Elżbieta Tabakowska
Table of contents

Iconicity, which may be informally defined as correspondence between form and meaning, was not much favoured by the 20th century structural linguistics. Ever since the appearance of Cours de linguistique generale (1916), de Saussure’s fundamental claim that linguistic signs are arbitrary has reigned supreme in mainstream structural theories, as has his postulate of autonomy of the synchronic study of language. While de Saussure’s basic assumption that language is an instrument of communication has remained the cornerstone of many contemporary theories of language and language use, the arbitrariness dogma, as well as the Saussurean thesis that the state of a language at a given time (i.e. synchrony) can never be explained by reference to its past (i.e. diachrony), have now been seriously questioned.

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