Deictification: The development of secondary deictic meanings by adjectives in the English NP

Kristin Davidse, Tine Breban, An Van Linden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we make a case for recognizing deictification as a type of grammaticalization and semantic shift in the NP analogous to auxiliarization in the VP. The specific analogy we point out is between lexical verbs that grammaticalize into secondary auxiliaries bound by the finite, as in is going to, has to + verb, and lexically full adjectives that grammaticalize into postdeterminers bound by the primary determiner, as in a different, the same + noun. We present five case studies of the development of postdeterminer meanings, based on the analysis of diachronic and synchronic data. The adjectives studied are opposite, complete, old, regular and necessary, whose postdeterminer uses relate to the basic deictic systems of space, quantity, time and modality. Our analysis of the data shows that the mechanism of secondary deictification can be given a unified characterization as the semantic shift by which a general relation expressed by the adjective is given a subjective reference point in or relative to the speech event. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-503
Number of pages28
JournalEnglish Language and Linguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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