Demonstratives as spatial deictics or something more? Evidence from Common Estonian and Võro

Maria Reile, Helen Plado, Harmen Gudde, Kenny Coventry

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There is debate regarding the extent to which egocentric distance versus a more interactional approach underpin the use of spatial demonstratives across languages. This study experimentally tested the influence of object distance from a speaker and two dynamic speech-situation related parameters – position of an interlocutor, and the one who placed the object referred to – on adnominal demonstrative pronoun choice in two very close kindred languages: Estonian and Võro. These languages are spoken in the same geographical region and are closely related yet have different demonstrative systems. Our results confirmed the influence of egocentric distance on the choice of adnominal demonstrative pronouns in both languages, but the influence of two more interactional factors was found only in Võro. These results highlight the importance of egocentric distance underlying the use of demonstratives in a spatial context but also show that languages that are even closely related vary in the extent to which additional parameters affect dedmonstrative choice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-195
Number of pages29
JournalFolia Linguistica
Issue number1
Early online date18 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Deictic reference
  • Finno-Ugric languages
  • exophoric demonstratives
  • experimental method
  • two and three-term systems

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