Rethinking diagrammatic iconicity from an evolutionary perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper reexamines the notion of diagrammatic iconicity in grammar, i.e. the isomorphism of relational structure across form and meaning. After a quick survey of the various definitions of diagrammatic iconicity, some illustrations are given from coordinating constructions. It is shown that grammatical (a) symmetry in the expression of complex events corresponds to conceptual (a) symmetry. Next, diagrammatic iconicity is examined from an evolutionary viewpoint. Based on two considerations, namely, (i) that diagrammatic iconicity in grammar presupposes the bifurcation of form and meaning, and (ii) that analogical mapping between linguistic form and cognitive experience is a product of highly evolved cognitive capacity, it is claimed that diagrammatic iconicity is by no means “primitive” but a crucial species-specific trait of human language.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIconicity in Language and Literature
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameIconicity in Language and Literature
ISSN (Print)1873-5037

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication


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