The Use Of Adverbial Temporal Deixis In Fiction


Special aspects of the temporal deixis expression through the adverbial system are discusses in this article on the example of fiction “Financier” by T. Dreiser. Adverbs of time, observed in the article, are divided into relative time adverbs and irrelevant time adverbs. The adverbs of relative time group is presented in three semantic groups: the semantic group in the microfield “simultaneity”, the semantic group in the microfield “precedence in time”, the semantic group in the microfield “time sequencing”. The central opposition in terms of the deictic component of proximity - distance in this group of adverbs is expressed by now - then adverbs, as they are the most frequently used in the novel. Adverbs of irrelevant time are divided in the article into the semantic group of adverbs in the microfield “duration”; semantic group in the microfield "repeatability in time"; semantic group of adverbs characterizing the tempo. The highest frequency indexes are adverbs, always and usually , which compose the semantic group of adverbs in the microfield “repeatability in time”. A comparative analysis of adverbs expressing relative and irrelevant time performance in the T. Dreiser work showed that adverbs of the irrelevant time system in the above mentioned novel are used much less frequently than adverbs of the relative time system: in 296 sentences being selected from the novel, there are 223 adjectives expressing relative time and 73 – irrelevant time. The analysis performed allows talking about features of T. Dreiser’s style, the temporal deixis implementation peculiarities in the considered work.

Keywords: Deixistemporalmicrofieldsemanticrelativeirrelevant


Deixis as a linguistic phenomenon attracted the linguists’ attention at the beginning of the 20th century. The word “deixis” itself is of Greek origin (from the Greek “Indicate”) and means the function of indication. Even in deep antiquity, deixis as a linguistic category was already widely implemented in the use of pronouns in speech, especially demonstrative.

Most often in linguistics, “deixis” means “the indication function, which some pronouns and adverbs have, less often – grammatical time, and also - some grammatical characters and lexical units correlated with the place and time of the act of indication” (Plungyan, 2003, p. 139).

It should be noted that deixis is a multifunctional phenomenon, since from the point of view of any language functioning, deixis can be found in any of its elements (Makarova & Netunaeva, 2018).

Since deixis indicates the participants in a speech situation, time and place, therefore, the main deixis types are considered to be deixis of a person, time and place. The deixis of time is associated with “temporary points coding relative to the time of expression” (Sveshnikova, 2014). Scientists emphasize the deixis versatility, determining by the universality of the concepts that stand in the indication scope center – the person, time and place within a certain situation (Sveshnikova, 2014);

Problem Statement

The deixis issue is investigated by many modern sciences - psychology, logic, philosophy, psycholinguistics, linguistics, literary criticism. In linguistics, deixis as an indication of an action is studied in several directions. The systemic-structural direction is considered to be the most popular direction, which analyze the nature and types of deictics, reflected in the given ethnos language system, and define their manifestations systemic and regularity in a given language. Each language as a mental and ethno-cultural phenomenon of a given society is characterized by specific mechanisms for the transmission of temporal connections and relationships, namely: lexical, morphological, syntactic, contextual, etc. In this paper we are interested in lexical temporal relations and ways of expressing them in English fiction through adverbs;

Research Questions

Adverbs complex, expressing temporal deixis in the Dreiser’s (2017) novel “Financier” is the subject of this research.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to present the full range of English adverbs expressing the semantics of indicating time in the analyzed work. This goal predetermined the formulation and solution of the following tasks: 1) to consider the history of the “deixis” concept formation; 2) determine the essence and boundaries of the temporal deixis concept; 3) to describe and systematize the temporal adverbs presented in the work of Dreiser (2017) “Financier”, to analyze the frequency of their use;

Research Methods

The main research methods, used in the work, are the linguistic description method, the functional semantic and structural semantic methods, as well as the method of quantitative calculation.


Today, the question of what the deixis concept involves is one of the most pressing issues in the deixis theory. Traditionally, demonstrative pronouns occupy the central place among deictic words. Apart from pronouns, these include adverbs of place and time – two types of deixis – spatial and temporal (Mallayeva & Avakov, 2012).

Temporal deixis is a time indicator and the connection of this deixis type with the time category is obvious. Time is always requires a starting point. Deixis is a subjective expression of time, therefore, we can talk about the egocentricity of the deixis category (Dibirov & Mallaeva, 2013). However, it should be noted that some linguists doubts the deixis egocentricity, but this is typical for such deixis types where orientation is possible not only towards the speaker, but also towards the hearer (Yegizaryan, 2018).

As a rule, language methods for expressing deixis are called deictics. Temporary lexical markers are, first of all, lexemes that have a temporary meaning – adverbs of time, nouns and adjectives containing an indication of the temporary location. This also includes conjunctions and time particles, as well as verbs with a tense meaning (Murashova, 2015). In this paper, temporal adverbs and features of their use in the T. Drayzer’s novel “Financier” are considered.

The whole set of temporal adverbs (TN) can be divided into three groups, considering the attribute of the action correlation with a certain point in time (fixed moment or present moment) or with the time of another action. In accordance with this feature, the following semantic groups (SG) of adverbs are distinguished:

  • SG of adverbs in the microfield (MF) “simultaneity”

  • SG of adverbs in the microfield (MF) “precedence in time”

  • SG of adverbs in the microfield (MF) “time sequencing”.

Let us consider each of these groups in more detail.

SG of adverbs in the MF “simultaneity”

Simultaneity implies a coincidence in time of two or more actions in a broad sense. The boundaries of this semantic group are very mobile: both moments and durations (that is, processes and phenomena that develop in time) can be simultaneous; separate phases in the development of actions (beginning, middle, end) may also have synchronicity. All these characteristics, which are determined by the interweaving of simultaneity with the categories of duration, phase, limit, are reflected in the semantics of the analyzed SG adverbs.

Semems such as simultaneously, synchronously , the combination at the same time, now, today , the combination in time , consisting of the preposition in and the noun time with the time semantics, at the moment, at present , are included in this SG. They indicate the coexistence in time in the most general terms, the realization of something in the same period, which can be as long as desired and as small as desired. For example:

At that moment the door-bell rang (140).

"Have you told your mother?" "No. I'm going to do it now " (22).

If Mollenhauer and the others have your interests at heart, why aren't they helping me on change today ? (151).

SG of adverbs in the MF “precedence in time”

The essence of the events correlation in a linear chain is expressed by the “precedence – following” relationship, which components are dialectically interconnected. Any event in time may precede any other event that is a starting point (Magomedova, 2014). Adverbs expressing the precedence of a given action or state to another action or a to the specific point in time — first of all adverbs ago, the day before, yesterday, hitherto, ever . For example:

"He wanted me to give him back a check for sixty thousand that he paid me for some city loan I bought yesterday morning" (179).

The presence in the analyzed group composition of the adverbs indicating a significant distance and the initial limit in time, as well as the existence duration up to the present moment, can serve as a sample of a fine temporal meaning demarcation. For example: eternally, from time immemorial, beforetime . These adverbs indicate a very high level of remoteness in the past, reaching infinity (but having a starting point, which is the moment of this fact formation), therefore, they approach in semantics to the adverb always .

A special subgroup consists of adverbs ahead, beforehand, previously , indicating precedence in relation to the established (proper) time. For example:

The Governor, who had had instructions beforehand from sources quite superior to this committee, was very solemn about the whole procedure (361)

The semantic shades abundance is a consequence of interaction and peculiar interweaving of temporal and phase characteristics in the number of adverbs meaning. These are adverbs that cause the action course sequence in time, they indicate the precedence (with a hint of priority) of this action in relation to others, and also characterize the initial phase in the development of action in time: at first, firstly, secondly, originally , for example:

At first it seemed quite a wonderful thing to young Cowperwood the very physical face of it for he liked human presence and activity… (44).

Primarily , from certain traits of his character, one would have imagined him called to be a citizen of eminent respectability and worth (46).

SG of adverbs in the MF “time sequencing”.

The core of this semantic series form lexemes: then , afterwards , thereafter , later . For example:

It was only two weeks later that Frank took his departure from Waterman & Company, interested and yet in no way flustered by his new prospects (25).

She questioned afterwards whether she should have said this (96).

Events can be characterized by varying degrees of distance, not only in the past, but also in the future, as shown by the opposition: ‘ soon - recently’ . For example:

The Fifth and Sixth Street line, which had been but recently started, was paying six hundred dollars a day (62).

Buying and selling stocks, as he soon learned, was an art, a subtlety, almost a psychic emotion (44).

The envisaging SG are also contains the adverbs indicating that the action or condition will occur after another action or a specific point in time: tomorrow, shortly afterwards, soon, presently, next, hence , collocation for ever , consisting of the preposition for and adverb ever . For example:

Jaspers will be around here tomorrow looking for you (298).

He had hoped sincerely, when they built their houses together, that the days of worry for his father had gone forever (144).

Hers was not a soul that ever loved passionately, hence she could not suffer passionately (181).

All these means serve primarily to express the temporal course of an event in relation to the discussed situation. Directly time periods, expressed by adverbs yesterday, tomorrow, today , can be correlated with the situation of communication. These adverbs can relate to the situation of reference only for specific stylistic purposes.

A continuous sampling of time adverbs expressing relative time from the Dreiser’s (2017) novel “Financier” revealed a group of 24 words noted in 223 examples. These are adverbs such as: now (61), then (37), ever (5), in time (4), at the moment (2), yesterday (3), today (7), tomorrow (3), beforehand (3), later (9), afterwards (1), at present (2), the day before (6), hitherto (4), previously (8), at first (11), according to (3), before ( 1), hence (5), presently (2), thereafter (1), soon (21), recently (2), ago (7).

The highest rates of frequency are adverbs now and then , since they constitute the central opposition in the deictic component “proximity – distance”.

The group of adverbs expressing an irrelevant time characterizes the time of action without reference to any time reference. Adverbs of this group can be represented in the following groups:

  • SG of adverbs in the MF «proximity».

  • SG of adverbs in the MF «repeatability in time».

  • SG of adverbs characterizing the tempo.

Let us consider each of these semantic groups in more detail.

SG of adverbs in the MF «proximity».

Duration is the quantity in its temporal aspect. The concept of duration is associated with the concepts of a time interval, proximate and far events, longer or smaller periods of time. The main opposition within the analyzed semantic group is for a long time / not long , as well as always / never . Lexical item always, permanently, ever, permanently, continuously, perennially, chronically, everlastingly indicate an unlimited duration that goes to infinity. In the work under review, two adverbs of this semantic group are identified - never and always . For example:

Aileen always reminded Cowperwood of a high-stepping horse without a check-rein (66).

In fact he often soothed himself with the thought that in all these years he had never gambled for himself, but had always acted strictly for others instead (69).

SG of adverbs in the MF «repeatability in time».

In fact, time is an infinite, uninterrupted duration. Events can be carried out in time at some intervals or directly follow each other, i.e. their ratio can be characterized by discreteness and non-resolution. (Lisitsyna, 1976). This real-time feature is refracted in a language where signs of “discreteness” / “non-discreteness” underlie the opposition of the following adverb groups:

а) Adverbs, characterizing the discreteness of action in time, its irregularity: seldom , sometimes , rarely , somewhile , temporarily , occasionally . For example:

Rarely did he trouble to put in a personal appearance, and then only for the weight and effect his presence would have (72).

He rode on it occasionally when he was delayed or did not wish to trouble about a vehicle (84).

б) Adverbs that characterize the regularity, the frequency of action: usually , often , frequently , repeatedly . For example:

"Why do you come to see me so often ?" she asked him when he called the following evening (56).

The law says one to five years at the outside; but the sentences usually average from one to three years in embezzlement cases (187).

The intervals between the events can be equal and unequal, which is expressed in such characteristics as regularity and irregularity. And if something starts to repeat regularly, i.e. at regular intervals, and in its totality constitutes a certain periodicity, there appears something like rhythm, therefore, to clarify the semantic features of analyzed SG adverbs, it is necessary to refer to the category of rhythm. The simple rhythm basis is the repeatability at regular intervals, and this is regularity, periodicity (Lisitsyna, 1976).

It is easy to get an implicit connection with the category of adverb rhythms regularly, systematically, periodically , indicating repeatability through known, definite time periods. This connection is most obvious in the following dialects, marked by seme “periodicity”: annually, daily, weekly, hourly e, minutely . For example:

Instead of a clearing-house service, messengers ran daily between banks and brokerage firms … (27).

The necessity of a final conference between Butler, Mollenhauer, and Simpson was speedily reached, for this situation was hourly growing more serious (188).

The concept of rhythm is connected with the established measure. Violation of it leads to arrhythmia, which is characterized by the lack of regularity. The lexical units seldom, rarely, sometimes, occasionally , marked by semo “irregularity”, are associated with the concept of arrhythmia. For example:

She went there occasionally as a relief from other things, and because Mamie Calligan had a compatible and very understanding interest in literature (232).

Sometimes they seemed scarcely to confirm their sales or purchases they knew each other so well but they did (41).

Events can repeat in time not only regularly or irregularly, but often or rarely, i.e. with different “density”. In pairs often - always , seldom - never , the second term describes the limiting case of the situation denoted by the first member, which undoubtedly indicates their semantic proximity, but the nature of antonymic links in pairs often - always, seldom - never is different. What we call frequency is associated not only with rhythm, but also with tempo (the rate of change over time). The rhythm and tempo in their unity determine the specifics of the change over time (the passage of time in a broad sense), since this is a certain kind of quantity synthesis and quality in its dynamic deployment (Lisitsyna, 1976). Adverbs steadily, regularly , combine in their semantics quantitative and qualitative characteristics (tempo and rhythm) in their unity.

SG of adverbs characterizing the tempo

Every action is characterized not only by duration, but also by the speed of change over time. The category associated with the internal motion characteristic and determining the rapidity degree of development, change over time, is tempo. It can be high and low (compare: quickly, speedily, swiftly, instantly - slowly ). The closest connection of tempo with the category of duration is obvious: what happens quickly, usually does not last long, and what slowly - long. Adverb instantly characterizes not only the speed, but also the short duration of action.

Time adverbs sampling, expressing irrelevant time from the Dreiser’s (2017) novel “Financier” revealed a group containing 14 adverbs noted in 73 sentences. These are adverbs such as: always (14), sometimes (9), daily (2), hourly (1), rarely (7), occasionally (1), frequently (3), permanently (1), never (5), often (10), usually (11), chronically (1), regularly (2), for ever (6).

The highest rates of frequency are adverbs always and usually, the components of the SG adverbs in the MF “repeatability over time”. In the ssampling from the work there are no adverbs that characterize the tempo.


Thus, we can conclude that the central opposition, according to the deictic component “proximity / range”, is adverbs now / then . These adverbs have high rates of frequency in T. Dreiser’s novel “Financier”: the adverb now is found in 61 sentences, then – in 37 sentences.

Semantic adverb groups construct systems of relative and irrelevant time. The relative time system consists of three semantic adverbial groups with the identifying semes “precedence”, “simultaneity”, “following”. A sampling from the dictionary identified thirty-five adverbs with a temporal meaning, which were distributed among these semantic groups. A sampling of time adverbs xpressing relative time from T. Dreiser’s novel “Financier” revealed a group of 24 words marked in 223 sentences.

The system of irrelevant linguistic time includes semantic adverb groups with identifying semes “duration”, “tempo”, “repeatability in time”. The system of irrelevant time includes 34 time adverbs, selected from the dictionary. A selection of time adverbs expressing non-relative time from T. Dreiser’s novel “Financier” revealed a group comprising 14 words marked in 73 sentences. The data of the analysis allow talking about the features of the temporal deixis expression, charactering to T. Dreiser, the author of the novel “Financier”.

The study shows that adverbs most fully express temporary relationships. And although, according to many researchers, the main means of expressing temporal deixis in a language are the grammatical forms of time; without adverbs the full realization of the expressing time functions, adequate to the needs of verbal communication, would be impossible. In the lexical time system the connection of linguistic time with the concepts of measure, norm, and rhythm is reflected. Unlike grammatical time, lexical time is an open, evolving system. This once again confirms the idea of ​​a high degree of deicticity of this content word.


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28 December 2019

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, science, technology, society

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Agalarova, R., Shakhemirova, S., Tetakaeva, L., Bakhmudova, A., & Magomedova*, S. (2019). The Use Of Adverbial Temporal Deixis In Fiction. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 2053-2060). Future Academy.