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Construals of iconicity: Experimental approaches to form-meaning resemblances in language

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Dingemanse, M., Perlman, M., & Perniss, P. (2020). Construals of iconicity: Experimental approaches to form-meaning resemblances in language. Language and Cognition, 12(1), 1-14. doi:10.1017/langcog.2019.48.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-F74B-2
Abstract
While speculations on form–meaning resemblances in language go back millennia, the experimental study of iconicity is only about a century old. Here we take stock of experimental work on iconicity and present a double special issue with a diverse set of new contributions. We contextualise the work by introducing a typology of approaches to iconicity in language. Some approaches construe iconicity as a discrete property that is either present or absent; others treat it as involving semiotic relationships that come in kinds; and yet others see it as a gradient substance that comes in degrees. We show the benefits and limitations that come with each of these construals and stress the importance of developing accounts that can fluently switch between them. With operationalisations of iconicity that are well defined yet flexible enough to deal with differences in tasks, modalities, and levels of analysis, experimental research on iconicity is well equipped to contribute to a comprehensive science of language.