Center Papers

Iconicity As Structure-mapping

Emmorey, K. (2014). Iconicity as structure-mapping. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Linguistic and psycholinguistic evidence is presented to support the use of structure-mapping theory as a framework for understanding effects of iconicity on sign language grammar and processing. The existence of structured mappings between phonological form and semantic mental representations has been shown to explain the nature of metaphor and pronominal anaphora in sign languages. With respect to processing, it is argued that psycholinguistic effects of iconicity may only be observed when the task specifically taps into such structured mappings. In addition, language acquisition effects may only be observed when the relevant cognitive abilities are in place (e.g. the ability to make structural comparisons) and when the relevant conceptual knowledge has been acquired (i.e. information key to processing the iconic mapping). Finally, it is suggested that iconicity is better understood as a structured mapping between two mental representations than as a link between linguistic form and human experience.