Spatial deixis and demonstrative pronouns in Hungarian

The paper first provides a general interpretation of deixis from a functional pragmatic perspective. Deixis is described as a linguistic operation drawing on participants’ contextual knowledge that comes from their mental processing of the spatial, temporal, and interpersonal relations of the speech situation. Relying on this knowledge, it makes the physical and social world of the discourse participants part of the world of the discourse. Basic to the phenomenon is the dual (discursive as well as embodied) grounding of linguistic congition. A key implication of embodied grounding is the egocentric functioning of the deictic centre, which rests by default with the speaker serving as the referential centre for spatial, temporal and interpersonal orientation.

The second part of the paper is devoted to the study of spatial deixis and its manifestation in the Hungarian pronominal system. We suggest that, as realized in Hungarian, spatial deixis encompasses categories far beyond traditional cases of place deixis, since pronouns iconically partition the world into ’near’ and ’far’ regardless of whether they refer to things, modes, qualities or quantities, etc. However, peripheral cases do differ from place deixis (the prototype for spatial deixis) by giving no firm linguistic basis for identifying context-dependent reference points.

Finally, the third part of the paper applies the theoretical points made above to a detailed study of a pair of Hungarian demonstrative pronouns referring to things, namely ez ’this’ and az ’that’.

Keywords: deixis, deictic centre, spatial deixis, demonstrative pronouns, proximity vs. distance


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