Deixis and the Linguistic Anthropology of Cinema

  • Constantine V. Nakassis


As a contribution to what I call a linguistic anthropology of cinema, this article explores the question of deixis in linguistic and cinematic semiosis, detailing some of the semiotic functions and processes common to both. In particular, I focus on what Michael Silverstein has discussed as metapragmatic calibration types and the ways they intersect and play off of each other in South Indian fictional film. Drawing on an analysis of the poetics of a particular scene in the 1997 commercial Tamil film, Arunachalam, the narration of its uptake by one of the film’s actresses, and my own ethnographic work on the Tamil cinema, I show how the multiple, simultaneous calibrations of deixis in the scene work to performative effect. While film semiotics has long taken linguistic models to think about filmic form (viz. “film languageâ€), this analysis suggests the way in which an ethnographic analysis of cinematic discourse, on and off the screen, contributes to a more encompassing linguistic anthropological analysis of linguistic and cinematic semiosis. 

Still from Arunachalam (1997)
Nov 30, 2020
How to Cite
NAKASSIS, Constantine V.. Deixis and the Linguistic Anthropology of Cinema. Semiotic Review, [S.l.], v. 9, nov. 2020. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 july 2024.