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Revista signos

versão On-line ISSN 0718-0934

Rev. signos vol.49 no.92 Valparaíso dez. 2016 


Deixis and its role in defining rhetorical space


Deixis y su papel en la definición del espacio retórico


Anna Ivanova
Universidad Autónoma de Chile


The present study focuses on the way deictic references can be employed to define rhetorical space using political domain as an example. The paper departs from the analysis of the deictic items found in the 2013 victory speech pronounced by the elected president Michelle Bachelet in the Republic of Chile. Among the deictic items under scrutiny, stand out personal references (i.e., nosotros /-as (we[1]), ellos /-as (they), Ustedes (you, plural), etc.), demonstratives and locatives, such as time and space anchors ahora (now), acá / allá (here / there), etc. These are believed to play a role in (re)configuring rhetorical spaces thereby (dis)connecting the addressees with the message of political kind. By studying the selected corpus, this paper intends to: 1) single out and categorize the occurrence of the aforementioned deictic items in Bachelet’s 2013 victory speech, and 2) analyze the way in which they are disambiguated at the textual level so as to discuss how the president shapes her rhetorical space in the discourse. The results evidence a moderate presence of deictic references in the corpus, where personal pronouns Ustedes (you, plural) and nosotros (we) show a quantitative prevalence. Moreover, the disambiguation on the discourse level reveals the inclusive character of use. Finally, proximal deictic references of space and time demonstrate larger presence in the corpus than the distal ones. These findings clearly emphasize predominant choice of inclusive and proximal over exclusive and distal in Bachelet’s victory speech.

Key Words: Deixis, rhetorical space, political discourse, empirical methods.


Este estudio se centra en la forma en que las referencias deícticas pueden emplearse para definir un espacio retórico utilizando un dominio político, en concreto, se trata del discurso político en Chile. Se realiza un análisis de los ítems deícticos encontrados en el discurso de victoria presidencial de Michelle Bachelet en el año 2013. En los ítems deícticos bajo estudio destacan referencias personales, demostrativas y locativas, tales como el tiempo y el espacio. El supuesto es que juegan un rol en la (re)configuración de los espacios retóricos, de este modo (des)conectando el destinatario con el mensaje de tipo político. Por medio del estudio del corpus seleccionado, se pretende: 1) particularizar y categorizar la ocurrencia de los ítems deícticos previamente mencionados en el discurso de Bachelet, y 2) analizar la forma en que ellos son desambiguados a nivel textual, de manera que pueda discutirse la forma en que la Presidenta modela el espacio retórico en su discurso. Los resultados evidencian una presencia moderada de referencias deícticas en el corpus, donde los pronombres personales ‘ustedes’ y ‘nosotros’ tienen una prevalencia cuantitativa en el texto. Incluso, la eliminación de la ambigüedad en el discurso revela en su uso el carácter inclusivo. Finalmente, las referencias próximas deícticas del espacio y el tiempo demuestran una amplia presencia en el corpus más que las de distancia. Por lo tanto, estos hallazgos claramente enfatizan la elección predominante de lo inclusivo y próximo por sobre lo exclusivo y distal en el discurso de la victoria presidencial.

Palabras Clave: Deixis, espacio retórico, discurso político, métodos empíricos.



The present study intends to expand previous research on deictic references in (political) discourse by applying the concept of rhetorical space and its definition through deixis. Further on, a discourse-based view drawing on corpus linguistics (Baker, 2006; Parodi, 2008; Wodak & Meyer, 2009; Fairclough, Mulderrig & Wodak, 2011) has benefited from the perspectives shared by an interdisciplinary approach, namely linguistics and rhetoric so as to understand the interconnection of deixis and rhetorical space in (political) discourse involving the interpersonal function, particularly, in the way this discourse production can involve the target audience emotionally and cognitively so as to inculcate a point of view.

As such, this study undertakes a combined approach to the analysis of rhetorical space. The central place in this takes the notion of deixis, which is claimed to play the main role in the construction of rhetorical space. Mainly, the study draws upon the Werth’s (1999) theory of text world, which is linguistically realized through the personal, spatial and temporal deictic references. These references are further believed to define the author’s ‘situatedness’ in the rhetorical space.

The previous research in this area, and specifically, in the domain of political discourse, focuses mainly on the study of personal references and their role to define author’s position towards the public (Zupnik, 1994; Arroyo, 2000; Mulderrig, 2012; among others), leaving aside the spatial and temporal dimensions. However, the central problem of this study claims that by including all three dimensions, we may obtain a broader and richer perspective on the (self)position of the politician towards the public. In other words, this analysis will touch upon not only a personal deal of the politician with the public, but also his / her place in space and time, thus, giving a ‘3D projection’ of the notion of (self)position.

In addition, corpus analysis of the deictic references, as long as their collocation patterns, is believed to shed light on the ‘hidden’ rhetoric, thus, underpinning, possible intentions in the construction of special rhetorical space by a politician. In order to fulfil this, the article uses victory speech pronounced by the Chilean president Michelle Bachelet in 2013 as a study material. Thus, all things considered, the next sections present a general theoretical overview on the notions of rhetorical space, deixis and their role in political discourse.

1. Rhetorical space

According to Beasley (2006: 5):

“one of the most important characteristics of all rhetoric is its ‘situatedness’. This characteristic is often associated with Bitzer’s (1980: 5) notion of rhetorical situation, defined as “a natural context of persons, events, objects[2], relations, and an exigence which strongly invites utterance”.

In this respect, the term rhetorical situation is applied by scholars to recognize the definition of ‘rhetorical space’, the term introduced by the feminist philosopher Lorraine Code, back in 1995. Code (1995: x) suggested that: “the very possibility of an utterance counting as ‘true-or-false’ or of a discussion ‘yielding insight’ depends on one’s location”. This claim goes back to Aristotle’s viewpoint that:

“a rhetor must modulate his speech for the old, the young, and the middle-aged, groups whose habits of mind create an exigency that must be accounted for in the invention process” (Mountford, 2001: 41).

Therefore, Code (1995: ix-x) named this phenomenon a rhetorical space defining it as:

“fictive but not fanciful or fixed locations, whose (tacit, rarely spoken) territorial imperatives structure and limit the kinds of utterances that can be voiced within them with a reasonable expectation of uptake and ‘choral support’: an expectation of being heard, understood, taken seriously”.

By stating that, Code (1995: x) moves our attention towards “textured locations where it matters who is speaking and where and why”.

In this respect, in spite of their distinct names in different disciplines, and considering the further definitions by Werth and Zarefsky, one can draw a parallel line between rhetorical space in Rhetorical Studies and discourse in Linguistics, the latter one defined as “a combination of text and its relevant context” (Werth, 1999: 47), where the context refers to “the situational context surrounding the speech event itself” (Werth, 1999: 83), and the text to both oral and written discourse. In the first case, it takes the form of transcription of speeches, which are normally used for this type of studies.

According to Zarefsky (2004: 609), a text in presidential rhetoric “refers not only to the words the president speaks but to the entirety of the presidential performance”. In other words, it’s a language event, i.e. language and the context that supports it. This relevant context, or as it is also called, common ground, expresses the same idea as ‘situatedness’ in rhetorical space. The crucial point here is that previous research in rhetorical space concentrated on how ‘situatedness’ defined, or shaped the rhetor’s (speaker’s or writer’s) actions in a certain situation.

In this respect, Werth proposes the opposite view on this issue in his study of conceptual space in discourse. First, he defines discourse as (Werth, 1999: 51):

“a deliberate and joint effort on the part of a producer and recipients to build up a ‘world’ within which the propositions advanced are coherent and make complete sense”.

Second, as it goes from the above definition, Werth’s approach to study discourse revolves around the term text world, i.e., (Werth, 1999: 51) “a deictic space, defined initially by the discourse itself, and specifically by the deictic and referential elements in it.” These elements, or deictic subset, denote personal, locative and temporal features of language encoding in the context of utterance. Thus, this frame of deictic and reference items is believed to form ‘situatedness’ in the speaker’s / writer’s rhetorical space.

1.1. Deixis and rhetorical space

Yang (2011: 128) states that deixis:

“refers to the fact that certain linguistic forms have direct pragmatic interpretation depending on parameters of the speech situation, rather than a stable semantic value. Specifically, their interpretation is contextually anchored to the identity of the speaker and addressee, their locations, and the time of the utterance.” 

Similarly, Zupnik (1994: 340) defines deixis as ‘a pragmatic phenomenon’, explaining it through “the relationship between the structure of languages and the contexts in which they are used.”

Provided that, Bühler (1990) distinguishes between three dimensions (or, according to Fillmore, 1997, sub-categories) of deixis: personal, local, and temporal.

Personal deixis refers to “the identity of the interlocutors in a communication situation” (Fillmore, 1997: 61-62). It “allows distinction among the speaker, the addressee, and everyone else” (Trask, 1999: 68) such as:

  • speaker - the sender of the message what grammarians call ‘first person’;
  • addressee – the message’s intended recipient, or ‘second person’;
  • audience – intended audience, a person who may be considered part of the conversational group but who is not a member of the speaker / addressee pair.

Local deixis, also called place or spatial deixis, stands for “the linguistic expression of the speaker’s perception of his position in three-dimensional space” (Fillmore, 1997: 27), denoting “the relationship of objects to a speaker”, or “how a speaker is situated in physical space” (Simpson, 1993: 13).

Temporal (or time) deixis, “concerns the ways in which the time of the events referred to in an utterance (reference time - mine) interacts with the time of the utterance itself (encoding time - mine)” (Simpson, 1993: 13), and the time when the message was received (decoding time – mine) (Fillmore, 1997). As such, person, time and place are the three “major grammaticalized types of deixis” (Fillmore, 1997: 17).

The realization of deixis in speech / writing deixis is done through the use of special ‘linguistic pointers’ (Werth, 1999) called ‘deictic expressions’, also classified as ‘indexical expressions’ (Adetunji, 2006), ‘shifters’ (Jakobson, 1957), or ‘textual references’ (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). One of the main points here is the fact that their referents cannot be identified without an understanding of their actual context (Zupnik, 1994). In the case of person deixis, its indexical symbols belong to the grammatical category of personal pronouns, while the most obvious local deictic terms are the adverbs of place here / there and the demonstratives this / these and that / those, which are “the purest indicators of directionality and location” (Simpson, 1993: 13). In this regard, the first words in each pair indicate proximal perspective as they express physical proximity to the speaker, while the second words take a distal perspective as they denote a certain distance from the location of the speaker. The same is applied to the deictic adverbs of time now and then. Mainly, the deictic now reflects proximal perspective meaning “at the time at which the speaker is speaking”, while its distal pair then “indicates that the events referred to took place at a time anterior to the time of speaking” (Simpson, 1993: 14).

Consequently, the resolving of deictic expressions is performed by means of ‘deictic anchorage’, the term introduced by the Norwegian psychologist Ragnar Rommetveit in 1968. It consists in the contextualization of a deictic item through the establishing of cohesive ties between this item and the context in which it is used, as Mulderrig (2012: 708) puts:

“deictic choices always entail a particular demarcation of participatory boundaries in the ‘discourse world’ created in texts; of speakers’ and hearers’ relative positions to the events described and their involvement with them”.

Furthermore, taking into account the research scope of this paper, it is worth mentioning, if only briefly, the role of deixis in political studies.

1.2. Deixis and political discourse studies

Deixis plays an important role in political discourse, where it has been studied “ranging from personal to political, from persuasive to manipulative”, taking into account “both the context of production and the speaker’s intentions” (Adetunji, 2006: 181). Interestingly, the major number of these studies is devoted to the use of person deixis by politicians, as “the ambiguous use of pronominal deixis is especially relevant in political language” (Arroyo, 2000: 4). Mainly, their focus is on the role of first-person plural deictic pronouns (Petersoo, 2007). It has been argued that they may play a powerful persuasive role “since they have the potential to encode group memberships and identifications” (Zupnik, 1994: 340) by indexing different groups as included or excluded in the pronoun we (Mulderrig, 2012). As a result, Zupnik (1994) points out the crucial role in the analysis of vague deixis using the example of one interlocutor’s responses in a televised political speech event. She argues that “based on the cohesive ties among the various utterances of the discourse, there are several potential referents of the indexicals” and “hearers may choose to include themselves as members of the class of referents” (Zupnik, 1994: 340). Thus, it may facilitate the achievement “of the main goal of political speech: to persuade listeners of the speaker’s viewpoint” (Zupnik, 1994: 340).

The problem of inclusion / exclusion of personal deictic pronouns in political discourse has been fully covered by Rees (1983) in his pronominal scale:

Figure 1. Pronominal scale for political referencing by Rees (Rees, 1983: 16).

Starting with the deictic centre I and finishing with the distant they, this scale shows “the movement from the proximal to the distal” (Adentunji, 2006: 180) in the use of pronominal references in political context. In his study of speeches by Casper Weinberger, (former United States Defense Secretary), Urban (1988) focuses on the use of the first-person plural pronoun we by defining its six different uses:

  1. the President and I we;
  2. the Department of Defense we;
  3. the Reagan Administration we;
  4. the U.S. government we;
  5. the United States we;
  6. the U.S. and the Soviet Union we.

Further on, Maitland and Wilson (1990) study the use of personal pronouns in the speeches of three different British political leaders (M. Foot, N. Kinnock and M. Thatcher) with the object of ‘self-referencing’, ‘relation of contrast’ and ‘other referencing’. Their results showed obvious similarity in the use of deictic pronominals between Kinnock and Foot (Labor Party leaders) and differences between Kinnock/Foot and Thatcher (Conservative Party leader), who is characterized to use inclusive we, putting the people, the government, and herself in the same boat (Fairclough & Fairclough, 2012).

Later on, in 1990, Wilson in his study of the United States presidential debates between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1976 analyzes the shifting status of I and we. His conclusion anchores it “on self-positioning the desire to spread the load of responsibility, and the fear of being misinterpreted, by the audience or co-debater” (Adentunji, 2006: 182).

Another similar study was conducted by Bull and Fetzer (2006: 35), where they concluded that:

“the politicians use pronominal shifts in order to deal with personal criticisms, to avoid awkward choices, and to downplay their personal role, thereby avoiding the appearance of immodesty.”

In his turn, Maalej (2013) in the study of Hosni Mubarak’s political discourse discovers the tendency to use more royal-we than inclusive we.

Similar approach was taken in the study of personal deixis in Spanish political-electoral debate between Felipe González and José María Aznar during the 1993 general elections (Arroyo, 2000). As a result, the author discovers two major personal deictic references: the presidential I and the partisan we:

“The presidential I distinguishes the speaker as the head of the ideological option that he represents and also gives him added weight as a social and political leader”

“[partisan we] in which the other members of the same political side participate with the candidate” (Arroyo, 2000: 7-8).

In his turn, Gelabert-Desnoyer’s (2008) study of Spanish Parlimentary talk discovers that “the traditionally-labeled impersonal pronoun uno ‘one’ is […] significantly not impersonal in its use”.

Interestingly, apart from the studies on personal deixis in political discourse, time and space deictic references have also been under the research scope. For example, Adetunji (2006) in his paper on Olusegun Obasanjo’s speeches, turns his attention to personal, temporal and spatial deictic anchorage. What is more, in Billig’s (2007) study the deictic references I, you, we, here, and now are defined as those creating what Billig (2007) calls ‘banal nationalism’. He argues that although these subtle (‘banal’) words do not deliver an obvious message, they serve to create a background for and ‘flag’ nationalism.

In my opinion, despite the numerous studies on deictic references and their use in political discourse, there is still some work to be done for the linguists around the world in this field. I believe the correct use of the deictic references may considerably favor the acts of delivery and perception of political discourses. Moreover, apart from the numerous studies conducted in this field in English, there is a gap in respect to Spanish, which I find a great challenge and an appealing source for research. That is why the present study might be of interest to the research community, especially, the one in Latin America and Spain.

All things considered, I now proceed with the description of this study starting with data and methodology, and followed by results discussion and implication.

2. Data and methodology

The present article takes as an object of its analysis the 2013 victory speech pronounced by Michelle Bachelet after her election as the president of the Chilean Republic in 2013. Due to the public nature of this speech, its transcript was freely downloaded from the web for the analysis. All in all, the speech consists of 1476 words.

Thus, the present study departs from a corpus analysis of deictic items and reference chains found in this speech. Among the deictic items under scrutiny, stand out personal references (e.g., nosotros (we) / Ustedes (you, plural) / ellos (they)), demonstratives and locatives, particularly, time and space anchors, like binaries este / ese (this / that), and acá / allá (here / there). These seem to play a role in reconfiguring or disambiguating rhetorical space thereby (dis)connecting the addressees with the message of political kind (Cramer, 2010). Regarding the first group of deictic items, i.e., personal references, Yang (2011: 129) distinguishes between their deictic and social roles, claiming that:

“Deictic roles are grammaticalized in many languages in what is traditionally called the category of person. Social roles are culture-specific functions, established in a society and recognized by its members, for example, the function of being a parent, a teacher or a priest”.

Having this in mind, this paper will concentrate on the analysis of deictic roles due to the single authorship of the corpus where the social role (of a president) stands as a unique stance.

Thus, by studying the selected speech, this paper intends to (i) single out and categorize the occurrence of the aforementioned deictic items in Bachelet’s 2013 victory speech; and (ii) analyse the way they are disambiguated at the textual level so as to discuss the way the president shapes her rhetorical space in the victory discourse.

To facilitate the work on the proposed aspects, as long as the quantitative analysis of the corpora, it is further suggested to resort to the methods employed in Corpus Linguistics, which has converted itself into one of the fundamental tools to thoroughly demonstrate what meanings and their political intentions arise during the course of interaction (Bolívar, 2009). Mainly, it is recommended to use WordSmith© 6.0 (Scott, 2008) software to build word lists and concordance lines (see Appendix for the concordance lines under the study). For this purpose, the selected speech will be transformed into a text file since it is the only format recognized by WordSmith© 6.0.

Thus, the wordlist and concordance options of the software are used to: (i) select the items under the study; and (ii) look for their deictic anchorage in the speech. In case it was not possible to determine this deictic anchorage from the concordance line itself, the original speech transcript was consulted using the special option of WordSmith© 6.0 tool.

At this point, it is clarified that the use of the concordance option facilitates the demonstration of “a list of all the occurrences of a particular search term in a corpus, presented within the context that they occur in” (Baker, 2006: 71). As put by Bolívar (2009: 30):

“the analysis of concordance lines permits to explore the words with their immediate context to the left and to the right. More in particular, these collocations provide information about the words which tend to appear together with the keyword under the study”.

Finally, having fulfilled this task, the deictic references are then grouped according to their antecedents in the corpus.

3. Findings

As has been claimed at the beginning of this paper, the present study departs from the concept of rhetorical space (rather than rhetoric per se) and its definition through deixis following Werth’s approach (Werth, 1999; Gavins, 2005; 2007). In this case, the study is done merely through the linguistic analysis of the deictic references, “whose meaning is not encoded intrinsically, but instead depends on the context of utterance in order to ‘anchor’ the meaning” (Mulderrig, 2012: 708). This, in its turn, is believed to play the main role in the construction of rhetorical space. In other words, this paper departs from the representative notion of political discourse, rather than from its decision-making and action counterparts, leaving, thus, aside the argumentative and reasoning facets of the analysis, and concentrating on the way political actors represent or construct the reality (Fairclough & Fairclough, 2012) in a certain context[3].

Having this in mind, the next sections present the main findings of the deictic references found in the corpus under the study.

3.1. Personal deixis

The first step of analysis focuses on personal deixis in Bachelet’s 2013 victory speech. In her study of pronominal indexing in the EU context, Cramer (2010: 621) states that “through the use of these micro-level features, speakers create and index the identities they experience in interaction”. Therefore, focusing now our attention to the study object, I selected the total of eight pronouns and possessive adjectives from the corpus as displayed in Table 1. It is evidenced from this table that the set of the second person plural is the most frequent in the corpus.

Table 1. Personal pronouns selected from M. Bachelet’s 2013 victory speech.

Pronominal form

Frequency (N=times in the corpus)

Yo (I)


Ustedes (You, plural)


Ello / ellos / ellas (It / she / they (feminine, plural)


Nosotros / nuestro(a)s (we / our)


While in the case of the first person singular, there was no problem with assigning the implied reference due to the single authorship of the speech, the rest of the pronouns are of interest for the further analysis. It is justified by the potential ambiguity of assigning participant roles to these deictic items. As rightly put by Cornish (2011: 754), “indexical expressions –context-bound ‘pointing’ devices– only manifest their true values in the context of entire texts, whether spoken or written”. Therefore, in order to reveal their real meaning, each item was tracked down its reference chain to restore the corresponding antecedent elements in the speech.

3.1.1. Personal deictics ello / ellos / ellas (it / they[4])

The deictic 3rd person pronominal reference is characterized by its exclusive character, i.e., it does not explicitly include possible audience of Bachelet’s speech, and it is directed to, or speak about, ‘third parties’ or ‘others’ (Nikitina, 2012).

The quantitative results (Table 1) demonstrate a low presence of the third person (plural and singular) pronominal forms in the corpus. In order to assess the implied antecedents of this deictic group, a close reading of the concordance strings and larger units (sentences) is done in search for their anaphoric anchorage in the corpus. As a result, it is revealed that in the case of their masculine forms, they refer to those, who did not vote (ellos (they - masculine) and to the fact of fighting for democracy (ello (it), while their feminine form (ellas (they - feminine) refers to the housewives.

3.1.2. Personal deictic Ustedes (You, plural)

The 2nd person plural pronoun Ustedes (You, plural) is the one that is highly represented in the president’s victory speech. Furthermore, the close reading of the strings and larger units (sentences) reveals its inclusive and exclusive character. In the first case it is directed to the potential audience of Bachelet’s speech, therefore, including the whole nation. On the contrary, in the second case, it is used to address only a particular audience, as indicated in Table 2 below.

Table 2. 2nd person pronouns selected from M. Bachelet’s 2013 victory speech.


Subcategory (N=times in corpus)

Example from M. Bachelet’s 2013 Victory Speech


Nation (N=8)

Estoy al servicio ustedes, compatriotas y mandantes. (I am here for you, fellow citizens and authorities)


Young Chileans (N=1)

Gracias a ustedes, especialmente gracias a los jóvenes, se han manifestado con fuerza las ansias de construir un sistema educativo público, gratuito y de calidad. (Thanks to you, especially thanks to the young, a strong desire to build a public, free education system of quality has been expressed).


Opposition (N=1)

A quienes no nos han dado hoy su voto, les digo que su rol es necesario en nuestra democracia y que impulsaremos reformas para un Chile de todos verdadero, en el que tendrán cabida todas las miradas y del que también ustedes se sientan orgullosos. (To those who have not given us their vote today, I say that your part is necessary in our democracy; and that we will promote reforms in Chile for everyone, with all points of view included, and of which you will also feel proud).


M. Bachelet’s Cabinet (N=1)

Gracias al equipo que ha trabajado conmigo en esta ardua campaña. A los que han estado en los comandos regionales y comunales, a quienes han sido voluntarios o apoderados. A quienes han hecho puerta a puerta en cada pueblo, caleta, barrio o villa.

¡Ustedes me han ayudado a llegar con nuestra propuesta a todos los hogares del país! (Thanks to the team that has worked with me in this difficult campaign. To those who have been in the regional and communal teams, as a volunteer or a representative. To those who have gone door to door in every village, cove or neighborhood. You have helped me get to our proposal to every home in the country!)

Thus, these results demonstrate a high prevalence in the president’s use of Ustedes (You, plural) referring to the public in general. This form of address was mostly used in its positive semantic prosody to thank president’s voters and supporters, as long as to give them new promises about the future of the country.

3.1.3. Personal deictic nosotros (we)

Finally, the last group of personal deictic references, the 1st plural pronominal reference nosotros (we) and its possessive forms found in the corpus, referred as ‘important rhetorical tools’ (Mulderrig, 2012) are also ambiguous in assigning their potential participant roles. The close reading of the concordance lines and larger units (sentences) has revealed two main groups, or semantic properties, of these indexicals based on the implied exclusiveness / inclusiveness of the audience. In both cases, the use of we instead of I points out the president’s self-identification as a group member (in or out) and not as a single entity (Yang, 2011). Furthermore, as put by O’Keefe, Clancy and Adolphs (2011: 47), they “are used to create a perspective of: (1) I the speaker and you the addressee(s), i.e., ‘in-group’, and (2) I the speaker and someone else”, i.e., ‘out-group’. These groups are further divided into subcategories according to their implied participant bodies as demonstrated in Table 3.

Table 3. 1st person pronouns selected from M. Bachelet’s 2013 victory speech.


Subcategory (N=times in corpus)

Example from M. Bachelet’s 2013 Victory Speech


The president and the nation (N=8)

Chile nos ha puesto una misión de largo aliento, y es más grande y más hermosa que cada uno de nosotros. (Chile has given us a long-term mission, and it is larger and greater than each of us.)


Other (N=4)

Y quiero saludar a Evelyn Matthei. Más allá de nuestras diferencias, sé que compartimos el amor por Chile y las ganas de servir a un proyecto en el que creemos. (And I want to greet Evelyn Matthei. Beyond our differences, I know we share love for Chile and the desire to work on a project which we believe in.)

Having in mind a particular interest to these forms of the deictic reference in the field of political discourse, one can observe the inclusive character of their use by the president. Here one might argue that the pronoun forms part of the process of nation-building (Cramer, 2010). This, in its turn, can be further defined as a proximization strategy of the government, characterized by the solidarity, belonging and bonding between the president and lay people.

Interestingly, similar results have been obtained by Mulderrig (2012: 703) in her research on the use of the pronoun ‘we’ in the UK education policy, where she argues that:

“the pronoun we helps shape this new relationship between governing and governed, using deixis to shape the context of policy discourse so as to include ‘the governed’ in the ‘discourse world’ of policy”.

In other words, by ‘sharing’ this ‘we’ with the public, the government makes this public a responsible part of its decisions and constructs a certain ‘inclusion’ and ‘assumed consensus’ in policy making (Mulderrig, 2012).

On the contrary, the existing research in this field reveals the strategic use of this pronoun by politicians, which consists in employing large number of pronoun ‘we’ in their speeches. However, the linguistic analysis of Obama’s Twitter discourse (Ivanova, 2013) demonstrates that personal reference we goes far beyond from including the potential audience in its scope. Rather it is referentially ambivalent, i.e., it includes the president and his cabinet / government, or it is assigned a multiple-index, when “the writer intends it to be difficult to determine the status of the pronoun” (Grundy, 2008: 274) and it can be interpreted both as an inclusive and exclusive reference.

3.2. Spatial and time deixis

According to Yang (2011: 129), “a text, whether in its written or oral realization, is closely related to the concepts of space and time”, and “every utterance token is spatio-temporary unique, being spoken or written at a particular place and at a particular time”. Thus, the second set of analyses deals with the spatial (or local) and time adverbial deictic references based on two-level ‘distance’ range with the speaker as a referent point, or ‘the centre of conceptualization’ (Yang, 2011): distal vs. proximal, where proximal pole is considered to be more close to the speaker and the distal one – closer to the addressee (Stawarska, 2008; Cornish, 2011):

Figure 2. Proximal-distal criteria for the spatial deixis classification.

In the case of spatial demonstratives, Cornish (2011: 757) convincingly argues they may “refer exclusively to one member (or one subset of members) within a given shared set of entities”.

Thus, the following set of deictic demonstratives and adverbs of place was selected from the corpus:

Table 4. Two-way levels of spatial and time demonstratives and adverbs in the M. Bachelet’s 2013 victory speech.



este (this, masculine)

ese (that, masculine)

esta (this, feminine)

esa (that, feminine)

estos (these, masculine)

esos (those, masculine)

esto (this, neutral)

acá (there)

estas (these, feminine)

allá (there)

aquí (here)


ahora (now)




The results demonstrated in Table 4 reveal a quantitative prevalence of the proximal deictic items over the distal ones, which appeal to the earlier and later images in the addressee’s working memory respectively. In doing so, from the cognitive perspective, Bachelet creates the shared mental space with her audience, “in which the speaker and the addressee are co-present at a given point in time” (Yang, 2011: 130). Yang (idem.) further claims that this cognitive dimension of time-space deictic references “is based on linguistic representation of a physical act performed by a human being in the presence of another human being”, which further favors positive associations with an action here and now, than with something happening there and then (Cramer, 2010).

In addition, further analysis aimed to disambiguate these deictic references shows their exclusively situational use in the corpus. In other words, the chosen words refer to the general vocabulary without any tendencies to be used mostly, for example, with time or patriotic lexicon. In its turn, the listeners (or readers) of Bachelet’s speech will decode the aforementioned deictic references using their general knowledge from the language, the shared episodic long-term memory (Cornish, 2011), and not the situational context per se.


The present study has demonstrated the way the concept of rhetorical space can be defined through the notion of deixis. Mainly, the linguistic analysis of the deictic references on the personal, temporal and spatial levels has shown how one may construct his / her rhetorical space, therefore, how one represents him / herself towards the public. Having applied this methodology to English before (Ivanova, 2013), I have now tested it in Spanish to secure its validity and application not only to one specific language, but to other languages as well.

Thus, the obtained results evidence a moderate presence of deictic references in the corpus, where personal pronouns Ustedes (you, plural) and nosotros (we), as long as proximal deictic references of space and time have a quantitative prevalence in the corpus. All of these references show ambiguity at the discourse level thereby requiring a close analysis of the collocational meaning and reference chains across the speech.

It is interesting to stress out the ambiguous and inclusive use of the pronoun nosotros (we) by Bachelet in her 2013 victory speech, which is “a piece of political communication intended for a wide distribution” (Mulderring, 2012: 710). In this case nosotros (we) includes the entire Chilean audience, while the previous findings from political discourse studies indicate a tendency to exclude possible audience from the circle of this pronoun by politicians (Ivanova, 2013). Similarly to this, the deictic Ustedes (you, plural) also includes public in its scope, therefore, implicating it in policy decisions (Mulderring, 2012).

Regarding these findings, it seems logical that the pronominal reference ellos /as (they, masculine and feminine) (and its forms) is found less frequently in the corpus. In terms of constructing Bachelet’s rhetorical space, it can be translated as a technique of getting closer to the audience, i.e. to shorten the distance between the executive power (the president) and the audience.

The results obtained for the spatial and time deixis demonstrate the prevalence of proximal over distal references without any specific lexical scope of use. Therefore, these findings clearly emphasize predominant choice of the inclusive and proximal dichotomy (over the exclusive and distal one) in Bachelet’s victory rhetoric. One might claim this proximization is a typical (political) phenomenon for the election victory environment where one of the main aims of the politician is to claim for the national unity and thank the supporters (Horvath, 2009). This could be a challenging hypothesis to test as a continuation of this research. However, in the scope of the present article, the dominating proximity and inclusiveness is considered as Bachelet’s discursive technique in constructing rhetorical space in her oral victory discourse. Mainly, it might lead to understanding Bachelet’s speech as a rhetorical platform constructed with proximal and inclusive personal, time and space contour in global and intercultural context as a way to involve and mention the broadest audience possible.


[1] From here and further the English translation is provided in brackets.

[2] By ‘objects’ Bitzer (1980) has in mind ‘documents’, rather than elements of a physical location.

[3] It is based on the prominent role of contextual information for discourse studies in general, and deictic references in particular (Cramer, 2010).

[4] Feminine and masculine forms.


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Concordance lines of personal deictic references

1      o común que es nuestra patria. Yo me comprometo. Me comprome

2      ria. Es porque no es fácil que yo los necesito junto a mí. A

3      os marcarnos un nuevo destino. Yo estoy al servicio de ese d

4      ore y te quiera como te quiero yo! A mi padre, que no ha dej

5      iso que creen en mí tanto como yo creo en ustedes! ¡Gracias,

1      a para nuestro país. Gracias a ustedes, especialmente gracia

2      o el que triunfa. Es la voz de ustedes, que escuchamos a lo

3      en cada acción, el mandato que ustedes me están encomendando

4      an orgullosos. Y a cada uno de ustedes, que hoy celebran est

5      las miradas y del que también ustedes se sientan orgullosos

6      ese destino. Estoy al servicio ustedes, compatriotas y manda

7      cer que esta ciudadana igual a ustedes sea hoy una President

8      r esta nación que hoy alumbran ustedes! ¡Gracias por hacer q

9      eblo, caleta, barrio o villa. ¡Ustedes me han ayudado a lleg

10     o en ustedes! ¡Gracias, porque ustedes son el rostro y el mo

11     en en mí tanto como yo creo en ustedes! ¡Gracias, porque ust

1      s y puedan abrirse camino para ellas y sus hijos. Que las mu

1      , a quienes dieron su vida por ello, a quienes han apostado

1      eron a votar. Sé que muchos de ellos tienen desconfianza y f

1      los cimientos del futuro! ¡De nosotros depende que el Chile

2      epende ponernos en marcha! ¡De nosotros depende levantar los

3      e la razón a la esperanza! ¡De nosotros depende el mañana de

4      Todos no sea más un sueño! ¡De nosotros depende darle la raz

5      ado, en el que es diferente de nosotros, en el justo adversa

6      Es tiempo de volver a creer en nosotros mismos. De volver a

7      vamos a construir juntos! ¡De nosotros depende ponernos en

8      y más hermosa que cada uno de nosotros. Es la belleza, es l

1      a Evelyn Matthei. Más allá de nuestras diferencias, sé que

1      o un horizonte y una ruta para nuestro país. Gracias a usted

2      estos meses. ¡Pudimos difundir nuestro programa, de cara a l

Concordance lines of spatial and temporal deictic references

1      . No. Nuestra tarea no termina aquí. ¡Nuestra tarea comienza

2      aquí. ¡Nuestra tarea comienza aquí! En la jornada de hoy mu

3      l camino fácil. ¡Pero si estoy aquí, si hemos llegado hasta

4      y aquí, si hemos llegado hasta aquí no ha sido porque queram

1      tes. ¡Y es un privilegio estar acá, encabezando la tarea de

1      saludar a Evelyn Matthei. Más allá de nuestras diferencias,

1      ¡Ahora es el momento! ¡Chile: ahora, por fin, es el momento

2      s, las condiciones políticas. ¡Ahora es el momento! ¡Chile:

3      justo. Esa bandera la tomamos ahora entre todos. Hoy ya nad

1      ncabezando la tarea de dirigir esta hermosa patria en un mom

2      ar a todas las personas que en esta jornada han ido a votar,

3      po que ha trabajado conmigo en esta ardua campaña. A los que

4      o de ustedes, que hoy celebran esta victoria compartida, les

5      con perfecta conciencia de que esta es una tarea que excede

6      determinación. La victoria de esta jornada no es personal:

7      acias por este privilegio, por esta cercanía, por este apoyo

8      ¡Gracias por hacerme parte de esta historia! ¡Gracias por e

9      ! ¡Cuántos sueños despiertan a esta hora! ¡Gracias por hacer

10     su presencia cercana me llena esta noche de orgullo y de am

11     stedes! ¡Gracias por hacer que esta ciudadana igual a ustede

12     cercanía, por este apoyo, por esta nación que hoy alumbran

1      amienta de la buena política. ¡Estas son las tareas que nos

2      l exterior no han podido votar estas elecciones. ¡Han dado u

1      s unos a otros. ¡Y veremos que esa es la más grande victoria

2      s fácil que nos hemos unido. Y esa unión es fundamental. Es

3      vislumbrar un Chile más justo. Esa bandera la tomamos ahora

1      rico! Sí, histórico. Porque en este tiempo Chile se ha mirad

2      s tiempo de comprometernos con este destino común que es nue

3      udar y que es tan necesaria en este camino que estamos inici

4      de esta historia! ¡Gracias por este privilegio, por esta cer

5      ilegio, por esta cercanía, por este apoyo, por esta nación q

6      n el rostro y el motor de todo este esfuerzo que hemos compa

1      d juntos. Es tiempo de cumplir ese sueño de todos. Es tiempo

2      s que nos hemos puesto! ¡Hacia ese destino queremos caminar

3      stino. Yo estoy al servicio de ese destino. Estoy al service

1      Y porque hemos construido todo esto, hoy debemos ponernos un

1      a voz de los ciudadanos que en estos años han marchado en la

2      oy, en Chile, los que queremos estos cambios, somos una ampl

3      os electos que nos ayudaron en estos meses. ¡Pudimos difundi

4      os a lo largo de todo Chile en estos meses, la que triunfa.

1      los protege. Debemos hacer que esos chilenos y chilenas vuel


Recibido: 17/IV/2015

Aceptado: 14/III/2016

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