Carl Börstell, universitetslektor. Foto: Stockholms universitet
Carl Börstell. Photo by Stockholm University

Isn't it iconic? (Don't you think?) 


Carl Börstell, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics


This seminar will be held online, via Zoom (our e-meeting service). For access to the Zoom meeting, please contact Richard Kowalik in advance: richard.kowalik@ling.su.se


What do linguists mean when they say "arbitrary"? What is non-arbitrary in language, and on what level? The inclusion of signed languages to linguistic research has highlighted modality differences in how iconicity is operationalized in language. Furthermore, the diversification of language research has led to the adding of multimodality as part of the definition of what constitutes language (as opposed to marginal or peripheral phenomena), and this has in turn uncovered more examples of iconicity as a key component in the formation and acquisition of language(s). In this presentation, I will be discussing how iconicity is an integral part of language on all levels of linguistic structure, from direct depictive iconicity in form–meaning mappings of words/signs, to structures that involve more abstract, schematic analogy mappings between a range of semiotic resources (actions, objects, writing, symbols, speech, and sound) and their linguistic encoding. I will also discuss how iconicity in itself is not an objective phenomenon, but a property shaped by individual experiences and language use, and thus needs to be defined through context, subjectivity, and gradience.