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Re: deixis

From:Matt Pearson <mpearson@...>
Date:Tuesday, April 20, 1999, 17:21
Belated reply to an old message...

Tim Smith wrote:

>>Fabian wrote: >>> Are there any natlangs that have more than 3 levels of deixis >>> (this/that/yon)? >> >IIRC, Malagasy has a deictic system that distinguishes seven degrees of >relative distance from the speaker, and also distinguishes whether something >is visible or invisible to the speaker. Perhaps Matt Pearson, our resident >Malagasyist, could clarify this?
Malagasy has fourteen deictic elements. These come in seven pairs, of which one member of each pair is for invisible things, and one member is for visible things. Speakers seem to disagree amongst each other as to how many degrees of distance are represented by this system, but it's almost certainly less than seven - perhaps five. Here are the forms, together with rough descriptions of their meanings: visible invisible ety aty in contact with speaker eto ato quite close to speaker eo ao somewhere within the speaker's 'domain' etsy atsy (same as eo/ao, but used contrastively) eny any outside or away from speaker's 'domain' eroa aroa (meaning unclear) ery ary far away from speaker Some of these deictics (like "eroa/aroa" and "etsy/atsy") are rarely used, and probably don't form a part of the active vocabulary of many speakers. Others are quite common. A couple have acquired a particular lexicalised meaning which has partially bleached them of their deictic quality - in particular, "ao" has been lexicalised to mean "inside" or "in there", regardless of how close the object is to the speaker. For the other deictic words, however, the major difference between them appears to involve degree of distance from speaker. If I wanted to say "The book is here", I would use "ety" if the book were in my hand, "eto" if the book were sitting in front of me on the table, and "eo" if the book were somewhere within my 'personal space', where 'personal space' is defined by the discourse context (e.g. could be the same room as the speaker, the same part of the room as the speaker, the same house or village as the speaker, etc.). If I wanted to say "The book is there", I would use "ao" if it were just outside the room, "any" or "eny" if it were outside my 'personal space' somewhere, and "ary" if it were quite far away - e.g. in some other town/region/ country/part of the world, etc.. ------------------------------------ Matt Pearson UCLA Linguistics Department 405 Hilgard Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543 ------------------------------------