Arbitrariness, Iconicity, and Systematicity in Language

Trends in Cognitive Sciences 19 (10):603-615 (2015)

Abstract

The notion that the form of a word bears an arbitrary relation to its meaning accounts only partly for the attested relations between form and meaning in the languages of the world. Recent research suggests a more textured view of vocabulary structure, in which arbitrariness is complemented by iconicity (aspects of form resemble aspects of meaning) and systematicity (statistical regularities in forms predict function). Experimental evidence suggests these form-to-meaning correspondences serve different functions in language processing, development, and communication: systematicity facilitates category learning by means of phonological cues, iconicity facilitates word learning and communication by means of perceptuomotor analogies, and arbitrariness facilitates meaning individuation through distinctive forms. Processes of cultural evolution help to explain how these competing motivations shape vocabulary structure.

Download options

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,855

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Analytics

Added to PP
2015-10-25

Downloads
101 (#118,998)

6 months
1 (#386,031)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Similar books and articles

On Begging the Systematicity Question.Wayne A. Davis - 2005 - Journal of Philosophical Research 30:399-404.