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Arbitrary symbols
A key property of language is that its symbols are strongly arbitrary.[5] Any concept or grammatical rule can be mapped onto a symbol. In other words, most languages make use ofsound, but the combinations of sounds used do not have any necessary and inherent meaning; they are merely an agreed-upon convention to represent a certain thing by users of that language. For instance,the sound combination nada carries the meaning of "nothing" in the Spanish language and also the meaning "thread" in the Hindi language. There is nothing about the word nada itself that forces Hindispeakers to convey the idea of "thread", or the idea of "nothing" for Spanish speakers. Other sets of sounds (for example, the English wordsnothing and thread) could equally be used to represent thesame concepts, but all Spanish and Hindi speakers have acquired or learned to correlate their own meanings for this particular sound pattern. Indeed, for speakers of Slovene and some other South Slaviclanguages, the sound combination carries the meaning of "hope", while in Indonesian, it means "tone".
This arbitrariness applies to words even with an onomatopoetic dimension (i.e. words that tosome extent simulate the sound of the token referred to). For example, several animal names (e.g. cuckoo, whip-poor-will, and katydid) are derived from sounds made by the respective animal, but theseforms did not have to be chosen for these meanings. Non-onomatopoetic words can stand just as easily for the same meaning. For instance, the katydid is called a "bush cricket" in British English, a termthat bears no relation to the sound made by the animal. In time, onomatopoetic words can also change in form, losing their mimetic status. Onomatopoetic words may have an inherent relation to theirreferent, but this meaning is not inherent; thus they do not violate arbitrariness. For instance, an English speaker may describe a dog's bark as "ruff" or "bow-wow," as to where the Japanese would...
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