Skip to content
Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton September 1, 2010

The Image Iconicity in the Chinese Language

Zhuanglin Hu
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


The nature of arbitrariness and iconicity has been a heated topic for debate among the Chinese linguists and semioticians in the past 20 years. Due to the fact that modern Chinese linguistic scholarship has been strongly influenced by Saussure's Course in General Linguistics (2001 ) , the dominant view in China was once marked by arbitrariness. Yet, with the development of cognitive linguistics, today the scale has tilted toward iconicity. Since most of the papers in favour of arbitrariness have focused on Saussure's view of seeing sign as a dualistic relation between "signifier" and "signified", that is, "sound-image" and "concept" ,and have not objected much to the role of iconicity at the syntactic level and the textual level, this paper, to save space and time, will not deal with sequence iconicity, distance iconicity, quantity iconicity, space iconicity, temporal iconicity, markedness iconicity, etc., and will confine itself to the image iconicity, that is, sound iconicity and graph iconicity. In doing so, I will start with a brief review of concepts and views held by the Chinese philosophers and etymologists, past and present.

Published Online: 2010-9-1
Published in Print: 2010-9-1

© 2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston