Against arbitrariness: An alternative approach towards motivation of the sign

Hubert Kowalewski


The aim of the article is to propose an account of the motivated nature of the sign, with special attention devoted to motivation in language. The starting point for the discussion is a cursory critique of the classic Saussurean model of arbitrariness and motivation. The account proposed in this article is in the spirit of broadly understood cognitive linguistics and Peircean semiotics. The model of motivation is comprehensive and specific. It is comprehensive in the sense that it provides a general definition of the term “motivation,” which attempts to cover all instances of its use discussed in modern semiotics. The model is specific in the sense that it proposes parameters of motivation, which allow for investigating different facets of the phenomenon. The article includes case studies which illustrate how the approach can used in actual analysis of semiotic data.

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