Prolegomena to a general theory of iconicity considerations on language, gesture, and pictures

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Too often the word “iconicity” is used simply as a scientifically sounding term for similarity. In order to develop a real theory of iconicity, it is not enough, but perhaps a good start, to return to Peirce. In this paper, I use the reconstruction of the notion of iconicity inspired by my work in pictorial semiotics to throw some light on iconicity in language and in gesture. I suggest that there are several possible iconic relationships within the sign, and that these relations may involve properties, proper parts, or perspectives. In particular, I criticize the idea of iconicity being a question of degrees. The article looks at parallels between Lessing’s classic distinction between the resources of language and pictures and contemporary studies of “dual coding” in thinking. It also considers the segmentation of movement in different languages and gesture systems, in particular in relation to Satellite-framed and Verb-framed languages.


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