Person deixis and hierarchical relations in Persian speakers’ interactions

Authors: Mohammad Amouzadeh (Sun Yat-sen University)
Masoumeh Dianati (University of Isfahan)
Speakers: Mohammad Amouzadeh, Masoumeh Dianati
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The CALA 2021 General Session


Person deictics, like other deixis types, have long been a continuing concern for indexing interlocutors’ social relationship (e.g., Morfords, 1997). This study examines how person deictics designate the social status of interlocutors in interactions. More specifically the observation of a dynamic alternation between lowering and elevating one’s own status within the same communicative event in Persian will be the main concern of this study. This complex phenomenon in Persian displaying an extremely hierarchical (inferior-superior) relations with emerging interpersonal meanings requires a systematic investigation. A cursory look at certain interactions among Persian speakers indicate the use of person deixis changes constantly from one point to another to indexicalize a complex socio-cultural conceptualization of interactants’ interpersonal relationships.

A: salâm              âqâ

Hello                Mr.

‘Hello Sir!’

[The addressee keeps typing behind his computer without paying attention to the client]

B: salâm!             befarmâ-id!       amre-tun?

Hello!               command.2pl!  order.your? (2pl (

‘What can I do for you?’  (‘Hello, what is your command?’)

A: bebaxšid        barâje   gereftan-e     kârt-e         melli       kodʒâ        bâjad     beram?

forgive.2pl (me)   for  receive-ing     card-EZ     national  where      should    go.1sing

‘Excuse me! Where should I go to receive my national ID card?’

B: in   form-o        por       mikon-i                 o         mir-I                           otâq-e          kenâri

this form-OM    fill sing    and     IMP.go-2sing         room            next

‘You will fill out this form and then will go to the next room.’

Based on such an example, we can argue the alternation for indexing inferior/superior relations with the same addressee cannot be explained adequately by a semantic analysis; instead, an interactive approach is necessary to explain contextual indexicality of person deixis. In other words, a phenomenological account considering the co-occurring pragmatic parameters as well as the linguistic forms is needed for this study. The interaction as a contextualization process (Silverstein, 1992; 2003) defines the relative indexical value of personal deictic expressions, accordingly, self-lowering and other-elevating form in one turn may be neutralized when the whole interaction is considered.


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Silverstein, M. (1992). The indeterminacy of contextualization: when is enough enough? In: Auer, P., di Luzio, A. (Eds.), The Contextualization of Language, 55-76. John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
Silverstein, M. (2003). Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language and Communication, 23, 193–229.

Keywords: Person deixis, discourse-pragmatic perspective, hierarchical relation, Persian