Diagrammatic Reasoning
  • ISSN 0929-0907
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9943
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  • Iconicity: From sign to system in human communication and language

  • Author(s): Nicolas Fay 1 , Mark Ellison 2  and Simon Garrod 3
  • View Affiliations Hide Affiliations
    1 School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley WA 6009
    2 School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University, ACT 0200
    3 Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow, 58 Hillhead Street, Glasgow G12 8QB
  • Source: Pragmatics & Cognition, Volume 22, Issue 2, Jan 2014, p. 244 - 263
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/pc.22.2.05fay


This paper explores the role of iconicity in spoken language and other human communication systems. First, we concentrate on graphical and gestural communication and show how semantically motivated iconic signs play an important role in creating such communication systems from scratch. We then consider how iconic signs tend to become simplified and symbolic as the communication system matures and argue that this process is driven by repeated interactive use of the signs. We then consider evidence for iconicity at the level of the system in graphical communication and finally draw comparisons between iconicity in graphical and gestural communication systems and in spoken language.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): communication; icons; language; language origin; signs; symbols
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