By  Agnestasia Melinda Thoeante
A 5th Semester student

Agnes Introduction

There are some reasons for which the writer would like to analyze this particular topic. First, the writer realizes that the use of deixis is important in a conversation or a speech. Second, the writer wants to broaden and deepen her knowledge on the use of deixis, not only in daily conversation but in more formal speech, particularly the presidential speech. Last, the writer would like to know how deixis and Pragmatics are related to each other.


The objective of this research is to figure out the importance of using deixis in a formal speech, such as the Presidential speech. Furthermore, this research is done to figure out the reasons of President Bush using deixis in his speech. Moreover, this research also analyzes the President’s meaning or intention by using different types of deixis in the speech. The study also discusses how often the deixis are used and how it affects the audiences who watch or hear the speech.

Review of Related Literature

The term ‘deixis’ derives from the Greek word meaning ‘to show’ or ‘to point out’. Deixis stands at the crossroads of two major fields of linguistics, Semantics and Pragmatics. It is one of the most important features in general linguistics which links the real life environment around us (time, place, people, etc) with the things that we actually want to say (the linguistic terms or parts that we used). According to Yan Huang (2007), deixis is a universal linguistic phenomenon. Its expressions are commonly expressed as deictic expressions or deictics. For Bühler (1934), any expression which locates a referent in space or time is a deictic expression. Lyons (1977:636) defines the term deixis as a class of linguistic expressions that are used to determine elements of the situational and/or discourse context, including the speech participants and the time and location of the current speech event.

 Classification of Deixis

George WBühler (1934) states that deictic expression is divided into three categories : person, place and time deixis. Specifically, Yan Huang (2007) adds that the expression of deictics include demonstratives, first and second person pronouns, tense markers, adverbs of time and space, and motion verbs. However, considering the level of study of the in this paper, only the three categories from Bühler which will be explained detail.

Person Deixis

According to Yule (1996, p.9-10), person deixis relates with the speaker and the addressee in a conversation. It is generally divided into three basic categories. They are first person deixis, second person deixis and third person deixis. The first person deixis refers to the speaker in a conversation or speech which is expressed in singular pronouns (I, me, myself, mine) and plural pronouns (we, us, ourselves, our, ours). The second person deixis refers to a person or people who is known as the addressee in a conversation, such as you, yourself, yourselves, your, yours. Third person deixis is a deictic reference that refers to something which is not identified as both the speaker and the addressee, but usually refers to the gender that an utterance is made.


The examples of third person deixis are he, she, they them, him, himself, her, herself. The relation between the three types of person deixis is described by Renkema (1993, p.77). Renkema explains that person deixis concerns with personal pronouns. The speaker as the first person (I) usually do a direct utterance to a listener, the second person (you), and the topic of the utterance is usually about a third person (He, she, and it). In short, person deixis is described as an expression which refers to a person or thing according to the speaker’s intention.

Place Deixis

Place deixis is also known as spatial deixis. This deixis is used to determine the location of people and things. According to Levinson (1983, p. 79), place or spatial deixis focuses on the specification of locations to get the precise point of the referred event or place in a speech. Levinson also adds that two basic ways of referring objects (places) of a speech are by describing or naming them and by locating them. This why, place deixis are divided into two major categories, which are the proximal (close to the speaker) deixis such as this, and these, and a distal (sometime close to the addressee) deixis such as that, and those. Based on the categories, Grundy (2000, p. 28) adds some others expression of place deixis. They are here (proximal), there (distal), where, left, right, up, down, above, below, in front, behind, come, go, bring, and take. Besides the proximal and distal place deictic expressions, Yan Huang (2007) also mentions the motion verbs which can be considered as place deixis, such as come and go.

Time Deixis

According to Yan Huang (2007), time deixis is concerned with the determination of temporal points and periods relative to the time at which an utterance is made a speech event. Similar with place deixis, time deixis is also divided into proximal and distal time. The examples to explain it are now and then. Now indicates proximal time and by contrast, then refers to distal time, which means not now. The other examples of the time deixis include today, tomorrow, yesterday, two days ago, this week, next month, etc.

Data Analysis

The techniques that the writer use to collect the data are watching and writing down any deictic expressions found in the “War on Terror” speech by the previous President of the United States, George Walker Bush. The speech takes place in the United States House of Chamber during the Joint Session of Congress. The subject or the audiences of the speech are the ministers, the governors from all Western countries and the United States citizens.

 Analysis of the Result and Discussion

The collected data shows that the President mostly uses the person deixis during his speech. The second type of deixis which is most used is the place deixis as the president deliver his speech in the Congress. The time deixis is seldom used by President in his speech. The table below shows the frequency of the use of each type of deixis during the presidential speech.


The table above clearly shows that the most used type of deixis by the President is the person deixis, especially the first person deixis that the President mentioned for 134 times during his speech. After that, the second most used type of deictic expressions is the place deixis which is divided into proximal and distal place deixis with each category are accordingly mentioned for 20 times and 2 times. Last is the time deixis which is only mentioned for 10 times by the President. The detail analysis and explanation will be done in the following sub topics: Motive and meaning behind the use of person, place and time deixis.

 Reason and Meaning Behind the Use of Person Deixis

As it is shown above, the President mostly used the first person deixis during his speech. In detail, the most used first person deixis is the first plural nouns we and our. The President mostly uses these words as he represents all the United State citizens in the speech. Moreover, he also uses those words to show that he put himself as one of the United citizens who were under the terror of a Muslim group named Al Qaida. However, at the same time he also uses those words to encourage all the citizens to fight against their fear and anxiety and defeat the terrorist. One of his sentences which can prove this is “Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom…… Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done”. Besides we and our, the President also sometimes uses the word I which represent himself as the President of the United State at that time. He particularly uses this word when he gives his support and moral message to different elements of the citizen. It seems that he uses the word I instead of we to show that the message he gives is urgent and very important. For instance is his message to the army of the United States, “I have message for our military: Be ready. I have called the armed forces to alert, and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud!” There, in the message the President also uses the second person deixis you that specifically refers to the soldiers of the United State and to give them support and encouragement to fight for their nation.

Furthermore, the third person deixis, such as they, them are also used when the President explains about Al Qaida and their terrorism cases both in the United States and other countries. The third person he, she and it are specifically used by the President to show his proud and empathy in the memoriam of a policeman of the United States who died in the World Trade Center incident when he was trying to save the people. This can be seen in the last part of the speech when the President says, “…. And I will carry this. This is the police shield of a man named named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others. It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a proud memorial to her son…….” Beside showing his empathy, by telling the story of George Howard, the President also wants to, again, encourage his people, especially all the governors, the armies and people who are responsible for the security of the United States to keep on fire to fight against the terrorism.

 Reason and Meaning Behind the Use of Place Deixis

The examples of place deixis that the President uses in his speech are the proximal and distal deixis and also the motion verbs. For example, during his speech, the president once says, “…. They hate what they see right here…….” The word here in the sentence refers to the place where the speech is taking place, The United States House Chamber. Another example is the use of one examples of the proximal deixis when the President says, “…… Now, this war will not be like the war….” In that sentence, the President uses the word this to make the audiences get the right understanding that the war he means is the war on terror that the United States citizens are facing at that time, not the other wars in other places. Furthermore, the use of the motion verbs appears when the President gives his message to the military people. He says, “Be ready…… the hour is coming and you will make us proud” In the sentence, the President clearly use the word coming to show that the day of the war is closer to the soldiers, so he asks them prepare themselves.

Reason and Meaning Behind the Use of Time Deixis

During his speech, the President mostly uses the type of time deictic expressions, such as now, today and tonight. One main reason of this is because the President focuses his speech on the terrorism which his citizens are facing at that time. Therefore, he uses those time deictic expressions to keep the audiences’ focus on the problem – the terrorism — which the nation is facing at the time. Besides the three words, the President also says, “….. the last nine days…..” to emphasize the period of the terrorism incident and to make the people realize that the incident is really important and cannot be neglected. He rarely uses past time deixis such as yesterday, last year, etc in the speech because he does not want the audiences to lose their focus on what is happening at that time.


From the analysis above, it can be concluded that the use of deixis, especially in a formal speech such as the presidential speech is very important. With the use of deixis, misunderstanding will not happen because both the speaker and addressee will understand about what is talking about. Moreover, the analysis above on the use of deixis clearly shows the close relationship between context (the most crucial thing in Pragmatics) and the deictic expressions which are used based on the context. The relationship is that the use of deictic expressions must be adjusted with the context in which the speech takes place. Otherwise, the objectives or goals of the speech that a speaker wants to deliver will not be understandable by the addresses.


Huang, Yan. 2007. Pragmatics 2nd ed. Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics
Maienborn, von Heusinger and Portner (eds.) 2012, Semantics (HSK 33.3), de Gruyter, 1–25