Semantic domains of deictic terms: Investigating the nature of fast meaning processes in language (DeicTeS)
Project of the Crotian Science Foundation
DeicTeS principal investigator: prof. Marija Brala-Vukanović M.Phil. Ph.D. (Cantab)
The focus of this project is on deixis in language. Although the concept of deixis and basic deictic categories, or rather the distinction between deictic and non-deictic terms are well known and have been widely described in the linguistic literature, there exists a variety of positions regarding to the exact semantic interpretation of the phenomenon as such. In fact, apart from the agreement on the main definitions and concepts (mainly space, time, person and some type of discourse / social dimension), there exists quite a variety of readings of the (boundaries of the) domains to which deictic terms apply (or, rather, belong), as well as diverging views regarding the (coding and decoding) mechanisms of deixis in language.
The purpose of the proposed project is to show that the cognitive approach to meaning and communication can be fruitfully extended to deictic words. Departing from the view that our understanding of the language system is crucially linked to the types of meanings expressed in world languages, and the types of processing mechanisms linked to different word types, we aim to explore the link between the gesture of pointing, deixis and fast language processes.
Following the position that deictic terms are given meanings by the fast semantic process, we will analyse deictic words in a set of languages (English, Italian, Croatian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and German). Methodologically, an initial literature review will be followed by corpus analysis, subsequently followed by introspective data analysis. The aim is to construct a motivated radial network for each deictic term and, subsequently, each deictic category, under examination. The theoretical and introspective segment of project activities will be followed by work on an empirical study, aimed at investigating the psycholinguistic aspects of fast semantic processing.
The investigation is aimed at providing new insights into: a) the semantic domains expressed by deictic words; b) the cognitive and linguistic mechanisms involved in fast semantic processes; c) the difference between fast and slow linguistic processes d) the differences between semantic and pragmatic functions of deictic terms.
Ultimately, the objective of the project is to provide new insights into the structure of deictic terms; their functional (grammatical), semantic and pragmatic features, but also, more specifically, to contribute to the understanding of the cognitive processes involved in deixis, as well as the structure of the deictic system in the Croatian language (thus providing visibility and availability of the Croatian data).
Keywords: deixis, cognitive semantics, fast semantic processing, demonstratives, language – (pointing) gesture relation.