Department of Anthropology
Explorations in the Deictic Field
- Author(s): Hanks, William F.
- et al.
This paper focuses on the ways in which speakers make reference to themselves, to one another, and to objects in the everyday settings of talk. Drawing on research in linguistic anthropology, sociology, and linguistics, it proposes an approach to language based on the concepts of communicative practice, deictic field, and socially constituted objects of reference. Found in all human languages, deictics are expressions like English "this," "that," "here," and "there" whose meanings depend strictly on the occasions of their use. This paper critically examines current approaches to deixis, proposes an alternative framework based on the sociological concept of field, and applies this framework to deictic practice in Yucatec Maya. Drawing on the work of Buhler, Goffman, and Bourdieu, it adapts the field concept to the semiotic structure of deixis. The result is an analysis of deictic practice as an emergent construal of socially embedded deictic fields involving practical equivalences, counterpart relations among objects, and rules of thumb.