Currently, I'm writing a thesis on deixis and I ran into trouble while dealing with some rather borderline cases in my corpus. I would appreciate your opinions on the utterances below.

After, such as in (1) is traditionally considered a deictic expression of time deixis, right? I don't know why but to me it seems to be rather non-deictic, given the context of the utterance "after the workout" does not really change its meaning in different contexts, than what's deictic about it?

(1) I eat immediately after the workout, and usually get some more caffeine at that point as well.

Similarly in (2) currently and when should be expressions of temporal deixis, too.

(2) Currently on a bulk. When I was cutting it was maybe ~$80.

My second question concerns the difference between anaphora and discourse deixis. Is it in sentence (3) below anaphoric or discourse deictic? The speaker is answering the question concerning spendings on food: "Curious what everybody spends on food specialy you big rigs"

(3) Buying most in bulk and looking for the best deals, i'd say somewhere around $150 or so for the month. I try to keep it low if I can.

since there is no nominal antecedent explicitly present, I would label it as a discourse deictic, answering the question i.e. spendings on food.

  • I don't understand what is being asked about. There are several sentence (2)'s. And sentence (1) is generic, not deictic; we're talking about a repetitive activity, not one focussed on the speech event.
    – jlawler
    Feb 17, 2020 at 22:48
  • I don't see any anaphora in your examples. Perhaps you mean something else?
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 19, 2020 at 5:36
  • @jlawler That's what I meant. It is not deictic since the meaning does not change. I was confused because some authors claim that before is deictic.
    – HaQ
    Feb 23, 2020 at 15:38
  • @CJ Dennis What about "it" in the sentence (2)? It does not seem to be a non-referential part of a fixed idiomatic phrase, nor prop it. Therefore it must be anaphoric.
    – HaQ
    Feb 23, 2020 at 15:42
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1 Answer 1


I would argue that most of the examples provided in your question are not actually deictic usages as deixis refers to features of the context of the speech event encoded in the speech event itself.

given the context of the utterance "after the workout" does not really change its meaning in different contexts, then what's deictic about it?

In (1) "after the workout" has no relation to when the utterance occurred. A deictic usage of "after" would be:

(4) I'm doing something right now. I'll clean up after.

In (4) the interpretation of "after" is dependent on the temporal context of when the sentence was uttered. "after" is tricky because its meaning is always dependent on a relationship to something else. You can't do something after nothing. "After" entails that something comes before. But whether it's functioning deictically depends on whether its relationship is to the context of the utterance.

In (2) "currently" is functioning as a deictic adverb as it is a synonym for "now". The meaning of "currently" changes based on when the sentence is used. But "when" is like "after". It functions to anchor one event to another, but not necessarily to the speech event itself.

(5) "When I was 11 I went to Six Flags for the first time."

In (5), "when" always refers to the same time whether I said it 10 years ago or say it 10 years from now. Just as in (2) "when I was cutting..." refers to a specific time in the past irrespective of the time of utterance. I suppose an argument could be made that there were multiple periods of time "when I was cutting", in which case the time of utterance would have a bearing on which of those time periods is being referred to. But in this case, the sentence implies that the time in question was a single, specific time period.

Is it in sentence (3) below anaphoric or discourse deictic?

In (3) there is no discourse deixis present. "It" refers to an implied noun phrase: "the amount I spend per month". Additionally, discourse deixis in English is almost always accomplished through "that" (anaphoric) or "this" (usually kataphoric, but can also be anaphoric). The only context I can think of where "it" would be classified as functioning as a discourse deictic would be something like:

(6) I caught a fish THIS BIG. It's true, I swear!

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