The Motivated Sign.Iconicity in Language and Literature 2. Edited by Max Nänny and Olga Fischer
(Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins, 2001. ISBN 90 272 2574 5 (Eur), 1 58811 003 6 (US))
Max Nänny and Olga Fischer: Introduction. Veni, Vidi, Vici
Part I: General
Winfried Nöth: ‘Semiotic Foundations of Iconicity in Language and Literature’
John White: ‘The Semiotics of the mise en abyme.
William J. Herlofsky: ‘Good Probes: Icons, Anaphors, and the Evolution of Language’
Part II: Sounds and Beyond
Piotr Sadowski: ‘The Sound as an Echo to the Sense: The Iconicity of English gl
Ralf Norrman: ‘On Natural Motivation in Metaphors: The Case of the Cucurbits’
Earl R. Anderson: ‘Old English Poetic Texts and Their Latin Sources: Iconicity in Cædmon’s Hymn
and The Phoenix
Part III: Visual Iconicity: Writing, Typography and the Use of Images
Anne Henry: ‘Iconic Punctuation: Ellipsis Marks in a Historical Perspective’
Max Nänny: ‘Iconic Functions of Long and Short Lines’
Robbie Goh: ‘Iconicity in Advertising Signs: Motive and Method in Miming "The Body"’
Loretta Innocenti: ‘Iconoclasm and Iconicity in Seventeenth Century English Poetry’
Part IV: Iconicity in Grammatical Structures
Jac Conradie: ‘Structural Iconicity: The English S
- and OF
Olga Fischer: ‘The Position of the Adjective in (Old) English from an Iconic Perspective’
Frank Jansen and Leo Lentz: ‘Present Participles as Iconic Expressions’
Jean-Jacques Lecercle: ‘Of Markov Chains and Upholstery Buttons: "Moi, madame, vôtre chien
Part V: Iconicity in Textual Structures
Wolfgang G. Müller: ‘Iconicity and Rhetoric: A Note on the Iconic Force of Rhetorical Figures in Shakespeare’
Werner Wolf: ‘The Emergence of Experiential Iconicity and Spatial Perspective in Landscape Descriptions in English Fiction’
Christina Ljungberg: ‘Iconic Dimensions in Margaret Atwood’s Poetry and Prose’
Max Nänny and Olga Fischer
University of Zürich, University of Amsterdam
I confess that not without overcoming a deep repugnance can I accept that the relation between sound and meaning is, as Saussure and his disciples maintain, a result of an arbitrary convention. My distrust is natural: poetry is born from the old magical belief in the identity between a word and what it denotes.
(Octavio Paz, "Reading and Contemplation", 13)
This volume offers a selection of papers given at the second international and interdisciplinary symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature held in Amsterdam in 1999.1 It is a sequel to Form Miming Meaning. Iconicity in Language and Literature (Benjamins 1999), which gathered papers offered at the first conference on iconicity in Zurich (1997). The purpose of both conferences, and of the papers presented at them, was not primarily of a theoretical nature although semiotic, linguistic and literary theory also had an important role to play. The overriding aim was to present case studies of how iconicity works on all levels of language (phonetic, graphemic, syntactic, lexical, etc.), in literary texts and in all kinds of verbal discourse. In a manner of speaking, the symposia and the papers were meant to challenge what Roman Jakobson has called "Saussure’s dogma of arbitrariness" (Jakobson 1971: 357), a dogma poetically expressed by Juliet (Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.43-4) in the lines:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Veni, vidi, vici
In order to avoid repeating what we have explained in other places, let us, by way of introduction, illustrate some iconic uses of language in a nutshell by means of an example that shows most types of iconicity to perfection, namely Julius Caesar’s famous phrase veni, vidi, vici (‘I came, I saw, I conquered’). This Latin dictum has, since Roman Jakobson first had recourse to it, been a stock phrase for scholars who wished to illustrate iconic features.4 According to Jakobson, the chain of verbs in the Latin phrase "informs us about the order of Caesar’s deeds", for the temporal order of speech events mirrors "the order of narrated events in time" (Jakobson 1971: 350). When primarily considering the parallelism between the sequence of verbs and the temporal order of the events they represent, we recognise that not the individual verbal signs themselves are of an iconic (imagic) nature. It is their sequential order, their temporal relationship that is iconic: For this relationship is similar to the one that connects the historical events the verbal sequence refers to. In other words, Caesar’s dictum represents an iconic diagram. As Johansen writes: "A diagram is characterised by depicting relations analogous to those of the represented object. A map, for instance, is a diagram, because the relations between the different parts are analogous to those between the parts of the geographical area it depicts" (Johansen 1996: 98). In Nöth’s terms, Caesar’s phrase illustrates ‘exophoric’ iconicity.
Of course, the iconic features discussed here, be they imagic or diagrammatic, exophoric or endophoric, all occur in a medium, namely (written) language, whose sign system is, in semiotic terms, symbolical or conventional, that is, basically arbitrary. But as Johansen has rightly emphasised, there may be a "friendly cohabitation of iconic and symbolic features (or similarity and conventionality) within one and the same sign" (Johansen 1993: 227). And, referring to the iconic use of sounds in particular, he adds: "The iconicity of linguistic sound, which plays a minor part in language as a system, plays a leading character in literature, especially in poetry" (Johansen 1993: 227). The pervasive presence of iconic features in poetry or literature in general is made evident in many studies collected in this volume, illustrating iconicity of a visual (eg. Nänny, and to some extent White), an oral (Anderson, Norrman), or a more clearly structural kind (Ljungberg, Müller and Wolf). It is therefore not surprising to find that the great Mexican poet Octavio Paz sees iconicity as the essence of poetry whose roots he discerns in ancient magic beliefs and practices (see the epigraph above). It is interesting to note that Paz refers to ancient practices. A number of studies in this volume are also concerned with the iconic foundations of language and the evolution of iconic features into symbolic ones (e.g. Fischer and Herlofsky), and, likewise, with the preservation of iconic features (Sadowski) or the rearrangement of features to preserve a basic iconicity (Conradie).
The seventeen studies contained in this volume approach iconic aspects in language and literature from such various angles (semiotic, phonetic, graphemic, syntactic and textual) and from such different kinds of discourse (from cookery-book to poetic texts) that it is somewhat difficult to put the essays into well-defined sections. In a similar way, it is not really possible to divide up the studies according to types of iconicity, not only because most studies, based as they are on actual texts, deal with a variety of iconic types simultaneously, but also because the types themselves (as noted above) are not clear-cut and run into one another. Thus, Norrman’s study, for instance, deals both with metaphoric (i.e. diagrammatic) and phonological (i.e. imagic) iconicity showing, in fact, how even the metaphorical may be imagic, while Anderson is not only interested in syntactic but also in onomatopoetic aspects of iconicity.
Earl Anderson: "Old English Poetic Texts and Their Latin Sources: Iconism in Caedmon’s Hymn
and The Phoenix
Earl Anderson investigates a number of types of iconicity that he has found in medieval English literature, showing how pervasive iconicity was from the very beginning of literary history. He first of all notes that there are quite a lot of Middle English data where scribal substitution – which perhaps may more appropriately be called artistic substitution – has produced iconic forms. Most of these are of the onomatopoeic variety. Of a more clearly artistic nature is the use of syntactic iconicity in Caedmon's Hymn
, which is both of a chronological kind (i.e. word order mimicking temporal order), as well as of an achronological kind, where the poet manipulates the word order to provide a boundary between (human) history and (divine) eternity. The main part of his paper deals with the Old English translation of the Latin poem Carmen de ave phoenice
, by an anonymous poet, into what is known as the Phoenix
. The Latin poem is barren of any sensory experience, while its Old English counterpart is full of it, making elaborate use of all kinds of iconic devices, such as the use of high versus low vowels to contrast height or brightness and lightness as against lowness, darkness and heaviness; the use of repeated heavy consonant clusters to indicate extreme contrasts; the use of phonaesthemes (e.g. words beginning with gr-) in what he terms 'horizontal iconicity', the use of liquids and nasals on the one hand and frivatives and plosives on the other to contrast curvilinearity and softness with angular and jagged shapes.
Jack Conradie: „Structural Iconicity: The English s- and of-Genitive"
Jac Conradie's specific aim in his study on the use of the s-genitive versus the of-genitive in Present-day English is to find out in how far the particular form of the genitive reflects a natural or iconic word order. He suggests that the s-genitive mirrors S(ubject)V(erb)O(bject) word order. SVO can be seen as a structurally iconic order in that it mirrors an activity-based narrative or temporal order, which he terms the Event Model. The s-genitive can then be said to be the result of the same narrative strategy as the SVO order in that it is typically found with a human, agent-like genitive noun phrase, expressing a possessor, a causer or some other agentive subject, while the head noun following the genitive NP expresses the goal or the effect/result of an activity. This 'NP's N' order is thus in accordance with the typical SVO Event Model, showing also a beginning - (a process) - and an end. The relation of the s-genitive with the Event Model can also be seen to have been strenghtened diachronically in that the s-genitive became restricted in English to the subjective and possessive functions of the genitive after the language developed from a basic SOV language (in the Old English period) into a basic SVO language (in the late Middle English period), while the Old English objective s-genitive is now usually expressed by an, in this case, iconic of-construction, placing as it does the object of the activity behind the head noun, i.e. NP (object)'s N > N of NP(object) in accordance with the new SVO basic order.
Olga Fischer: "The position of the adjective in (Old) English from an iconic perspective."
Olga Fischer shows that the position of the adjective, when variable, may be iconically motivated in that the linear order of adjective and noun determines the meaning of thr noun phrase. When the adjective precedes the noun , it forms as it were a compound with the noun, denoting in its totality a particular category. When the adjective follows the noun, however, it indicates only a particular aspect of the noun; in the latter case the adjectice is more evrbal, whereas in the former case it is more nominal in nature. She shows how in Old English, where adjective position was still variable, postnominal adjectives are indeed more verbal in that they combine with prepositional phrases, adverbs etc. in a way that prenominal adjectives do not. In modern English phonological iconicity (i.e. stress) has taken the place of this linear iconicity, (i.e.the position of the adjective has become fixed), but it is interesting to observe that when postnominal adjectives are occasionally used in moderrn English poetry, the ‘old’ linear iconicity still plays a decisive role.
Robbie Goh: "Iconicity in Advertising Signs: Motive and Method in Miming ‘The Body’"
Robbie Goh argues against the neo-Marxist idea that the sign properties of advertisements are abstract and arbitrary (even though ideologically loaded), and suggests instead that iconic or motivated signs play a relatively more important role. Advertising signs are highly complex, however, and Goh shows how symbolic and (more rarely) indexical signs interplay with the iconic ones, together conveying different aspects of a product or message. His main point is that the iconic sign in advertising marks the 'body', the material world, in a general sense but also in a more specific sense, illustrating both by means of examples. He shows how, in a general sense, the physical shape and orientation of the advert may suggest e.g. 'upward movement', conveying socio-economic aspirations, but how the arbitrary signs at the same time may emphasize the need for a sound financial base. The advertisements tend to use more 'iconic body' (especially noticeable in the manipulation of fonts - their layout, colour, texture, etc.) and show a concomitant decreasing use of conventional, symbolic signs, when the consumer appealed to is less abstract and rational, less conventional, more age-specific, with its own particular characteristics, and that the bodily sign especially increases when the consumer is the 'youthful body'. Finally he shows how the characteristics of the 'youth body' as shown in films and videos (centring physical activity, frenzy, noise), is mimicked in similar ways in the iconicity of advertisements directed towards the youth market.
Anne C. Henry: „Iconic Punctuation: The Ellipsis Mark in a Historical Perspective"
Henry investigates the iconic value of punctuation, esp. of the ellipsis mark. She demonstrates that over the last four hundred years the variant graphic forms of ellipsis have evolved historically in direct response to changing literary and linguistic preoccupations and economic conditions. Starting off from Alderson’s emphasis that iconicity must be studied with a historical awareness, and emphasising that there have been few studies of punctuation, Henry examines how each graphic form of ellipsis marks provides information about its immediate verbal context. She also demonstrates that over time they developed a semantic system of their own. Following a chronological sequence of the history of ellipsis marks, she starts with the Medieval use of marking omissions in MSS by blank spaces and asterisks. She then investigates ellipsis in print, esp. its use to mark direct speech and to indicate pauses, and discusses the phonetic theories of Hart and Mulcaster as well as the fact that printers depended upon imported forms of type. She then discusses the first occurrence of ellipsis marks in 1588 in a translation of Terence’s Andria
where asterisks function as visualisations of spoken or syntactic omissions and a series of hyphens as intratextual stage directions. She further looks at late 17th century drama and its interchangeable, rather pragmatic use of hyphens, short rules, continuous rules or dashes, points and asterisks, the dash becoming the preferred mark of ellipsis of British printers from then on. After having turned to the 18th century novel by Fielding and Richardson, and to Sterne’s idiosyncratic use of ellipsis marks, she highlights the iconic correlation between unusual punctuation and unusual events in the Gothic novel. She then maintains that in the Victorian period the variant forms of ellipsis marks disappear from the novel and are replaced by the dash mainly for economic reasons due to mechanised typecasting. She speculates on the dash as a reflection of larger cultural and literary concerns such as the Victorian preoccupation with completion and connection newly provided by the railway and the telegraph. In addition, the increased use of third-person narratives minimised the possibilities of narrative gaps. However, modernists such as Conrad and Ford sought to destroy the controlling force of the dash replacing it by three points, which became increasingly common in the work of early 20th writers. Finally, Henry refers to the iconological aspects of ellipsis marks and pleads for a detailed and pragmatic analysis of punctuation.
William Herlofsky: "Good Probes: Icons, Anaphors, and the Evolution of Language"
Herlofsky provides a possible scenario for the gradual evolution of language from a pre-symbolic system (where mimicry and iconic expressions play a primary role) to a system which began to make more and more use of arbitrary and purely grammatical signs. What makes this attempt so interesting is the way in which he applies this possible evolution to a particular case. He shows how Chomsky’s so-called Binding Principles (which account for the way in which anaphors and referential expressions behave with respect to their antecedents within a certain linguistic domain) may have arisen out of real-world-space referential associations. In other words, he tries to explain how symbolic (i.e. arbitrary) anaphors and their linguistic behaviour arose out of iconic and indexical ‘ancestors’.
Loretta Innocenti: "Iconoclasm and Iconicity in Seventeenth Century Poetry."
Innocenti studies the conflict between "Iconoclasm and iconicity in seventeenth-century English poetry" in the larger context of the theological controversy over the use of images in which the iconoclastic position of the Reformation was opposed to the iconophile attitude of the Counter Reformation. The conflict was based on two different exegetic models, one considering the sign to be literal, and the other seeing it based on figurality, having meaning on multiple levels. Innocenti then investigates the rejection of figurality by both Milton and Donne: she shows how in Paradise Lost
allegory is seen as negative and how in "A Nocturnall upon St Lucies Day" metaphor is considered to be inadequet. Yet, "in both verbal iconicity is employed and stands out against an iconoclastic trend", which to Innocenti demonstrates that "when images are rejected and visual representation is distrusted, poetry still tries to represent immaterial objects by resorting to iconicity, namely to a conceptual or verbal one".
Jansen & Lentz: "Present Participles as Iconic Expressions"
Frank Jansen and Leo Lentz have looked at which options are available to writers of cookery books when they want to convey that two acts in the process of cooking have to be performed simultaneously. They first note that instructive texts are highly iconic in that the order of the written instructions usually strictly reflects the temporal order of the acts that have to be performed. Since simultaneity cannot be expressed in the strictly linear order of linguistic elements, there are two options available to the writer. There is the so-called lexical option, in which the reader is told explicitly that the two acts have to be done at the same time, but this has as a drawback that the second half of the instruction may come too late, it being placed after the first act. Another optioon, which they term the iconic option, is to place the simultaneous act within the expression of the first act. The best way to do this is by the use of a present participle construction, because first of all such present participles can more easily be inserted into the linguistic structure of the description of the first act than full clauses, and secondly because they are iconic in another sense: because of their defective nature (they lack full verbal morphology), they iconically reflect the status of the act, which is usually subordinate to the main instruction, which is given full-fledged morphological and syntactic status.
Jean Jacques Lecercle: "Of Markov Chains and Upholstery Buttons: ‘Moi, Madame, votre chien.’"
Starting with a French colloquial sentence that expresses an indirect threat and whose syntax mirrors strong emotions, Lecercle first attempts adequate but ultimately impossible translations of it into English. He then analyses its emotional or iconic syntax, "the construction of meaning that generates at the same time
the predicative core of the sentence and its iconic ‘distortion’". After a general discussion of some rhetorical distorters (e.g. hyperbaton, asyndeton, tmesis, synchisis), whose syntax of emotion plays with and against the syntax of information and communication, Lecercle turns to the French sentence again and investigates its syntactic structure in terms of iconic distortions: the spatial (dislocation) and temporal iconicity (rhythm) of its syntax, describing the sentence as "the site of two inverse movements", one looking forward, the other backward, the results of which is the emptying of the predicative centre the centre and accumulation at the end of the sentence; a sentence he considers to be an example of imagic emotional iconicity as the emotion is not just expressed but inscribed in the text. Then, Lecercle discusses the reflexive or (second-degree) diagrammatic iconicity of the French sentence in which the order of words exemplifies and also denotes the constitution of the linguistic sequence, its linearity. Finally, he states that the linguistic sequence as exemplified and denoted by the sentence is and is not a Markov chain because on one hand its meaning is progressively constructed along the Markov chain of increasing determination but at the same time it is only achieved with the end-focus that projects it retrospectively along the chain (Lacan’s "upholstery button").
Christina Ljungberg: "Iconic Dimensions in Margaret Atwood’s Poetry and Prose"
Looking both at the poetry and prose of Margaret Atwood, Ljungberg investigates how she uses iconicity in two poems and the novel The Robber Bride
. She shows how in "Pastoral Elegy" Atwood uses the device of the pattern poem by making the outlines of the text mirror the outlines of a butterfly to suggest the idea of metamorphosis and rebirth. In "This Is a Photgraph of Me" she demonstrates how the themes are carefully distributed over the text, the middle lines functioning as a kind of divider mirroring the surface of the lake, the second half being submerged so to speak. She also shows how the poem by its use of pronouns enacts the transformation involved in the reading process. Turning to the novel The Robber Bride
she then discovers its frame narrative containing different but temporally parallel narratives (‘box sets’) by each of the three main women-characters, the whole forming a kind of palindrome in time and space. She shows that the narrative structure has a symmetrical pattern of inversion of temporal space and how Atwood uses other forms of mirror symmetry or of the palindrome, such as reverse names and reverse language.
Wolfgang G. Müller: "Iconicity and Rhetoric: A Note on the Iconic Force of Rhetorical Figures in Shakespeare"
Starting with Caesar’s dictum veni, vidi, vici
, Müller demonstrates how its iconic force goes beyond chronological iconicity which is due to the phrase’s rhetorical form: its asyndetic syntax mirrors swiftness, its increasing assonance reflects a growing momentum which results in a sense of achieved mastery. He then discusses how rhetorical iconicity may mirror perceptions and conceptions of reality, how rhetorical figures, e.g. hyperbaton, aposiopesis, imitate emotional states but that other figures, such as syllogism and enthememe, reflect logical operations. After discussing ‘autoiconism’ and distinguishing between ‘exophoric’ and ‘endophoric’ iconicity, Müller, by mainly concentrating on examples of exophoric iconicity broadly understood (including emotions, acts of cognition, attitude, point of view and world-picture), then proceeds to analyse the iconic implications of a number of rhetorical figures. Using various plays by Shakespeare he analyses examples of ellipsis and repetition, anaphora and epistrophe, anadiplosis and climax, paronomasia, polyptoton and figures of order such as syntactic climax or gradation, the law of the growing length of the parts of the sentence, hysteron proteron, parenthesis, anacoluthon and finally chiasmus.
Max Nänny: "Iconic Functions of Long and Short Lines"
Considering the poetic line to have both an auditory and a visual function, the study restricts itself to the visual or typographic aspect: based on the scrutiny of thousands of lines primarily from the poetry by such authors as Milton, Dryden and Pope, the study analyses various forms of the iconic use of the visual length of a line. After having determined in what the length of a line consists in, the study first looks at the iconic functions of the visually long line: it may indicate length and distance; lengthy objects (snakes, weapons, hair and streams); vastness (vast strength, vast growth) and great height and tallness; swelling, spreading, stretching and width (wings); protrusion (tongue, peninsula); excess, surplus and surpassing (abundance, rhetorical excess). Then the visual shortness of a poetic line is subjected to a similar iconic analysis: it is discovered that a short line may function as an icon of smallness, contraction, slimness and narrowness, but also as an icon of loss, vacuity (the white space left by a short line becoming an emblem of blankness) and sigularity. Subsequently, the iconic contrast between long and short lines is studied: such a contrast may indicate long or short duration, while the gradual staggering of gradually longer line-lengths serves as an iconic diagram of growth and increase, the gradually shorter lines, however, mirroring gradual shrinking and decline. Finally, the iconic potential of the contrast between gradually longer and gradually shorter lines (reversal) is explored.
Ralf Norrman: "On Natural Motivation in Metaphors: The Case of the Cucurbits"
Norrmann is interested in the relation between the tenor and the vehicle in metaphors He shows by means of the plant family of the cucurbits that the metaphorical use of the cucurbits in a large range of cultures and (un)related languages, both in modern and classical times, is remarkingly similar. He shows that there is a very strong iconic relation between the tenor and the vehicle, which shows up not only in the fact that the cucurbits are used as symbols for life and death (which links up well with the form, the substance and the general nature of the cucurbits) but also in their phonological iconicity, i.e. the names for these plants are phonetically remarkably similar across (un)related languages, their common core of velarity, labiality and reduplication resembles the shape and the fast growth respectively of the cucurbits. Both these points are lavishly illustrated from the literatures of a large number of languages.
Winfried Nöth: "Semiotic Foundations of Iconicity in Language and Literature"
Winfried Nöth draws our attention to a number of facts (Peircean facts), for instance that Peirce’s theory of signs consisted of triadic classifications, not dichotomic (as often assumed) (so we have icons, symbols and indexes; and object, interpretant and representamen), and that iconicity represents a scale running from pure or genuine icons (which in fact do not exist except as abstractions) to hypoicons. A second point Nöth wants to make is that ‘form miming meaning’ does not cover all forms of iconicity because ‘form’ may also mime ‘form’. He distinguishes, therefore, between exophoric and endophoric iconicity, whereby the latter represents ‘form miming form’. We think the important word here is ‘miming’. In order for form to mime form in such a way that we notice it, the miming needs to be significant, i.e. it needs to add meaning to the repetition of the form. To our mind, any mere repetition is only very abstractly iconic (e.g. the repetition of the article ‘the’), For the iconicity present in the miming of form by another form, to be significant, meaning must also involved, some kind of link between the repetion and the ‘outside’ world, so that it could be said that when form mimes form meaningfully, it mimes meaning too, or rather the miming is seen as relevant because the repetition of the form points to a meaningful link.
Piotr Sadowski: "The Sound as an Echo to the Sense: Iconicity of English gl-Words"
Piotr Sadowski is, like Herlofsky, interested in the role played by iconicity in the evolution of language, but his concern is the lexicon rather than syntax. As a case study he takes the group of words beginning with gl
- in English, which he shows to be a coherent group consisting of closely related semantic fields. This grouping cannot be accidental and suggests some sort of iconic motivation. In order to test in how far the gl-
sounds are motivated by the meanings they convey, he considers the same sounds and the same semantic fields both diachronically and cross-linguistically. His findings are that in English the group of gl
-words has dwindled in the course of time (from Old English through to Modern English) so that their iconicity has become less pronounced. On the other hand, it is also interesting to see that foreign gl
-words on the whole assimilated to the existing iconic semantic grouping when these words were borrowed into Middle English. He also finds that these gl
-icons are to some extent language-specific. Even though they do occur in other languages of the Germanic family and in the Celtic group, they do not occur to any extent in the Romance languages. Quite likely, language-specific phonological constraints play a role here too, and these may have undermined the original iconic base.
John White: "The Semiotics of the mise en abyme
: Aspects of the Iconic Super-Sign in Heraldry, Baroque and Modern Literature"
White’s discussion of whether the mise en abyme may be seen as an example of iconicity and his analysis of the various uses of the device
starts with Paul Auster’s novel The Music of Chance
, in which occurs the scale-model of the ‘City of the World’. He analyses the limited nature of its iconic isomorphism, its synecdochic quality and its synchronicity. White then describes the chequered history of the term, which he traces back, through Morrissette and Dällenbach, to Gide’s mirror analogy and its origin in heraldry, ‘the shield within the shield’. By means of literary texts drawn from the work of Gide, Borges, Huxley and Jean Paul, he analyses examples of deferred iconicity, infinite regress or unending duplication, the similarity between embedded and embedding work, the double iconicity of exophoric and endophoric functions. In a more theoretical part White, drawing on such semioticians as Sebeok, Eco and Greenlee, discusses the Piercean context for the literary mise en abyme
, its location in the process of semiosis. He finally studies a few literary uses of the mise en abyme
, its degrees of isomorphism, i.e. of similarity and difference, its endophoric and exophoric aspects especially in Kafka’s The Trial
and in Mann’s The Magic Mountain
. By way of conclusion, he summarises the variety of functions of the device, from didactic, prophetic and cognitive to mystifying and magical. He particularly stresses the device’s circumscribed iconicity, its dependence on the interplay between similarity and dissimilarity, its endophoric and exophoric referentiality.
Werner Wolf: "The Emergence of Iconicity in Landscape Descriptions of English Fiction"
Werner Wolf deals with the iconicity of landscape descriptions, i.e. the way the verbal signs imitate the manner in which we perceive landscape in terms of thematic focus and discursive sequence. He shows that landscape descriptions before the mid-eighteenth century did not tend to imitate patterns of perception, but were instead influenced by other logical and conventional constraints. Thus, the landscape objects were usually listed from an omniscient, external and static point of view. When literature became more subjective, more ‘natural’ (creating the illusion of reality, presenting itself as ‘real’ not as fiction) in the Romantic period, landscape description began to be presented as painting, emanating from a personal and involved viewer, a character in the work itself, taking up a (dynamic) position in the fictional landscape.
Review (in Spanish) by Daniel Garcia Velasco in Atlantis 24,i (June 2002): 277-82.
Book notice by Tawny L. Holm in Language 79,ii: 437-38.
Review in the LINGUIST List: Vol-12-2854. Wed Nov 14 2001. ISSN: 1068-4875.
Subject: 12.2854, Review: Fischer & Nanny, The Motivated Sign, vol. 2:
Fischer, Olga, and Max Nänny, ed. (2001) The Motivated Sign: Iconicity in Language and Literature 2. John Benjamins Publishing Company, xiv+387pp, hardback ISBN 1-58811-003-6 (US), 90-272-2574-5 (Europe), $100.00.
Oana Jan, University of Rouen, France
This volume collects seventeen articles given at the second international and interdisciplinary symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature held in Amsterdam in 1999. It is the sequel to Form Miming Meaning: Iconicity in Language and Literature (Benjamins 1999), which gathered papers offered at the first conference on iconicity held in Zurich in 1997.
As the editors show in their 'Introduction' to The Motivated Sign, the purpose of both conferences was not primarily of a theoretical nature. Although semiotic, linguistic and literary theory had an important role to play, the symposia and the papers aimed mainly at challenging "Saussure's dogma of arbitrariness" - as Roman Jakobson put it (1960) - through case studies showing how the iconicity works on all levels of language in literary texts and in all kinds of verbal discourse.
They encourage the reader to report to the 'Introduction' to Form Miming Meaning (pp. xv-xxxiv) for an explanation of what they and the authors of the papers understand by the term "iconicity". The reader will also find there (pp. xxff.) the criteria that allow a differentiation between the man types of iconicity, especially the distinction between "imagic" and "diagrammatic" iconicity. A further differentiation is introduced by Winfried Nöth in The Motivated Sign between "exophoric" and "endophoric" iconicity, two concepts that some other contributors used in their articles.
The editors take the time to illustrate some iconic uses of language by means of an example, namely Julius Caesar's famous phrase veni, vidi, vici. They use this phrase as a pretext to review a number of theories and approaches in language iconicity theory. The conclusion of this demonstration is that iconicity has it's real place in the theory of language. They show that although the iconic features occur in a medium, namely language, whose sign system is basically arbitrary, iconicity is definitely an important feature of literature, especially poetry.
A large part of the 'Introduction' consists of the detailed presentation of the seventeen articles of the volume, grouped in five parts. Part I - General contains papers of a more theoretical or general nature by Winfried Nöth, John J. White and William J. Herlofsky.
Part II - Sounds and Beyond includes three articles by Piotr Sadowsky, Ralf Norrman and Earl R. Anderson on iconically motivated sounds and onomatopoeia. Part III - Visual iconicity and the use of images deals with iconicity on the visual, especially the graphemic level, assembling the essays of Anne C. Henry, Max Nänny, Robbie H. Goh and Loretta Innocenti. Part IV - Iconicity in grammatical structures, is especially interested in how far conventional word order may have an iconic background or be manipulated so the it becomes iconically meaningful. It contains the contributions of C. Jac Conradie, Olga Fischer, Frank Jansen and Leo Lentz and that of Jean-Jacques Lecercle.
Part V - Iconicity in textual structures, is related with Part IV in that they both deal with textual structure. In Part V the emphasis is on structure in literary texts, illustrated by Wolfgang G. Muller, Werner Wolf and Christina Ljungberg.
An encouragement for further studies into the motivated sign in language and literature closes the 'Introduction', followed by a series of notes and bibliographical references.
Part I - General
The first article of this section, Winfried Nöth's 'Semiotic foundations of iconicity in language and literature', is the only purely semiotic study of this collection. In his essay, the author begins by drawing the reader's attention on some facts in semiotic theory. He reminds us that Peirce's teory of signs is triadic and not dichotomic as often assumed, and that iconicity scales from pure or genuine icons to hypo-icons. Nöth's original contribution is the distinction he operates between 'exophoric' and 'endophoric' iconicity, the latter standing for 'form miming form'.
The second article of Part I, 'The semiotics of the mise-en-abîme' by John White, is an historical investigation on this particular literary device. He discusses, ranging through American, French and German literature, whether the mise en abîme may be seen as an example of iconicity. In his conclusion, he summarises the variety of functions of the device, from didactic, prophetic and cognitive to mystifying and magical.
In his article Good probes : Icons, anaphors and the evolution of language, William J. Herlofsky draws a possible scenario for the evolution of language from a pre-symbolic system to a system which gradually made more and more use of arbitrary grammatical signs. He uses Chomsky's theory of Binding Principles to show how anaphora and referential expressions could have arisen from real-world-space referential associations.
Part II - Sounds and beyond
Piotr Sadowsky is, in his article 'The sound as an echo to the sense :
The iconicity of English gl- words', interested in the role played by iconicity in the evolution of the English lexicon. He takes for his study the group of words beginning with -gl in English, showing that these words form a coherent group referring to closely related semantic fields both diachronically and cross-linguistically. According to Sadowski's study, this grouping suggests some iconic motivation, which seems to be language-specific.
The essay by Ralf Norrman 'On natural motivation in metaphors : The case of cucurbits' aims at showing the strong relation between the tenor and the vehicle in the case of the metaphorical use of the cucurbits in many cultures and languages, as well as the phonological iconicity of their names. The author supports both these points with examples from a great number of languages.
The last article of Part II, 'Old English poets and their Lain sources:
Iconicity in Cædmon's Hymn and The Phoenix' by Earl R. Anderson, deals with a number of types of iconicity the author has found in medieval English literature. He notes the onomatopoeic variety produced by the scribal substitution, as well as the syntactic iconicity in Cædmon's Hymn. A large part of the essay is dealing with the Old English translation of the anonymous Latin poem Carmen de ave phoenice, known as The Phoenix. Anderson demonstrates how the translation makes use of sound-symbolic devices to enrich the text of the sensory experience the Latin text is deprived of.
Part III - Visual iconicity : Typography and the use of images In her article on 'Iconic punctuation : Ellipsis marks in a historical perspective' , Anne C. Henri investigates the iconic value of the ellipsis mark. She shows that for the last four hundred years, the variant graphic forms of ellipsis have evolved in direct response to the evolution of literary and artistic preoccupations, as well as the that of economic conditions. The author pleads for a detailed and pragmatic analysis of punctuation as symptoms of the social and historical conditions that brought them into being, as well as signs of the 'art' of printing.
Max Nänny investigates another typographic aspect of the iconic use of the visual text length in his essay on the 'Iconic functions of long and short lines'. Using seventeenth- and eighteenth-century poets as Milton, Dryden and Pope, the author looks at the iconic functions of the visually long and short lines, from a metaphorical and diagrammatic point of view, separately and comparatively.
The author of Iconicity in advertising signs: Motive and method in miming 'the body'', Robbie B. H. Goh, shows how advertising uses symbolic, indexical and iconic signs related to 'the body', to the material world. He illustrates how the shape and orientation of the advertisement may suggest socio-economic aspirations, especially when it is directed towards the youth market.
Loretta Innocenti's contribution on 'Iconoclasm and iconicity in seventeenth-century English poetry' is concerned with the absence of visual images, in the context of the theological controversy over the use of images opposing the iconoclastic Reformation to the iconophile Counter Reformation. She uses poems from Milton and Donne to show how poetry tends to represent immaterial objects by having recourse to iconicity, namely to conceptual or verbal iconic forms, even when images and visual representation are rejected.
Part IV - Iconicity in grammatical structures
Jac Conradie's article on 'Structural iconicity: The English -S- and OF-genitives' aims to find out to what extent the particular form of the genitive reflects a natural or iconic word order. He suggests that the s-genitive with an agentive subject mirrors the S(ubject) V(erb)
O(bject) word order. The SVO order can be seen as a structurally iconic order mirroring an activity-based narrative or temporal order which he names the Event Model. As English has developed from a basic SOV language into a basic SVO language, the Old English object-genitive is now expressed by an iconic of-construction.
'The position of the adjective in (Old) English from an iconic perspective' by Olga Fischer addresses another syntactic issue. She shows that the position of the adjective, when variable, may be iconically motivated in that the linear order of adjective and noun determines the meaning of a noun phrase. She supports this meaning difference by contrasting Old and Modern English, where the fixed place of the adjective determined phonological iconicity.
Frank Jansen and Leo Lentz, the authors of 'Present participles as iconic expressions' deal with the more pragmatic issue of the choices left to writers of Dutch cookery books when they need to express the simultaneity of two or more actions. They show that the defective nature of the present participles makes it reflect iconically the status of a subordinated instruction.
In his article entitled 'Of Markov hains and upholstery buttons : "Moi, madame, votre chien ..."', Jean-Jacques Lecercle faces the impossible translation of "distortion" of emotional, iconic syntax. He argues that the French sentence he chose to analyse is and is not a Markov chain, for on one hand the meaning is progressively constructed along the Markov chain of increasing determination while at the same time it is only achieved with end-focus that projects it retrospectively along the chain (Lacan's "upholstery button").
Part V - Iconicity in textual structures
Wolfgang G. Müller's study on 'Iconicity and rhetoric : A note on the iconic force of rhetorical figures in Shakespeare' aims at showing how rhetorical iconicity may mirror perceptions and conceptions of reality while other imitate emotional states, and other reflect logical operations. Müller uses in his article Winfried Nöth's distinction between 'endophoric' and 'exophoric' iconicity broadly understood to analyse examples of rhetorical figures in Shakespeare's plays.
'The emergence of experiential iconicity and spatial perspective in landscape descriptions in English fiction' by Werner Wolf is a historical and broadly textual study of landscape description in English fiction. He argues that if in the eighteenth century nature was represented from an omniscient point of view, as an external and static object, during the Romantic period landscape was presented as paintings, from the perspective of a dynamic and involved viewer.
Christina Ljungberg discusses the 'Iconic dimensions in Margaret Atwood's poetry and prose' showing how the author uses different iconic techniques to suggest the idea of metamorphosis and rebirth, or the palindromic mirror symmetry to mime the culturally constructed nature of the way we perceive ourselves and the reality around us. Margaret Atwood explores the relationship between form and content to make her readers participate in the creation of meaning.
The volume collects seventeen articles on iconicity in language and literature, grouped in five parts. It presents nowadays research in language iconicity in several fields - broadly defined by the editors as theoretical, phonetical, visual, grammatical and textual.
The authors attack arbitrariness mainly on the field of literature, where the motivated sign is anchored in context - one of the characteristics of the book, announced from the very beginning by its editors, is the predominance of case studies over theoretical debate.
The single theoretical contribution is explained by the editors in their introduction to the volume. As for the definition of what is understood by the term 'iconicity', although the reader is invited to report to Form Miming Meaning (1999), the presentation the editors provide here in their 'Introduction' is clear and inspiring.
The papers collected here are very different in theme and object, their heterogeneity providing the reader with a large view on the possible uses of language iconicity theory. The same heterogeneity, which the editors confess facing when trying to group the papers into the five Parts, gives the impression of a multitude of approaches on a parcelled field, where some essays are easier accessible than others.
Although there are some papers I personally enjoyed more than others, as a whole, the book is convincingly challenging absolute arbitrariness by the high quality and interest of each essay.
The title (The Motivated Sign... 2) and the editor's 'Introduction' situate the volume as the second of a pair. The book will seem more user-friendly to readers acquainted with Form Miming Meaning (1999), since it follows the pattern set by it as to the division in five Parts, and as to the terminology and the point of view adopted by the contributors.
I found very interesting the editor's presentation of the use of language iconicity and of the situation of the study of iconicity in language and literature from a broader linguistic point of view. It provides a welcome initiation for non-specialist linguists (i.e. undergraduate students).
The summaries are extensive and they allow the reader to a have an idea of the actual content of the papers since they are extremely heterogeneous.
The notes and references are positioned after every article, which is an useful feature for all collection of disparate papers. The volume has an author index and a subject index which are common to all articles. A list of contributors is also published at the beginning of the volume, containing the authors' postal and e-mail addresses, which I found to be a researcher-friendly device. Finally, the acknowledgements published in the volume as well as the dedication of the book mention the loss of Ralf Norrman.
The Motivated Sign. Iconicity in Language and Literature 2 is a definite success for the researchers in language iconicity. It should also prove extremely useful to poetics researchers looking for the definition and properties of literariness in language.
To all other linguists and literature students and researchers it is an open window to each other's field and to motivated sign theory.
Chomsky, N. (1981) Lectures on Government and Biding, Dordrecht, Foris.
Jakobson, R. (1960) "Closing Statement : Linguistics and poetics" in Style in Language, T. Sebeok, ed., 350-377, Cambridge, Mass., M.I.T. Press.
Nänny, Max and Fisher, Olga ed. (2001) Form Miming Meaning. Iconicity in Language and Literature, Amsterdam, Benjamins.
Peirce, C. S. (1931-58) Collected Papers, vols. 1-6, eds. C. Hartshorne and P. Weiss, vols. 7-8, ed. A. W. Burks, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Univ. Press.
www.es.unizh.ch/iconicity - Olga Fischer and Max Nänny's website on language and literary iconicity
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Oana JAN is a Ph. D. student in sociolinguistics at the University of Rouen, France.