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Notions of arbitrariness


Gasparri, Luca; Filippi, Piera; Wild, Markus; Glock, Hans Johann (2023). Notions of arbitrariness. Mind & Language, 38(4):1120-1137.

Abstract

Arbitrariness is a distinctive feature of human language, and a growing body of comparative work is investigating its presence in animal communication. But what is arbitrariness, exactly? We propose to distinguish four notions of semiotic arbitrariness: a notion of opaque association between sign forms and semiotic functions, one of sign-function mapping optionality, one of acquisition-dependent sign-function coupling, and one of lack of motivatedness. We characterize these notions, illustrate the benefits of keeping them apart, and describe two reactions to our proposal: abandoning arbitrariness-talk in favor of the newly introduced conceptual vocabulary, or feeding the distinctions back into the parent concept.

Abstract

Arbitrariness is a distinctive feature of human language, and a growing body of comparative work is investigating its presence in animal communication. But what is arbitrariness, exactly? We propose to distinguish four notions of semiotic arbitrariness: a notion of opaque association between sign forms and semiotic functions, one of sign-function mapping optionality, one of acquisition-dependent sign-function coupling, and one of lack of motivatedness. We characterize these notions, illustrate the benefits of keeping them apart, and describe two reactions to our proposal: abandoning arbitrariness-talk in favor of the newly introduced conceptual vocabulary, or feeding the distinctions back into the parent concept.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Language Science
Special Collections > Centers of Competence > Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language Evolution
Dewey Decimal Classification:490 Other languages
890 Other literatures
410 Linguistics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Language and Linguistics
Social Sciences & Humanities > Philosophy
Social Sciences & Humanities > Linguistics and Language
Language:English
Date:1 September 2023
Deposited On:15 Feb 2023 14:02
Last Modified:30 Jan 2024 02:44
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0268-1064
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/mila.12443
Official URL:https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mila.12443
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
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  • Content: Accepted Version
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  • Embargo till: 2024-10-24