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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton March 12, 2008

On iconicity of distance

William Croft
From the journal


Haspelmath argues that certain universal asymmetries in linguistic distance previously analyzed as examples of iconicity of distance are better analyzed as the result of frequency. It is argued here that Haspelmath's arguments can be countered by an advocate of iconicity of distance as an explanatory factor. Iconicity of distance is not different in kind from iconicity of contiguity, which Haspelmath endorses. Haspelmath's argument works only if one takes relative frequency instead of absolute frequency; yet it is generally accepted that economy effects are the result of absolute frequency. The empirical frequency data that Haspelmath presents is inconclusive. However, Haspelmath presents data that suggest that an iconicity of distance analysis, at least for possession constructions, must be revised as iconicity of length. Finally, criteria are offered to differentiate the effects of economy, iconicity of distance/length, and iconicity of independence.

Received: 2007-04-30
Published Online: 2008-03-12
Published in Print: 2008-02-01

© Walter de Gruyter

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