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'You' and 'I', 'Here' and 'Now': Spatial and Social Situatedness in Deixis

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I examine the ordinary-language use of deictic terms, notably the personal, spatial and temporal markers 'I' and 'you', 'here' and 'now', in order to make manifest that their meaning is inextricably embedded within a pragmatic, perceptual and interpersonal situation. This inextricable embeddedness of deixis within the shared natural and social world suggests, I contend, an I-you connectedness at the heart of meaning and experience. The thesis of I-you connectedness extends to the larger claim about the situatedness of embodied perceivers within a shared perspectivally configured milieu. This claim can be cast in terms of a polycentric orientation to the natural and social world, which provides a robust alternative to an egocentric conception of experience. I develop this claim via a renewed phenomenological reflection on speech, assisted by ordinary-language philosophy, as well as relevant contributions from empirical sociolinguistic studies and developmental psychology. These reflective and empirical perspectives help make a case for the primacy of socially and spatially situated experience, which departs from the received notion of an asocial and uprooted mind.

Keywords: deixis; interpersonal relations; polycentrism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Oregon, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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