Language is more abstract than you think, or, why aren’t languages more iconic?

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@article{46beb1fd21874a9d824d7d4acb879275,
title = "Language is more abstract than you think, or, why aren{\textquoteright}t languages more iconic?",
abstract = "How abstract is language? We show that abstractness pervades every corner of language, going far beyond the usual examples of freedom and justice. In light of the ubiquity of abstract words, the need to understand where abstract meanings come from becomes ever more acute. We argue that the best source of knowledge about abstract meanings may be language itself. We then consider a seemingly unrelated question: Why isn{\textquoteright}t language more iconic? Iconicity—a resemblance between the form of words and their meanings—can be immensely useful in language learning and communication. Languages could be much more iconic than they currently are. So why aren{\textquoteright}t they? We suggest that one reason is that iconicity is inimical to abstraction become iconic forms are too connected to specific contexts and sensory depictions. Form-meaning arbitrariness may allow language to better convey abstract meanings.",
keywords = "iconicity, abstractness, abstract concepts, concept, concept development",
author = "Gary Lupyan and Bodo Winter",
year = "2018",
month = jun,
day = "18",
doi = "10.1098/rstb.2017.0137",
language = "English",
journal = "Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences",
issn = "0962-8452",
publisher = "The Royal Society",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - Language is more abstract than you think, or, why aren’t languages more iconic?

AU - Lupyan, Gary

AU - Winter, Bodo

PY - 2018/6/18

Y1 - 2018/6/18

N2 - How abstract is language? We show that abstractness pervades every corner of language, going far beyond the usual examples of freedom and justice. In light of the ubiquity of abstract words, the need to understand where abstract meanings come from becomes ever more acute. We argue that the best source of knowledge about abstract meanings may be language itself. We then consider a seemingly unrelated question: Why isn’t language more iconic? Iconicity—a resemblance between the form of words and their meanings—can be immensely useful in language learning and communication. Languages could be much more iconic than they currently are. So why aren’t they? We suggest that one reason is that iconicity is inimical to abstraction become iconic forms are too connected to specific contexts and sensory depictions. Form-meaning arbitrariness may allow language to better convey abstract meanings.

AB - How abstract is language? We show that abstractness pervades every corner of language, going far beyond the usual examples of freedom and justice. In light of the ubiquity of abstract words, the need to understand where abstract meanings come from becomes ever more acute. We argue that the best source of knowledge about abstract meanings may be language itself. We then consider a seemingly unrelated question: Why isn’t language more iconic? Iconicity—a resemblance between the form of words and their meanings—can be immensely useful in language learning and communication. Languages could be much more iconic than they currently are. So why aren’t they? We suggest that one reason is that iconicity is inimical to abstraction become iconic forms are too connected to specific contexts and sensory depictions. Form-meaning arbitrariness may allow language to better convey abstract meanings.

KW - iconicity

KW - abstractness

KW - abstract concepts

KW - concept

KW - concept development

U2 - 10.1098/rstb.2017.0137

DO - 10.1098/rstb.2017.0137

M3 - Article

JO - Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences

JF - Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences

SN - 0962-8452

ER -