One of our esteemed colleagues has attended numerous semantics conferences around the world, from the sad streets of Paris to gloomy Rome and even lonely Manhattan. A recent conference at the University of California, San Francisco on spatial representation, however, has left a particularly significant impact on his idiolect. Ever since returning, he has been uttering sentences like these below:
I am holding that cup three thousand miles away from San Francisco in my hand.
(referring to a cup presently in his hand)
Could you please hand me that cup a five hour flight from the city by the Bay?
(referring to a cup on the other side of the room)
Look at this cup right here!
(when prompted by a picture of a cup on a table in Haight-Ashbury)
Go away from the little cable cars and morning fog to me!
(when prompted to say ‘Come here’)
When questioned about this new deictic development, the professor seemed completely oblivious. In fact, his opinion of the city, which now anchors his entire demonstrative repertoire, is decidedly ambiguous. We can thus safely conclude that his heart remains firmly in his chest in Massachusetts. It is just his origo, or deictic center, which has mysteriously become physically dislodged from his language organ and now rests somewhere on the shores of the San Francisco peninsula, near the Golden Gate Bridge. Since the effects are not salient and only a minor linguistic inconvenience, the professor insists that he will wait until the next year’s conference to hunt it down and return his abstract representation of the world around him back to normal.
Update: Reportedly, two Berkeley professors on a holiday spotted the rogue origo and are now keeping it on ice in a secure location in their phonetics lab.
Chomsky, Noam. 1966. Topics in That Theory of Generative Grammar, Way Over There on the Opposite Coast. Walter de Gruyter.
Bielmeier, Roland & Felix Haller. 2007. Linguistics of the Himalayas (Which are on the Other Side of the Earth from the Bay Area) and Beyond (An Area That Includes Parts Closer, but Also Some Equally Far Away).
Sweetser, Eve. 1990. From Etymology to Pragmatics, Neither of Which Are Anywhere Near San Francisco. Cambridge University Press.