The Use of Deictic References in Information-Rich Environments: Tutorials at the Computer
In talk during collaborative activities around computers, where speakers have equal access to a referred-to object in terms of proximity/distance, deictic references such as here/there and this/that, can be confusing to co-participants. This study investigates the encoding of the position of the speaker in relation to the talked-about object through the use of these terms during tutorials at the computer. These interactions were video- and audio-taped, and the ongoing talk and non-verbal interactions were transcribed and analyzed using a conversation analytic as well as a multi-modal approach.
Findings show that participants’ use of these deictics seems to be based on the concept of proximity or distance of the speakers to the object to which they refer; however, the distinction between what is close and what is distant to the speaker seems to have to be established by bodily behaviors/actions of the participants rather than by the actual distance/proximity to the referred-to object. When participants were pointing at the screen with their hands, they tended to use here and this/these, which could indicate that by pointing their hands or, in some instances, by leaning their whole bodies closer to the computer screen, a visible proximity to the referent was established and then expressed through deictic references accordingly. On the other hand, when using the mouse to point with the cursor instead of the hand, the participants appeared to favor there and that/those, which may indicate that they did not perceive the cursor as an extension of their hands, but as an object on the screen, which, in turn, was seen as distant from the speaker. The findings of this study add to the existing research on changing referential practices in information-rich environments, especially environments, such as many workplaces today, where people work with technology on a daily basis.
Keywords: Deictics, Discourse Analysis, Human-Computer Interaction
Dr. Patricia Frenz-Belkin
Assistant Professor, Department of Language & Cognition, Hostos Community College, The City University of New York
research at Teachers College,Columbia University.
Dr. Elizabeth Meddeb
Assistant Professor, Foreign Languages/ESL/Humanities, York College, The City University of New York (CUNY)
Humanities at York College of the City University of New York. She also
serves as the the Coordinator of ESL at York. She teaches advanced
composition courses to non-native speakers of English, as well as courses
in linguistics and in the humanities. Her research interests include the
interaction between technology and language use. She is currently working
on a research grant that investigates how speech recognition dictation
technology shapes both spoken and written language use for non-native
speakers of English. This study is an outgrowth of her dissertation
research at Columbia University and her professional experience at IBM's TJ
Watson Research Center.