1. The deictic center

We have already seen that many utterances are only understandable if one knows the external circumstances or rather the deictic center of the speaker of the utterance. The deictic center is the “speaker´s location [and] time” (Yule 1996, 129) during the production of the utterance.

'1) First read the following extract from Shakespeare´s Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1 and afterwards watch the appending film scene.

2)Can you define the deictic center of the speaker? Click on the right answer.

“[…] and then 'tis thought
Thou'lt show thy mercy and remorse more strange
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty […]”

a) Who is the speaker?

a judge
a Jewish merchant
a poor woman

b)Who is the addressee?

a judge
a Jewish merchant
a poor woman

c) What is the speaker´s location to the time of utterance?

a street of Venice
a church
a court of justice

d) What is the time of utterance?

during a court hearing
during a masked-ball
at one o´clock in the night

e) What does this utterance refer to?

planning of an intrigue
negotiations about a marriage
redemption of debts

Certainly you can imagine that if the speaker and the addressee change their roles, the deictic center will shift and center on the new speaker. From this center the speaker can refer to his environment in distal or in proximal terms. That is to say, that dependently on the speaker´s physical or psychological perception of distance towards objects, location and points of time, he will either denote them as this, here and now or as that, there and then (Yule 1996, 9).