Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication


Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication


Article excerpt


There are many different opinions on the arbitrariness of linguistic signs. This paper will review these different understandings of the arbitrariness and linguistic signs and some arguments of some famous linguists over the arbitrariness of linguistic signs. Although now we can not gain a final solution to these arguments, we can see that these arguments themselves are developing, improving and that they improve the theory of arbitrariness of linguistic signs as a whole. Holding a developing and philosophical attitude to the arbitrariness of linguistic signs, we can say that while the connection of sound to concept may have been arbitrary, the relationships between linguistic signs after they are made within a language system are not arbitrary.

Key words: arbitrariness; linguistic signs; comprehensive view

Résumé: Il y a beaucoup d'opinions différentes sur le caractère arbitraire des signes linguistiques. Cet article passera en revue quelques conceptions différentes et des arguments de certains linguistes célèbres sur le caractère arbitraire des signes linguistiques. Bien que nous ne pouvons pas avoir une solution définitive à ces arguments, nous pouvons constater que ces arguments sont eux-mêmes en cours de se développer et s'améliorer et qu'ils améliorent la théorie de l'arbitraire des signes linguistiques dans son ensemble. En tenant une attitude philosophique en développement à l'égard de l'arbitraire des signes linguistiques, nous pouvons dire que bien que la connexion du son au concept pouvait être arbitraire, les relations entre les signes linguistiques après leur création dans un système linguistique ne sont pas arbitraires.

Mots-clés: arbitraire; signes linguistiques; opinion globale

Since very early times, human beings have paid attention to the arbitrariness of linguistic signs. In Ancient Greece, Aristotle pointed out "there is no natural relation between the sound of any language and the thing it refers" (Chandler, 2002:26). Whitney once pointed out in Language and Language Study that every language is arbitrary, conventional signs. In the pre-Qin Dynasty period in Ancient China, there were debates on the relationship between signifier and signified. However, it is Saussure who first expounded the arbitrariness of linguistic signs systematically. The Swiss scholar Ferdinand De Saussure (1857-1913), who is considered to be the 'father of modern linguistics', first brought out a systematically understanding of arbitrariness and he held that arbitrariness was the first principle of language signs.

This theory is the foundational theory of Saussure's Linguistics. It greatly influenced the development of modern linguistics. Since then linguistics has won worldwide interest. The arbitrariness of linguistic signs is widely accepted. Many scholars support this theory of Saussure's and hold that arbitrariness is the first principle of linguistic signs, although some of them admit that there are other characteristics of linguistic signs. With the development of linguistics, many new findings have appeared in this area, and then many scholars have started to doubt this theory, question it or even oppose it. People begin to think deeply and carefully about the relationship between the pronunciation and the meaning of a linguistic sign. This inquiry has been going since Sassure, even since Plato, and it never ceases. We can see that the principle of arbitrariness proposed by Saussure has been argued for nearly half a century and different scholars hold different interpretations. They all have their own opinions about this theory. Based on these arguments, this paper has turned up a more comprehensive and philosophic attitude on the arbitrariness of linguistic signs to readers: the origin of linguistic signs is arbitrary, while they have been coined and then used within a language system that is not arbitrary.


In Saussure's works, linguistic signs do not stand for anything and they just show a sort of relationship of convention between two factors. …

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