Imagic iconicity in the Chinese language

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The nature of arbitrariness and iconicity has been a heated topic of debate among Chinese linguists and semioticians in the past twenty years. Due to the fact that modern Chinese linguistic scholarship has been strongly influenced by Saussure&#8217;s <i>Course in General Linguistics</i>, the dominant view in China was once marked by arbitrariness. With the development of cognitive linguistics, the scale has now tilted toward iconicity. Most of the papers in favour of arbitrariness have focused on Saussure&#8217;s view of the sign as the dualistic relation between &#8220;signifier&#8221; and &#8220;signified&#8221;, and almost remained the same in content in their argument. The present paper will deal with iconicity studies in the Chinese language in China as more and more articles have been emerging in this field and helped deepen our understanding of the ontology and phylogeny of the Chinese language. It will offer a brief review of concepts and views held by Chinese philosophers and etymologists, past and present, in order to elucidate the background to the debate.


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