Iconicity as structure mapping
In March we revisit the subject of iconicity, this time the question of structured mappings between the form and the meaning of the signs in sign language. In her article, Iconicity as structure mapping, Karen Emmorey defines iconicity as a “structured mapping between two mental representations, rather than as a link between linguistic form and experience”.
A word or a sign maps to the schematized mental representation of a concept, which either relates directly to experience (eg. sensory-motor experience for sign language: sign for “stir” imitates the action), or requires additional cultural and conceptual knowledge to process the mapping (the associated element stands for the concept, eg. sign for “pirate” shows the eye patch). Because of those properties, Emmorey argues that children cannot use iconicity as a help in language learning prior to acquiring the skills or conceptual knowledge the iconic signs refer to, in the same way children struggle with metaphors until certain age.
What are your thoughts on the role of iconicity in learning a language, and how big do you think is the influence of iconicity in general on forming and changing the language?