deixis 1 DAVID McNEILL, JUSTINE CASSELL, and ELENA T. LEVY Pointing has the job of picking out overt concrete objects. But what of pointing when there is no overt target? In narrative discourse (and other genres as well), people point at empty space. Such abstract deixis is extremely common. Concrete pointing to overt concrete targets, in contrast, is exceedingly rare in the narratives we have studied. Our argument in this paper is that pointing at empty space is an integral part of the process of storytelling. Pointing indicates a space, and this space is part of the story structure. There are referents -- invisible but existing -- and by pointing the speaker can situate these referents in space. The referents, although abstract, obtain a degree of physical reality. Deixis In the linguistic literature, deixis refers to 'those linguistic elements whose interpretation in simple sentences makes essential reference to properties of the extralinguistic context of the utterance in which they occur' (Anderson and Keenan 1985: 259). With deictic pointing, this definition can be reversed: a pointing gesture can create a referent in the extralinguistic context. This is, as we will show, a principal function of abstract pointing. Pointing is
Semiotica - Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique – de Gruyter
Published: Jan 1, 1993
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