Trends in Cognitive Sciences 19 (10):603-615 (2015)

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Abstract
The notion that the form of a word bears an arbitrary relation to its meaning accounts only partly for the attested relations between form and meaning in the languages of the world. Recent research suggests a more textured view of vocabulary structure, in which arbitrariness is complemented by iconicity (aspects of form resemble aspects of meaning) and systematicity (statistical regularities in forms predict function). Experimental evidence suggests these form-to-meaning correspondences serve different functions in language processing, development, and communication: systematicity facilitates category learning by means of phonological cues, iconicity facilitates word learning and communication by means of perceptuomotor analogies, and arbitrariness facilitates meaning individuation through distinctive forms. Processes of cultural evolution help to explain how these competing motivations shape vocabulary structure.
Keywords iconicity  systematicity  arbitrariness  vocabulary  lexicon  semiotics  linguistics  learnability  communication
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DOI 10.1016/j.tics.2015.07.013
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The Weirdest People in the World?Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (2-3):61-83.

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Arbitrary Signals and Cognitive Complexity.Ronald J. Planer & David Kalkman - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (2):563-586.

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