relative arbitrariness

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(semiotics) The concept that the relationship between the signifier and the signified (or referent) varies in its degree of arbitrariness or conventionality from being wholly arbitrary (symbolic, as in language), through being based on some resemblance (iconic, as in paintings), to being directly or causally connected (indexical, as in photographs). Although Saussure did refer to relative arbitrariness, it is a concept primarily associated with Peirce; resemblance and direct connection are incompatible with bracketing the referent.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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