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Lecture 2

COM 350 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Onomatopoeia, Arbitrariness, Grammaticality

Course Code
COM 350
Marko Dragojevic

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COM350: Lecture Notes
Properties of Language
Arbitrariness: linguistic signs (morphemes) are typically symbolic
o No intrinsic or natural connection between a form and it’s meaning
o Evidence for the symbolic nature of most linguistic signs:
Translation equivalents: words with approximately the same meanings
in different language (dog & chien)
If words were typically iconic, translation equivalents from
language to language would be similar in form….but they’re
Synonyms: words with the same or a similar meaning within a language
If words were iconic, there would be no synonyms because there
would be just one word that looks and sounds like exactly what it
stands for
Words with similar meaning within a language would have the same
form….but they don’t
Sick vs. ill
Twelve vs. dozen
Homophones: words that are pronounced the same but have different
meanings. May have the same spelling (homographs) or different spelling
Homophones can be told apart by the context of the sentence
Iconically expressible meanings (e.g., onomatopoeia), though possible, are rare
Some meanings could theoretically be expressed as pronunciations
If words were iconic, then words expressing something physically
smaller would be shorter than words expressing something physically
longer…but they’re not
Narrow vs. wide
One vs. two
Some words are iconic
Mimetic (or onomatopoeic words)
Tick-tock, meow, woof-woof
Some words can be made iconic
Long vs. looong vs. loooooooong
Slow vs. slooow vs. slooooooooow
But all of these are exceptional cases; this is rare
Displacement: meanings are expressed which are ‘displaced or removed from the concrete
or physical presence of the object or stimulus
o Allows us to talk about abstract meanings like ‘pastand future,’ and about
persons and places not present, and about hypothetical things and abstract
Sister, grandma, tree, etc.
Creativity: languages readily and regularly permit the expression of new meanings
o Openness: languages are always able to come up with new morphemes
Computer, internet, email
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