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A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
Pragmatics: Deixis & Conversational Implicature
in the Saudi Dialect
By: Mohammad Al-Dajani
A PhD Proposal
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures in the Saudi Dialect
A general introduction:
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures were studied thoroughly during the past ±
50 years. These studies were conducted in languages other than Arabic. Therefore, this
research aims to shed light upon the importance of the two concepts in pragmatics and
semantic in general and in the Arabic language in particular (the Saudi dialect).
The review of literature indicates that there aren’t many studies that tackled the
terms deixis and conversational implicatures in the Saudi dialect. When it comes to
deixis for instance, the importance comes from the fact that this dialect (the Saudi
Dialect) has more than one word to refer to the distal demonstrative (that) and more than
one word that refers to the proximal demonstrative (this). The Saudi dialect uses (hathak,
thaka (ð) which are equivalents to (that in English), and uses (hatha, tha (ð) which are
equivalents to (this). Implicatures, on the other hand, is a very rich area whether in the
English language or in the Arabic language. Despite the fact that Grice proposed his
maxims and applied them on the English language, his maxims could be applicable in
the Arabic language (the Saudi dialect).
In a hope to add something to pragmatics and to explore the Saudi dialect basing on the
Gricean maxims and other research on pragmatics (deixis and conversational
implicature) the researcher is going to search for the following objectives and to find
answers to the questions.
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
Objectives of the study:
The researcher intends to investigate if we:
i. can apply Grice’s maxims on the Saudi dialect?
ii. can explore the nature of the linguistic pragmatics underlying the Saudi
conversational contexts.
i. Do Saudi speakers observe or flout the Gricean maxims during their conversations?
ii. Are the Saudi deictic terms similar or different from the English’s?
iii. Do Saudi speakers rely on the implicit or explicit meaning during the communicative
(It should be noted that further questions and objectives that might arise during the
study, are to be taken into account.)
The importance of the study:
This study derives its importance from the need to investigate the deictic terms
and the conversational implicatures in the Saudi contexts.
Review of literature:
The term deixis is taken from a Greek word that means pointing. According to
Stephen C. L (1983), the importance of deictic information to interpret the
communicative acts is best illustrated by what goes on when such information is missing
(Fillmore, 1975). Stephen gave the following good example to illustrate this. He
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
inquired if a note that says: “I’ll be back in an hour” is posted on someone’s office door,
how can we interpret when this person will return or when it was written. The fact that
deixis is very important to understand what is going on is obvious in such cases. Deixis,
according to Stephen C. L. (1983), occurs within the domain of pragmatics because it
has something to do with the language structure and the context they are used in. The
term deixis has an equivalent term used by philosophers; viz. “indexical expressions”.
Stephen C. L. (1983) stated that deixis categories are: person deixis; place deixis; time
deixis; discourse deixis and social deixis.
For example:
 Do not worry; your father is tracking them.
The deictic term ‘them’ causes a communicative failure if there is no context. We need
a context to know what is meant by ‘them’ are they human or nonhuman entities. It is
important for the participants to identify the identity of ‘them’ to receive the message
properly. Another example to show the importance of the deictic terms is:
 a- The students go to the university every morning.
 b- They go to the university every morning.
Sentence ‘a’ is obvious and one can understand the meaning perfectly, but sentence
‘b’ won’t be clear alone unless we have a context to identify who “they” are. The
problem is not the pronoun (they). Other deictic terms such as (he, she, it) are of the
same importance. Consider the following example:
 He can use it in studying.
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
The pronoun “he” can refer to whatever singular masculine noun precedes it. It
would be impossible to interpret this sentence unless we have a context to know to
whom the pronoun ‘he’ refers. This is also the same with the pronoun ‘it’ which might
refer to whatever inanimate entity that might precedes it. Another remarkable example in
Arabic is:
 When went to Yemen, found some Jew tribes there.
(Endama Thahaba Ela Al-Yemen, Wajada Ba’adul Qaba’il Hunaka).
It seems that this sentence is attractive. The doer in this sentence is implied, which is
either ‘he or the person’s name’ and this contrasts some languages such as English,
where the doer is obvious. The above sentence is equivalent to:
 When he went to Yemen, he found some Jew tribes there.
Arabic (and some other languages such as Spanish & Italy) allows such cases where the
subject is implicit rather than explicit.
The pronoun ‘we’ is a first person plural pronoun. Stephen C. L (1983) argued that
this pronoun might be used to represent a singular agent in some languages as well (e.g.
Arabic). For instance, it might represent a high position person who addresses a lower
status person or people, or it might be used by a president in a public speech. For
 We decided that the tax percentage should be reduced to 3% in this state.
Despite the fact that the president is a one person, he might use the pronoun ‘we’ to
represent himself as in the above mentioned example and this goes with the social
deictic terms and honorifics terms used in some social contexts.
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
Sometimes, the pronoun ‘it’ is used as a ‘dummy’ pronoun, i.e. doesn’t refer to
any preceding agent in the sentence. In this case, it is syntactically required. For
 It is important to read this chapter to understand the term deixis.
In this sentence, the pronoun ‘it’ doesn’t refer to any preceding agent, but rather, it is
syntactically required to occupy its location, and this is “what is meant by ‘a dummy
The demonstrative “there” is, sometimes, used to express distal dimensions like
for example “give me the book over there”, but sometimes, it is used to express a
proximal dimension according to the addressee and not to the speaker. Imagine that
someone phones a friend abroad and asks:
 How are things there?
The speaker asks about a proximal dimension according to the addressee and not
according to the speaker him/herself and we should consider the importance of CT, RT,
location of both the speaker, addressee, and sometimes the audience (bystanders) in
addition to some other things.
The demonstrative ‘this’ is used as a proximal deictic term. According to Stephen C.
L. (1983) “‘this’ can refer to the object in a pragmatically given area close to the
speaker’s location at CT.” Consider the following example:
 Please, take this and this, but don’t take this.
Unless we see the speaker and know what s/he points at or means by the term ‘this’, our
interpretation might fail, and there will be a loss in the communication.
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
As for conversational implicatures, it is vital to know the purpose of it and its
importance to explain the concept “what is meant is more than what is said”.
Conversational implicatures is considered one of the most important areas in pragmatics.
It contributes at providing some explicit accounts of the embedded meaning. It is
important to keep in mind that what is said sometimes differs from what is implied.
Consider the following example:
A: Can you tell me the time?
B: Well, your father has travelled to his job.
Semantics alone will not be enough to explain this exchange and, sometimes,
communication would be impossible without a pragmatic interference. There is no
semantic theory that can provide more than little account of what is said during the act
of communication. Speaker “A” above asks for the time and the question was very direct
and clear that s/he wants to know the exact time of the moment of the utterance, but
speaker “B” gives an ‘indirect answer’ through which speaker A has to infer the time
which is not stated directly.
Explicit account means that the explicit explanations move from the semantic
meaning “what is said” to the pragmatic meaning “more than what is actually said”.
Speaker A above wants an answer from speaker B such as (yes, I can and then tell the
time or no, I can’t). The question that jumps to mind is (what is the relationship between
B’s answer and A’s question?). There must be a relationship between the answer and the
question above and this relation is explained only within the applications of pragmatics.
How do we know that B’s utterance is an answer to A’s question? Semantically, B’s
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
answer simply means: “there is a person who is a ‘father’ and this person is already
travelled to his job”. Does B’s contribution answers A’s question? The answer is no it
does not. The question “Can you tell me the time?” is a question about the ability and
the answer “yes, I can or no, I cannot” satisfies the question semantically. It is important
to note three things (types of sentences); interrogative sentences (questions), imperative
sentences (orders), and affirmative sentences (to state something) and this is when
having questions or requests or statements. If someone answers the question above with
“Yes, I can”, then we interpret this as a question (semantic meaning) and not a request
(pragmatic meaning). If, for example, someone says “he is always late” to merely give a
piece of information about someone else, then this is a semantic meaning because he is
just giving information, but the case differs if this person is complaining about the
person who is always late (pragmatics) despite that this sentence is an affirmative one in
both cases. The normal functions of sentences are interrogative (questioning),
affirmative (stating) or imperative (ordering) as mentioned above and if any of them
changes to another function, such as the above case of complaining, then it moves from
semantic to pragmatic meaning.
Literally, B’s contribution above does not answer A’s question, but there is a
certain relationship between the question and the answer indirectly in a systematic way
“no, I do not know the exact time of this moment, but I could provide some information
from which you might be able to infer the exact time currently namely “your father has
travelled to his job”. This sentence is not stated in B’s answer, but rather it is
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
understood. This proves that without pragmatic meaning, people would not be able to
communicate with each other.
The conjunction particle “and” sometimes might have more than one meaning. It
could be ‘a linking word’ to link two equal sentences or ‘and then’ which implies a
pragmatic meaning. Consider the following examples:
1- The police officer captured the thief and kept him in prison.
2- Riyadh is a big city and Dammam is a big city.
3- The police officer kept the thief in prison and captured him.
4- Dammam is a big city and Riyadh is a big city.
The word ‘and’ in sentence (1) means “and then” and it is obvious that there is a certain
kind of order in the sentence, i.e. “the officer captured the thief first, and then kept him
in prison” (pragmatic meaning) and it will be odd if we change (reverse) the order of the
sentence like what happens in sentence (3) for instance. The gap between (1) & (3) is
greater than the gap between (2) & (4); we can change the order in (2) & (4) and the
sentences will still obtain the same content (semantic meaning).
Metaphors and tautologies cannot be explained semantically. Consider the following
5- War is war.
6- Business is business.
Semantically, sentence (5) means war equals war, and sentence (6) means business
equals business, but there are implied meanings and those two sentences do not really
mean the literal meaning. War is war means that there will be casualties, devastations,
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
money and lives loss, etc. On the other hand, the repetition in (6) means there are rules
of business which should be followed, gain and loss, benefits, problems, strict laws etc.
Design of the study:
The study will include the following items (among other things):
Table of contents
Objectives & questions
General introduction
Chapter 1: review of literature.
Chapter 2: deixis in English
Chapter 3: conversational implicature in English
Chapter 4: an overview of the nature of the Saudi dialect regarding deixis and
conversational implicature.
10) Chapter
5: participants and data collected
11) Chapter
6: analysis and discussion, results, conclusion and limitation.
12) References.
A PhD Proposal
Deixis and Conversational Implicatures
Al-Dajani, Mohammad A.
References of the proposal:
Kent Bach (2006). The top 10 misconceptions about implicature, Kent Bach Home Page :
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~kbach/, Ten more misconceptions about Implicature (handout)
P. H. Mathews (2007). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics. Second Edition.
Stephen C. L. (1983). PRAGMATICS.