Signed Languages: A Triangular Semiotic Dimension

Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2022)
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Abstract

Since the beginning of signed language research, the linguistic units have been divided into conventional, standard and fixed signs, all of which were considered as the core of the language, and iconic and productive signs, put at the edge of language. In the present paper, we will review different models proposed by signed language researchers over the years to describe the signed lexicon, showing how to overcome the hierarchical division between standard and productive lexicon. Drawing from the semiotic insights of Peirce we proposed to look at signs as a triadic construction built on symbolic, iconic, and indexical features. In our model, the different iconic, symbolic, and indexical features of signs are seen as the three sides of the same triangle, detectable in the single linguistic sign. The key aspect is that the dominance of the feature will determine the different use of the linguistic unit, as we will show with examples from different discourse types.

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