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  1. #1
    Curt Jugg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Deixis and past tense

    I think I understand the general concept of deixis but I can't understand how it relates to the simple past and perfect tenses.
    For example,
    He arrived eventually is simple past and is deictic but
    He has arrived at last is present perfect, and not deictic apparently.

    I've consulted both A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language and the Cambridge Grammar of the English language and I'm still none the wiser.
    Can anyone please explain how the first sentence is deictic but the second one isn't?

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Jugg View Post
    I think I understand the general concept of deixis but I can't understand how it relates to the simple past and perfect tenses.
    For example,
    He arrived eventually is simple past and is deictic but
    He has arrived at last is present perfect, and not deictic apparently.

    I've consulted both A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language and the Cambridge Grammar of the English language and I'm still none the wiser.
    Can anyone please explain how the first sentence is deictic but the second one isn't?
    Quirk et al suggest (page 184), "...the present and past tenses can be added to other pairs of DEIECTIC tems...". They also say (page 188), "Unlike tense, aspect is nor deiectic".

    If they are correct, then the deiectic contrast in your pair is between the past simple and and the present perfect, not between the past simple and the present perfect.

    I would put it more simply by saying that the past simple is distanced in time, the present perfect is not.

  3. #3
    Curt Jugg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Quirk et al suggest (page 184), "...the present and past tenses can be added to other pairs of DEIECTIC tems...". They also say (page 188), "Unlike tense, aspect is nor deiectic".

    If they are correct, then the deiectic contrast in your pair is between the past simple and and the present perfect, not between the past simple and the present perfect.

    I would put it more simply by saying that the past simple is distanced in time, the present perfect is not.
    Thanks very much for your reply.

    I'm still a bit confused, though, and wonder if I can rephrase my query as I didn't express myself very clearly first time round.

    As I understand it, a deictic tense can only be properly interpreted when the time of its utterance is known. So in my first sentence I need to know when it was uttered in order to know more about when the event took place. But surely the same applies to the second sentence, since if I don't know when it was uttered, I can't locate the event in time. So why in that case isn't the present perfect also a deictic tense?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    Try reading this Deixis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and see if it helps. I think it explains things rather more succinctly than I can. If you have specific problems after reading it, come back here and we'll see what we can do.

    ps. Unless you are doing some work on this specific area, don't worry too much about it. Most learners and, I suspect, many teachers have never even heard of the word. They survive quite happily.

  5. #5
    Curt Jugg is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    Thanks for the link. I'll have a read.

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post

    ps. Unless you are doing some work on this specific area, don't worry too much about it. Most learners and, I suspect, many teachers have never even heard of the word. They survive quite happily.
    That's encouraging anyway!

  6. #6
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    Hedwig is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    They survive quite happily.
    Until I read this thread I was one of the happy survivors.

  7. #7
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Hedwig View Post
    Until I read this thread I was one of the happy survivors.
    I survived my whole teaching career without it. It was only after I retired and began to follow up my own interest in tenses that I discovered it.

  8. #8
    Hukeli is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Jugg View Post
    Thanks very much for your reply.

    I'm still a bit confused, though, and wonder if I can rephrase my query as I didn't express myself very clearly first time round.

    As I understand it, a deictic tense can only be properly interpreted when the time of its utterance is known. So in my first sentence I need to know when it was uttered in order to know more about when the event took place. But surely the same applies to the second sentence, since if I don't know when it was uttered, I can't locate the event in time. So why in that case isn't the present perfect also a deictic tense?
    Hi Curt,

    I recently started reading Cambridge Grammar of the English language (I'll call it CamGEL) and got a bit stuck on the rather technical treatment of tense using four different kinds of time and deixis. I am currently at page 140, and it happens to give examples that may answer your question.

    First, in CamGEL, unlike in the earlier competing work of Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (which I call CGEL), the perfect construction (have + V) is a tense, not an aspect.

    On page 140 of CamGEL, it says that while the preterite (i.e. the past tense) is usually interpreted deictically, "the perfect tense, by contrast", is normally non-deictic.

    The entire sections of 5.1 and 5.3.1 together explains fully why the perfect tense is non-deictic. There is a crucial sentence that clarifies the point:

    This [T 2 o] is not identified deictically as the time of speaking, but rather non-deictically as T 1 r, which the present locates as simultaneous with T 1 o/T d.
    The example sentence discussed is: Now I have written four chapters.
    Last edited by Hukeli; 02-Nov-2011 at 23:38. Reason: correction

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    @ Hukeli

    You are not the only one who has got stuck on the treatment of deiexis in Huddleston & Pullum.

    I think that you may well have found the answer for Curt, but H & P's symbols are not easy to understand for those who haven't met them before.. I have tried to put them into language that is both not too technical and also concise - not very successfully, I am afraid. I shall have another go later, but I shall be delighted if you get there first.

    5

  10. #10
    Hukeli is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Deixis and past tense

    Hi, 5jj:

    I am delighted to know there are like-minded grammar buffs out there keen on tackling the two tomes of modern English grammar, especially Pullum & Huddleston. I just finished decoding the section on the perfect tense, if not somewhat baffled by 5.4-5.6. I look forward to exchanging views and help with you and others on this forum.

    Cheers,
    Keli

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