Iconicity in Language

Workshop at the 41st meeting of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS), Bremen, Germany
March 06-08, 2019

It has long been a general assumption that natural languages exhibit an arbitrary pairing of form and meaning. The arbitrary mapping of form to meaning has even been formulated as a defining property for natural languages (Hockett 1960). In recent years, however, there is increasing empirical evidence that iconicity in language is more pervasive than often thought.

One of the best-known examples for iconicity in spoken language are phonaesthemes, meaningful entities that are true subparts of morphemes, i.e. gl in glow, glisten, glimmer, or onomatopoetic words and ideophones words, which evoke sensory imagery, like English splish-splash or German holterdipolter. Blasi et al. (2016) show in their study about the 100 most important vocabularies in over 4000 languages strikingly similar non-arbitrary sound-meaning relations, which cannot be explained as language contact phenomena. Another example for iconicity in spoken language involves iconic prosodic modulations (Perniss & Vigliocco 2014). Here, prosodic features such as duration and fundamental frequency are modulated to express additional meaning components such as size and speed as in looooooooong (in written or spoken language) to iconically express extreme length/size/duration/... of the item under consideration. In sign languages, there is a long tradition for the investigation of the iconic aspects of these languages. Recently, also gestures in spoken languages and their iconic contributions have been investigated more systematically under formal semantic and pragmatic aspects (Ebert & Ebert 2014, Schlenker 2016).

In our workshop, we want to deal with all these different aspects of iconicity and pursue the following questions among others: in which contexts and why do we use iconic means in communication? Which pragmatic meaning and function do they have? What are language universal and what are language specific iconic means? Which prosodic, gestural, or written means are used to express iconicity?

We look forward to contributions addressing one of the following subjects: sound symbolism, phonaesthemes, onomatopoeia, ideophones, iconicity expressed in signs and gestures, and further aspects of iconicity in spoken, signed, and written language.

Abstracts should be anonymous and at most 2 pages in length, 12pt, examples and references included. Please send your abstracts electronically in pdf-format to khnvanessa@yahoo.de, and include your name, affiliation and the title of the abstract in the body of the e-mail. The talks will be 20 minutes + 10 minutes discussion.

Organizers:   Aleksandra Ćwiek, Cornelia Ebert, and Susanne Fuchs (Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin); cwiek|ebert|fuchs(at)leibniz-zas.de

Submission deadline: August 20, 2018

Notification: September 10, 2018

Conference Website: http://www.dgfs2019.uni-bremen.de/programme/11