Rethinking diagrammatic iconicity from an evolutionary perspective

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This paper reexamines the notion of diagrammatic iconicity in grammar, i.e. the isomorphism of relational structure across form and meaning. After a quick survey of the various definitions of diagrammatic iconicity, some illustrations are given from coordinating constructions. It is shown that grammatical (a)symmetry in the expression of complex events corresponds to conceptual (a)symmetry. Next, diagrammatic iconicity is examined from an evolutionary viewpoint. Based on two considerations, namely, (i) that diagrammatic iconicity in grammar presupposes the bifurcation of form and meaning, and (ii) that analogical mapping between linguistic form and cognitive experience is a product of highly evolved cognitive capacity, it is claimed that diagrammatic iconicity is by no means “primitive” but a crucial species-specific trait of human language.


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