Arbitrariness of the sign

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The arbitrariness of the sign is a central property of natural language (when regarded as a system of signs) that was emphasized in early European structuralism, esp. by Fredinand de Saussure. Linguistic signs are arbitrary insofar as there is no direct link between the form (signifiant) and the meaning (signifié) of a sign. There are systematic exceptions to the principle of the arbitrariness of the sign, e.g. onomatopoeia (i.e. onomatopoetic words) and icons. Signs with an arbitrary association of form and meanings are called symbols.

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