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Deixis in Modern Linguistics Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2021

The existence and further development of society rest on how people interact with each other as the success of this process predetermines the evolution of communities and their beneficial development. Under these conditions, language becomes the central tool that is needed to engage in meaningful cooperation and achieve the desired goal via the discussion of particular features and creating the plan of action. Regarding the complexity of tasks people face in their everyday life and differences in mentalities, language acquires multiple sophisticated aspects that are demanded to achieve mutual understanding and negotiate about various issues.

That is why humanity has always tried to consider the basic peculiarities of this tool with the primary aim to outline fundamental mechanisms of its functioning along with the ways how it can be improved. For instance, the way certain information is presented impacts people’s perception and attitude to described facts. That is why the concept of deixis acquires the top priority as one of the methods to convey information and achieve a particular reaction from other individuals. Thus, proximal deixis is intended to draw more attention compared to distal deixis.


Before speaking about the issue, it is critical to understand the idea of the discussed concept and the way it impacts cognitive processes and decision-making patterns. In general, the term can be determined as a location and identification of multiple areas, persons, events, activities, or things that are discussed or referred to regarding a particular context of the prior aim of the communication process (Stapleton, 2017). In other words, naming, describing, and locating certain objects a speaker uses deixis to create a specific situation that will presuppose different types of reaction from other individuals participating in the conversation. It is a critical element of language, as it contributes to the improved understanding of the main message and can work at the unconscious level.

In the paper, we speak about proximal and distal types of deixis. As it comes from the definition, the first one means objects that are situated nearer to a speaker or an individual (Stapleton, 2017). For this reason, while describing these things, a person can use specific words indicating this sort of pointing. As for the distal deixis, it is used to refer to more distant objects or events (Stapleton, 2017). In such a way, the use of these types of pointing depends on the context and the main intention of a speaker.

However, as it was stated in the introduction, proximal deixis is intended to draw more attention compared to distal deixis. This idea comes from the peculiarities of people’s mentality and how they cognize new information and facts. If some places, events, or locations are far from individuals engaged in conversation, they become less interesting for them, as there is no possibility to interact with them (Stapleton, 2017).

At the same time, using proximal deixis, a speaker outlines a set of objects and things that can be affected at the moment which unconsciously triggers a livelier reaction and attracts more attention because of the opportunity to use them. In such a way, these differences can precondition various results of the conversation and should be considered while engaging in conversation. This statement can be evidenced by the examples provided in the next section.

Proximal and Distal

First of all, to prove the main idea of the paper, we will utilize the case of proximal deixis to show how it draws more attention. For instance, the phrase “Wow, this burger was ah-mazing” can be used. This comment is related to the description of a particular sort of food that inspired a speaker to share his/her emotions. It can be a post after finishing eating the burgers, which can also mean that a speaker is comparatively far from it. However, using the word “this” in the sentence, he/she wants to draw attention to this very product and affect the audience positively by inspiring them to go and eat it. It proves that the use of proximal deixis can be more effective in some situations.

At the same time, using the same sentence, we can demonstrate how distal pointing works. It will sound in the following way: “Wow, that burger was ah-mazing”. The given sentence acquires other connotations as an individual speaks about something very distant at the moment. Other people who listen to it or read this message start to think that there is no direct opportunity to enjoy this very product and demonstrate lower interest and a neutral attitude to the discussed event. This example and the following replacement of types of deixis prove that there is a critical difference in the ways people acquire information and cognize it because of various tools that are used to attract attention and interest individuals.

On the other hand, we will replace distal deixis with proximal one to show a less-powerful impact on listeners or readers and outline the cases of worn usage. For instance, in the sentence “I won’t give them one star since well it is still eatable”, a speaker uses “it” instead of a noun to show that he is not interested in the issue and discussed food. For this reason, the use of distal deixis in this negative comment can be justified, as the person does not want to attract attention to the discussed topic and can disregard it.

Replacing the distal type of pointing with the proximal one, we can acquire the phrase “I won’t give them one star since well the burger is still eatable”. The given sentence sounds more emotional and can become more effective in different situations because of the direct determination of the discussed food which can attract other people’s attention and contribute to some discussion (Stapleton, 2017). In such a way, the given example demonstrates the existence of critical differences in the use of distal deixis in various situations depending on the context and the primary goal of the communicative situation.

At the same time, there can be cases of the wrong use of proximal deixis that a person fails to select the appropriate word or phrase to show his/her attitude to the discussed problem and sounds less convincing. For instance, in the sentence “Three words: grilled cheese buns. Yup, you read that right” the speaker wants to attract people’s attention to this sort of food and add some emotional coloring to the speech.

However, using “eat” instead of “read”, he/she can achieve a more potent effect because it will be the direct command and attract attention. Instead, he/she fails to use proximal deixis appropriately, which contributes to some problems with understanding and meanings. This case shows that there is a critical need to distinguish between the use of different types of pointing in various situations to achieve the desired effect and become understood by other individuals or people.


In such a way, the provided examples justify the idea that various communicative situations and contexts demand the use of different types of deixis to attract people’s attention or sound neutral. The primary goal of communication is to convey a particular message and outline a certain position regarding a certain object. For this reason, the existing emotional coloring and a need for the attraction of attention should serve as the basis for the use of one or another type of pointing. Individuals should justify their choices by the existing context and the idea they want to share. The necessity to draw attention and inspire people should stipulate the adherence to proximal patterns, while neutral speech demands distal types that should be utilized in various ways.

Altogether, being the primary tool for sharing main ideas and emotions, language possesses multiple unique features that help to structure thoughts and present them in appropriate ways that will attract people’s attention and trigger particular actions.

For this reason, the use of different types of deixis can be taken as one of the fundamentals of communication because of its ability to impact people in different ways which are critical for the results of any interaction presupposing the involvement of several people. The ability to select the most appropriate and effective approach will help to create more meaningful collaboration and achieve better outcomes. That is why the provided examples are important for the improved understanding of the use of this tool in different contexts and people’s ability to present particular ideas appropriately.


Stapleton, A. (2017). . Essex Student Research Online, 9. Web.

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