One of the defining principles of human language is that the relation between form and meaning is arbitrary. Yet, it is also clear that language has iconic aspects, and for this reason the role of iconicity in explaining language structure has been a persistent issue in linguistic theory. While iconicity has played a more central role in functional linguistics, this chapter shows that iconicity often serves as an implicit guiding principle in formal linguistic analyses and theories, as well. This chapter critically reviews the various aspects of iconicity (i.e. complexity, isomorphism, and cohesion) in accounting for topics ranging from the role of sound symbolism in the lexicon through aspects of morphological and syntactic structure such as paradigm uniformity, reduplication, morphological linearization, differential subject/object marking, and noun incorporation.
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