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Gabriella Vigliocco

Iconicity as a general property of language

Gabriella Vigliocco (work in collaboration with Pamela Perniss and Robin Thompson)

Current views about language are dominated by the idea of arbitrary connections between linguistic form and meaning. However, if we look beyond the more familiar Indo-European languages and also include both spoken and signed language modalities, we find that motivated, iconic form-meaning mappings are, in fact, pervasive in language. In the talk, I will first review the different types of iconic mappings that characterize languages in both modalities, including the predominantly visually iconic mappings found in signed languages. Having shown that iconic mapping are present across languages, I then present evidence from signed language that adult signers exploit iconicity in language processing (both comprehension and production)  and that iconic signs are learnt earlier during language development. While not discounting the presence and importance of arbitrariness in language, we put forward the idea that iconicity need also be recognized as a general property of language, which may serve the function of reducing the gap between linguistic form and conceptual representation to allow the language system to “hook up” to motor, perceptual, and affective experience. 

Gabriella Vigliocco, Professor of the Psychology of Language Leverhulme Research Fellow Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences

University College London, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAP, England www.psychol.ucl.ac.uk/language/index.html and

Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre University College London 49 Gordon Square London WC1 www.dcal.ucl.ac.uk

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