By Lesley Jeffries
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Additional info for Meaning in English: An Introduction to Language Study
There is a significant difference in meaning resting on the choice of word as an Object in the following sentences, for example: The dog ate the biscuit. The dog ate the cat. However, some simple sentence pairs can illustrate that word order and syntax are also very significant for meaning: (a) John kicked Tim. (a) The lorry hit the (b) Tim kicked John. bus. (b) The lorry was hit by the bus. In the first pair of sentences, the word order is very important to distinguish between Subject and Object position.
Introduction 19 in language, almost as though language were simply a question of naming concepts. This model of meaning has already been criticised in the previous section as being far too simple. In addition to the symbolic (arbitrary) and the iconic (motivated by resemblance) connection between sign and signified, there is a third type of relationship between a sign and its referent. This is known as an 'index' and refers to signs which have some connection other than resemblance to their referent.
The final sign is more obviously iconic, although simplified, since it depicts a lift with people inside. The arrows indicating movement up and down, however, are conventional and arbitrary symbols, although the direction they point in may be iconic, assuming that the notice is posted on a vertical surface. It will become important during the course of this book to recognise relationships between signs that belong to systems in the various ways that have been introduced here. In the meantime, let us consider what we are doing when we try to analyse meaning in English.