This paper presents an overview of research on deixis in linguistic anthropology.
In line with other recent deixis theorists (e.g. Hanks), I suggest that deixis has not
yet received sufficient theoretical nor empirical attention. I argue for the
centrality of deixis, and demonstrative reference in particular, to an
understanding of the fundamentally social and interactional nature of linguistic
meaning. As an exercise in the analysis of deixis in interaction, I analyze the use
of two nominal demonstratives (ini and itu) in colloquial Indonesian
conversation. These demonstratives occur in what are known as “placeholder
uses,” frequently in the context of a “word search.” Several instances of
placeholder demonstrative use are analyzed, showing that differing types of
“access” (perceptual, cognitive, social) (Hanks 2009) to the referent, as well as
distinct indexical grounds, are what distinguish the meaning and use of these two
demonstratives. These findings point to the importance of interactional data in
the analysis of basic linguistic meaning.
Nicholas Williams is aPhD student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He can be reached at: Nicholas.J.Williams@Colorado.EDU.