Semblance and Signification
Semblance and Signification

Iconicity in Language and Literature 10.   

Edited by Pascal Michelucci,  Olga Fischer and Christina Ljungberg

Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2011.

Table of contents
Preface and acknowledgements ix
Pascal Michelucci

Part I. Word forms, word formation, and meaning

Toward a phonosemantic definition of iconic words

Kimi Akita

Most studies have tried to define inherently iconic words (mimetics, ideophones) in terms of their formal features but phonosemantic peculiarity, assumed without empirical consideration, is not evidently distinct from regular sound symbolism. Two experiments were conducted to probe the phonosemantic specificity of iconic words. Experiment 1 asked twenty native Japanese speakers to rate 140 novel words, half of which had a shape typical of Japanese iconic words: no systematic difference in consonantal or vocalic symbolism between the two types of stimuli was obtained. Experiment 2 asked twenty native Japanese speakers to judge the consonantal magnitude symbolism of 120 verbs with or without a typical iconic word shape presented in a referentially specific sentence. Verbs sharing a root or a morphophonological shape with an existent iconic word tended to yield sharper magnitude contrasts. Iconic words appear to have marked phonosemantic status, which is grounded on both their formal and referential markedness.

Iconic thinking and the contact-induced transfer of linguistic material: The case of Japanese, signed Japanese, and Japan sign language
William J. Herlofsky

Stated very simply iconic thinking is the ability to recognize similarities in different phenomena. This way of thinking can often lead to imitation and borrowing when languages come into contact, two important methods that languages have available to them for forming new words and enriching their lexicons. These methods, along with many others, are available to all languages, including sign languages. The present analysis describes how lexical borrowing and word-formation processes in Japan Sign Language (JSL) interact to expand JSL's lexicon and grammar. The first portion of the analysis illustrates how the structures of words in spoken Japanese can be borrowed into JSL (and an interlanguage, Signed Japanese [SJ]) and then how this can influence the development and use of manual affixes for the transfer of meaning and syntactic relations.

Ezra Pound among the Mawu: Ideophones and iconicity in Siwu
Mark Dingemanse

The Mawu people of eastern Ghana make common use of ideophones: marked words that depict sensory imagery. Ideophones have been described as "poetry in ordinary language". yet the shadow of Levy-Bruhl, who assigned such words to the realm of primitivity, has loomed large over linguistics and literary theory alike. The poet Ezra Pound is a case in point: while his fascination with Chinese characters spawned the ideogrammic method, the mimicry and gestures of the "primitive languages in Africa" were never more than a mere curiosity to him. This paper imagines Pound transposed into the linguaculture of the Mawu. What would have struck him about their ways of 'charging language'  with imagery? I juxtapose Pound's views of the poetic image with an analysis of how different layers of iconicity in ideophones combine to depict sensory imagery. This exercise illuminates aspects of what one might call 'the ideophonic method'.

Cognitive iconic grounding of reduplication in language

Olga Fischer

My aim in this paper will be to find out in how far opaque reduplications could also be said to be (or to have been) motivated (i.e. forming iconic signs), with the further aim of exploring the possibility of a common source for all reduplicated forms. I will show by referring to the way repetition is used in signed languages, by looking at the various functions the prefix ge- has in Germanic languages, which resembles reduplication in terms of its semantics, and by taking common pathways of semantic change into consideration, that such a common source may be said to exist.

Imagic iconicity in the Chinese language

Zhuanglin Hu

The nature of arbitrariness and iconicity has been a heated topic of debate among Chinese linguists and semioticians in the past twenty years. Due to the fact that modern Chinese linguistic scholarship has been strongly influenced by Saussure's Course in General Linguistics, the dominant view in China was once marked by arbitrariness. With the development of cognitive linguistics, the scale has now tilted toward iconicity. Most of the papers in favour of arbitrariness focused on Saussure's view of the sign as the dualistic relation between "signifier" and "signified" and almost remained the same in content in their argument. The present paper will deal with iconicity studies in the Chinese language in China as more and more articles have been emerging in this field and helped deepen our understanding of the ontology and phylogeny of the Chinese language. It will offer a brief review of concepts and views held by Chinese philosophers and etymologists, past and present, in order to elucidate the background to the debate.

Words in the mirror: Analysing the sensorimotor interface between phonetics and semantics in Italian

Luca Nobile

This paper proposes a theoretical, methodological and descriptive framework for combining a gestural-mimetic theory of the sign with the principle of arbitrariness. First, it draws attention to the history of the question, discusses its theoretical core and presents a method to analyse the relationship between the differential system of phono-articulatory signifiers and the differential system of logical-semantic signifieds. Next, this method is tested on the Italian grammatical monosyllables, focusing on a complete description of the words formed from one phoneme ('monophonemes'), of the words distinguishing grammatical persons and of the adverbial pairs. The main result is that phono-articulatory oppositions (such as [open : closed] and [front : back]) can be systematically described as images of logical-semantic oppositions (such as {complex : simple} and {positive : negative}, respectively). In section 3, a number of conclusions are drawn, particularly about the difference between linguistic 'values' and 'psychological concepts'.

Part II. General theoretical approaches

Un melange genevois: Tacit notions of iconicity in Ferdinand de Saussure's Writings in General Linguistics

Jui-Pi Chien

This paper explores some notions of iconicity in the newly published Writings in General Linguistics by Saussure. It begins by revisiting the imputed opposition between symbol and sign, and then proposes some contexts which serve to discover iconic traits in Saussure's theory. In order to relate Saussure's ideas to the attempts at defining the iconic sign, the author draws on the controversy over 'cognitive type' -  whether we should rely on concrete objects in reality or some established laws and principles in interpreting images. Moreover, some conceptual tools like la langue, seme and some are discussed within the broadened schemes of signs which Saussure proposed in his manuscripts. Finally, the paper concludes with an analysis of 'the symbolic logic' and 'analogical reasoning', which not only dissolves the opposition between symbol and sign, but also recognizes rules or principles as keys to our perception of similarities between systems of signs.

How to put art and brain together
Mark Changizi

Books on the psychology of art tend to identify known principles of cognitive or brain size, and then show instances of art exemplifying the principle. This approach suffers from two deep problems, the first which is that most of the supposed principles of psychology are suspect, and the second that art is so rich and varied that one can find examples of it to fit any principle. Here I suggest a new way forward for putting art and brain together, one within the general theoretical framework that I call "Nature Harnessing". It is that the arts have been culturally selected over time to be a "good fit" for our brain, and our brain has been naturally selected over time to be a good fit to nature... so, perhaps the arts have come to be shaped like nature, exactly the shape our brain came to be highly efficient at processing. I provide examples from my research on the structure of writing, speech and music.

Image, diagram, and metaphor. Unmined resources and unresolved questions
Vincent Colapietro

It is far from implausible that some of C. S. Peirce's other distinctions might eventually prove to be as heuristically fruitful as the distinction of icon, index, and symbol has proven itself to be. This distinction is based upon the relationship between a sign and its dynamic object, a relationship which constitutes the basis (or "ground") of signification since it accounts for why anything is accorded the status of a sign. Anything functions iconically insofar as the basis of signification is an intrinsic relationship between the perceptible properties of a sign and its object. Anything functions indexically insofar as the basis of its signification is a causal connection, whereas anything functions symbolically insofar as this basis (or "ground") is a disposition. These distinguishable functions are, more often than not, dynamically integrated in actual signs. They name not separate signs but distinct functions of irreducibly complex processes

Part III. Narrative grammatical structures

The farmers sowed seeds and hopes: Element order in metaphorical phrases
Yeshayahu Shen & Elad Kotzer

Conceptual prominence plays an important role in determining word order in metaphorical sentences: conceptually prominent items tend to precede less prominent ones. In: 'the farmers sowed seeds and hopes'  the order of the two noun in the conjunctive noun phrase (seeds and hopes) seems more natural than its inverse (hopes and seeds) since seeds (the more concrete noun) is conceptually more prominent than hopes. This linear precedence of prominent items iconically mirrors their 'cognitive precedence', namely, the fact that they are retrieved from memory before less prominent counterparts (Kelly et al. 1986, Osgood and Bock 1977). Three factors contributing to conceptual prominence affect word ordering: Abstractness - concrete terms tend to precede more abstract ones; animacy - animate terms tend to precede non-animate ones; and salience - salient terms tend to precede less salient ones. We discuss the findings of a series of psychological experiments and corpus studies that lend support to this argument.

Non-iconic chronology in English narrative texts
Vyacheslav Yevseyev

This article presents the results of a corpus investigation into the phenomenon of non-iconic chronology, which is understood here as the reversal of natural order of events at the textual micro-level, e.g. 'I conquered after I came and saw' as opposed to the well-known example of iconic order 'I came, I saw, I conquered'. Although the general implications of chronological, or temporal, iconicity were widely discussed as early as the 1980s, little is known so far about how frequently non-iconic chronology occurs in real (rather than constructed) narrative texts, what sorts of text tend to be more temporally iconic or less temporally iconic, and what syntactic structures (coordinate or subordinate with particular temporal conjunctions) are most typically used to depict sequential events in a reversed textual order. An answer to these questions is attempted here on the basis of some 150 English literary text.

A burning world of war: How iconicity works in constructing the fictional world view in A Farewell to Arms
Xinxin Zhao

How do literary works access the iconic potential inherent in language to construct their fictional world view? A case study of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is presented to show that instead of its commonly accepted dual themes of love and war, the novel's overriding theme is war - the universal and pervasive condition of human existence, itself cast as a war against the forces that conspire to shorten it. The burning world of war is produced by the iconic force of literary language, from lexical choice to syntactic structure, from internal paragraph patterning to the patterning of paragraph sequences, from chapter level to the overarching narrative structure itself. Through quantitative and sequential iconic means, the abstract theme is made accessible, and the formless fictional world is given shape.

Part IV. Cognitive Poetics

Aesthetic qualities as structural resemblance: Divergence and perceptual forces in poetry
Reuven Tsur

When we say "The music is sad", we report that we have detected some resemblance between the structure of the music and the structure of an emotion. In this sense, "sad" refers to an aesthetic quality of the music. In poetry, "sad" may refer either to the mere contents of the poem, or to an aesthetic quality arising from an interplay of divergent structure, low energy level, slow motion, sad contents. The paper explores such questions as "How do systems of music-sounds and verbal signs assume perceptual qualities endemic to other systems, such as human emotions or animal calls?" "What may a critic mean when asserting that a certain metric configuration is 'more dignified' than some other; that is, what may 'dignified' mean in a context of metric configurations?" The paper is focused on two structural phenomena found in both poems and emotions: "divergence" and "perceptual forces".

Mental space mapping in classical Chinese poetry: A cognitive approach

Han-liang Chang

Primary verbal composite modelling, as manifested in cognitive poetics, raises serious theoretical questions over the nature and function of the linguistic sign. This chapter attempts to assess Chinese poetics popularized by North American sinologists in the 1960s to 1980s, re-read the so-called 'Old Style' Chinese poetry produced before the sixth century, and, finally, investigate why classical poetry in general lacks figurative and imagistic intricacy, characteristic of highly conceit-laden Western poetry, e.g., in the metaphysical and modernistic traditions. Specifically, the essay analyzes the ways in which mental spaces in classical Chinese poetry are mapped and examines how vital relations, scales, force-dynamics, and image-schemata, are integrated or 'blended' in creating mediated poetic 'space'. Through close readings of sample poems in terms of current Language and Space studies, the author argues that the commonly assumed iconicity in classical Chinese poetry should be more properly called poetic indexicality rather than iconicity.

Iconicity in conceptual blending: Material anchors in William Morris's
News from Nowhere
David Glyn Wilson

In 1891, William Morris, pioneering writer, designer, and revolutionary socialist, published News from Nowhere. In this utopian romance, he expresses his aesthetic and social convictions most convincingly not through propositional argumentation, but instead through iconic conceptual/material anchors set up to support conceptual blending networks through which the reader is guided to conjure up human-scale scenes and contexts. These conceptual integration networks achieve compression (and decompression) of vital relations (such as identity, change, or time) in blended mental spaces, heightening the aesthetic, emotional, and hence persuasive potential of the text, often at key points in its structure. This paper explores several passages from News from Nowhere, arguing that motivated non-metaphorical conceptual/material anchors can be just as iconic as metaphorical ones.

Part V. Accoustic and visual iconicity

Thematized iconicity and iconic devices in the modern novel: Some modes of interaction.
John J. White

The following paper offers case studies of forms of thematized iconicity in the modern realist novel. Taking its cue from Eco and Sebeok's The Sign of Three (1983), it explores some of the ingenious, yet plausible, ways in which acoustic and visual iconicity have played a substantial role in modern fiction. Examples of acoustic iconicity and indexicality are explored in David Lodge's Deaf Sentence (2008), whereas visual iconicity is shown to be of overarching importance in Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (English translation: 2005). Emphasis is placed on the importance of a self-deprecating satirical perspective in Deaf Sentence and on the way in which copious intertextual material and visual images are used to defamiliarize the historical context of Eco's novel. Reader-response is considered in the case of narrated iconicity in both works. The paper is predicated on the working hypothesis that thematized iconicity deserves serious consideration as a literary topos in its own right.

Iconicity and intermediality in Charles Simic's
Dime-Store Alchemy
Gaby Rippl

Charles Simic's collection of prose poems Dime-Store Alchemy. The Art of Joseph Cornell (1992) pays homage to one of America's greatest surrealist visual artists, whose work Simic reactivates in American cultural memory. Simic' poems, which are presented as boxes to approximate Cornell's visual techniques, have been investigated by literary scholars for their ekphrastic verbal means but the strategies of iconicity and intermediality have been neglected. Against the backdrop of recent debates about intermediality and iconicity in postmodern culture, the article sheds light on Simic's highly self-reflexive intersemiotic translations and transformations and his intricate art of visual iconicity which foregrounds the iconic character of verbal signs. While trying to evoke visual and pictorial qualities via language, Simic's poems, just like other ekphrastic texts which combine iconic and indexical functions of language, investigate the specificities of and tensions between verbal and visual media.

Words, like shells, are signs as well as things
Heilna du Plooy

South African (Afrikaans) novelist Ingrid Winterbach is known for her individual style, the originality of voice in her novels, as well as for an unusual and ironic perspective on reality. This article focuses on Winterbach's ability to integrate word choices and narrative technique so that passages in her fiction can be described as highly iconic. Winterbach exploits language from different domains, discourses, and semantic fields, as well as archaisms, resulting in incongruous phrasing, ambiguity, and irony. Word play and lists of words activate semantic values by relying on the materiality of words. In Winterbach's novels, words do not only create unexpected and defamiliarized meanings on account of illogical systems of creative thought, but they also bear witness to the previous ideologically suspect meanings in each word's history, thereby reactivating the kind of archaeology of thought and language described by Foucault.

Unveiling creative subplots through the non-traditional application of diagrammatic iconicity: An analysis of Kingley Amis's
The Green Man
Andrew James

In literary terms, diagrammatic iconicity has generally been understood to refer to a patterned series of linguistic or syntactic textual connections. But taking a broader view of diagrammatic iconicity reveals previously invisible creative subtexts. In Kingsley Amis's novel The Green Man (1969), critics have failed to see that Amis once again offers a fictional portrait of a former publisher. His first novel, Lucky Jim (1954) was based on R.A. Caton, the operator of the small press that published Amis's own Bright November (1947). Caton would return for cameos in each of the next six novels, until he was killed off in The Anti-Death League (1966). Perhaps critics simply forgot about Amis's habit of venting lingering irritation with previous publishers, but the depiction of Victor Gollancz in The Green Man, his ninth novel, has gone unnoticed. Gollancz's presence in the text clearly conveys the importance of artistic freedom, which only becomes apparent when iconic principles are applied.

Part VI. Intermedial iconicity

The iconic indexicality of photography
Pjotr Sadowski

The unique visual appeal of photography results from combining the basically iconic code (resemblance between image and referent) with indexicality. Photography is indexical insofar as the represented object is "imprinted" by light and the chemical (or electronic) process on the image, creating a visual likeness that possesses a degree of accuracy and "truthfulness" unattainable in purely iconic signs such as painting, drawing, or sculpture. The indexical origin of the photographic image explains why discussions of the photographic media (including film and television) often employ categories normally reserved for the emotive and irrational effects produced in traditional societies by sympathetic magic, with its objectively wrong but psychologically compelling sense of direct causal link between objects once physically connected but later separated. The essay discusses the iconic indexicality in the context of its historic antecedents such as imprints of hands, death masks, wax effigies, shadow portraits, and experiments with camera obscura.

Unbinding the text: Intermedial iconicity in Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books
Christina Ljungberg

Intermediality concerns either the transgression of the boundaries between conventionally distinct media or the iconic enactment of one medium within another. How does this function in such a complex multimedia work as Prospero's Books, Peter Greenaway's film adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, which not only comments on other media but also addresses all other adaptations of Shakespeare's play? How is the figure of dislocation,  shipwrecks, loss of home and culture, the disorientation generated by Prospero's masques  translated into Greenaway's postmodern adaptation? To what degree does adaptation itself involve dislocation as Shakespeare's figuration of dislocation resonates throughout Greenaway's multimedia reworking of this text into contemporary sensibilities? Not only does the film self-reflexively perform the very process of adaptation but by 'destructuring' or dislocating'  the text into images, it also creates a visual vocabulary articulating a new order of reading and suggesting a new visual literacy.

Argumentative, iconic, and indexical structures in Schubert's Die schoene Muehlerin
Costantino Maeder

Schubert's The Fair Miller-Maid (1823), based on a collection of lyrics by Wilhelm Mueller, is characterized by piano accompaniments that consist mainly in the iconic imitation of real world sounds and of the main character's mood, musical strategies which any listener accustomed to classical music may recognize without knowing harmonic structures. Many claim that Schubert's music simply illustrates and heightens Mueller's original text but his interpretation of Mueller's poems cannot be reduced to a superficial illustration. The partition shows that Schubert created a simple world of iconically determined sound patterns (flowing brook, hunter's horn, patterns signifying death), which are quoted unusually often and varied in the very first four Lieder. These iconic, musical words, created dynamically, can contradict the song texts in the following Lieder. Another iconic device uses the opposition of minor and major tonalities, tied to illusion and reality.

John Irving's A Widow for One Year and Tod Williams' The Door in the Floor as '(mult)i-conic' works of art
Christine Schwanecke

This article explores the various layers of iconicity in John Irving's novel A Widow for One Year, which abounds in iconic images, diagrams and metaphors, and Todd Williams' movie adaptation, The Door in the Floor. Intra-medial and intermedial forms of iconicity are brought into focus, as they weave the complex web of cross-, self- and meta-references out of which the novel's semantic density emerges, building up the illusion of an enhanced visuality. The media transfer of the novel to film is also examined: to what extent has the novel's predominant feature, its (mult-)i-conicity', been transferred to Williams' movie? Beyond aesthetic questions, medial idiosyncrasies have required structural and material changes and Williams had to abandon some iconic signs, modify others, or establish new forms of iconicity, i.e. audio-visual ones. Despite the differences, the movie's web of semantic and structural correspondences has become as dense as the one in Irving's text.

Author index

Subject index