Read this paragraph from this site enter image description here

My question is:

How to identify "deictic center" for distinguishing "come" & "go"?

Let say I am at home & I say "I am going to the zoo this evening", so the "deictic center" in this case is my home & I move away my "deictic center".

But let say my friend Tom & I currently at my home & Tom said "Are you Coming to the zoo to see the lion?" & I said "Ok, I am coming to the zoo this evening". So, the "deictic center" in this case is "the zoo" & we move towards the "deictic center" (ie the zoo).

It feels like it is very arbitrary.

Note: See this link, it said the selection of "deictic center" could be due to sympathy & politeness.

  • It's not the location being spoken of?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 4:32
  • 6
    It is arbitrary. A speaker has the 'right' to choose the deictic center, just like an artist has the right to choose the perspective for his painting. There is freedom of expression in both. Instead of worrying about this so much, practice English with native speakers (99% of whom have never heard the word deictic) and pick up on how they say things. You will learn patterns and nuances. Do you want to learn how native speakers actually speak, or worry yourself to death over something native speakers don't give a second thought about? Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 6:11
  • 2
    Two more things to consider: 1. the deictic centre may be based on where it will be in the future. If your friend will move to the zoo in the future, he may be taking his future location as the deictic centre with respect to moving towards the zoo, even though he's not there now. 2. The deictic centre can move based on conversational echo: if he takes the zoo as the deictic centre and asks you a question about it, and you repeat most of the words from his question in your answer, you may be more inclined to also echo the deictic centre that he used. It's complicated... Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 6:36
  • there is some interesting thing here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deixis#Place
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 9:38
  • 1
    @AlanCarmack That is a perfectly adequate answer to the question; you should post it as such. (As a side note, getting deictic centres right in foreign languages is one of the hardest things. For a speaker of a Germanic language with their ‘mobile’ deictic centres, for example, it is exceedingly difficult to get used to the fact that in languages like Mandarin, the deictic centre is always the speaker, never the listener or anywhere else.) Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


When you want an answer to a question, don't look randomly on the internet and expect enlightenment. Especially not for a question on language.

This random extract tries to stuff way too many possibilities into one paragraph. One gets the impression that the author is compressing a complicated phenomenon and scanting on details, which is in fact correct.

If you really want to know what deixis is about, go to the source. Fillmore's 1971 Santa Cruz Deixis Lectures are the basic documents of and the clearest statement of the study of deixis in English.

In particular, Lecture 5, "Coming and Going" deals with precisely this problem, in detail. And with many more, and much better-chosen, examples to make clear what's going on.

  • Do you have a simple link for beginners like me? The link you provided got too many words.
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 16:40
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    The question you provided has too big an answer. You see what happens when you try to put too much information into too few words. Beginners like you need to stop being beginners and actually learn something. Or quit wondering. This is not a site for beginners. Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 16:43
  • I just need a few key points. For example, You & your friend are currently at your friend's home. AT the end of conversation, you said "I am going home now". If you said like that, it meant You & your friend both knew that you wanted to leave. Maybe, both just care about leaving & moving to anywhere is not important.
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 16:48
  • However, if you said "I am coming to the party tonight". That meant the location of "where you want to go to" is important. This could be that you think the party is important & your saying is focusing on arriving at the party.
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 16:52

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