Willy Van Langendonck

in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199738632
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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Iconicity can be contrasted with “arbitrariness.” What we now call “iconicity” was until fairly recently restricted to mainly onomatopoeia. Accepting double articulation as an unchallengeable universal, John Haiman argues that there is no constant correlation between submorphemic sounds and meanings. This article argues with Haiman in maintaining that iconicity is not to be found primarily in the lexicon, at least not in the inventory of its roots, which are arbitrary for the most part. Rather, it should be looked for in the system of grammatical rules for combining these roots to express complex concepts. Thus, Haiman's concern—and this article's—is with the grammars of languages. This article discusses iconicity and linguistics, icons as signs, three kinds of icons (imagic icon, metaphor, diagram), diagrammatic iconicity (isomorphism and motivation, and iconicity and markedness (semantic markedness and the prototypical speaker). It also explores some instances of iconicity and especially of diagrammatic iconicity in the various components of grammar: phonology, morphology, and syntax.

Keywords: iconicity; syntax; morphology; phonology; arbitrariness; grammars; languages; linguistics; signs; icons

Article.  11066 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics

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