One of this week’s APLNG 581 Discourse Analysis readings deals with the use of demonstratives (this, that, and it) in the context of spontaneous oral discourse between native English speakers.
The article’s main argument is that traditional explanations for choice of demonstrative (this, that, it) as a function of the proximity/distance of a referent from the speaker do not adequately explain the distribution of demonstrative tokens in natural conversations. An alternative dynamic explanation is proposed which accounts for choice of demonstrative as a function of a speaker’s personal stance towards their listeners, and the referents being discussed. According to the model, demonstratives provide an index of the degree of focus a speaker is asking of listener and in so doing disclose assumptions speakers have of their listeners.
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Citation: Strauss, S. 2002. “This, that, and it in spoken American English: A demonstrative system of gradient focus.” Language Sciences, 24: 131-152.