work with additional pointing". It is not infallible, but it helped me to know how to label the feature. It certainly applies in the example you gave, it isn't deixis because you dont have to point to Rome to know what "there" is referring to.
     

    Korsivo

    Member
    Italian
    Thank you for simplifying Joanvillafane

    But don't you think that in the above-mentioned sentence that "there" is a bit ambiguous in terms of time?
    In other words we don't know if the person who said/wrote that sentence is still living in Rome or not. And the ignorance of what that "there" refers to, in terms of time, would also make it a deixis.
     

    Korsivo

    Member
    Italian
    I used to think of deixis as "words which only work with additional pointing". It is not infallible, but it helped me to know how to label the feature. It certainly applies in the example you gave, it isn't deixis because you dont have to point to Rome to know what "there" is referring to.
    Hello Suzi

    Yes indeed. Both deixis and anaphora point at something within or outside the text. But the difference there is that a deixis may make reference to any particular point of the discourse, whereas an anaphoric or cataphoric reference makes reference to something contained in the same utterance, something located just prior or just after it

    But my understanding of these issues may be faulty or limited
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    "I was born in Rome and I lived there all my life."
    Is that "there" deixis or anaphora?
    In this case it's both.
    'There' is clearly anaphoric because it referes to the antecedent 'Rome' (and this fact does not change whether you're in Treviglio, London, or at the South Pole when uttering this).
    At the same time, 'there' is deictic because it shows the reader or listener that you were not in Rome when you said this. If you had been in Rome you'd have phrased it "I was born in Rome and I've lived here all my life."

    So, a deixis changes the information content of a specific phrase based on actual person/space/time context and an anaphora does not.

    Of course, whether this knowledge of that linguistic concept makes your understanding of languages easier or just more complicated is up to you to decide.
    (Since I never had a practical use for this and since I've lived happily before and after I first heard of it, personally, I'm leaning towards the latter... ;) )
     

    Korsivo

    Member
    Italian
    Hello Manfy

    Maybe not so many practical uses, (I sometimes wonder why I ever started to get an interest in linguistics at all) but take for example this sentence : "Tom hit Joe and then he left"
    In English, Italian, French (and German too I guess) it is implied that it was Tom who left, after hitting Joe. But apparently (I am not really a polyglot. Not yet:oops:) in other languages there could be some ambiguity there; what could be understood by that sentence is that it was Joe who left, after having been hit by Tom....

    But thank u for replying. I think that now, because of your post, I understand better
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Maybe not so many practical uses,
    I'm not trying to imply that the concepts of deixis and anaphora are nonsensical or useless! Off the top of my head I can think of 'automatic language translation'. If clear, definitive, and coherent rules can be established, translation software could benefit greatly from it.
    But as they say, "Tutte le strade portano a Roma." (All roads lead to Rome). I'm interpreting this as many different approaches to a given problem can lead to the same result, and it's up to you to figure out which one fits best into an existing system (which in this case is your own understanding of one or more languages).
     

    Korsivo

    Member
    Italian
    Hello again Manfy

    What you say is interesting. "Tutte le strade portano a Roma." (All roads lead to Rome) is understood by me because I am Italian, and by you, (you understand it well I think) and by all others who have an insight into this particular expression. But technically speaking, this expression, I would assume, is better classed as a homophoric reference, which means that it is understood only within one context, the "Italian" context. Another example would be "in vino veritas"! If you didn't know any Latin, that wouldn't make any sense to you. Similarly, if you considered a phrase like "The Queen just reassured the people ...etc. etc.." It makes sense only if we know which queen we are referring to (there are many queens in the world, Elisabeth is not the only one:))
    As your native language is German, I could make another example: "Zeitgeist" is maybe now not so homophoric in England because it has now entered the English dictionary, but still to these days many people in England dont have a clue in so far as what that could mean...(me included)
    And surely the French expression "voir midi à sa porte" makes sense only in France (or in the French context)

    Whether one day some company will come up with the software that can translate and explain everything, that remains to be seen
     
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