5.5 Visual Motivation in BSL

English Notes
BSL Video

Visual Motivation in BSL

All languages need symbols to allow people to talk about referents.

Symbols are some kind of conventionalised linguistic way of mentioning a referent. Conventionalised means that the members of the language community have agreed that they will use a particular symbol for a particular referent.

In spoken languages the relationship between the symbol and the referent is arbitrary. By arbitrary we mean that there is no relationship between the referent and its symbol except convention. The words luch, souris and ratoare all arbitrarily applied through convention by different languages to do the job done by the English word mouse.

There are a few exceptions to this, where the sound made by a referent is reflected in the sound of the word. This is called onomatopoeia and is seen in English words such as bang, croak and whistle.


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