Iconic silence: A semiotic paradox or a semiotic paragon?

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For a sign to be a sign it must bond an object (quality), a signifier, and the idea to which it gives rise (CP 1.339). The paper focuses on the iconicity of silence as a hypoiconic signifier, exploring the semiotics of silence in light of the notions and studies of iconicity. Fascinating parallelisms hold between iconicity and silence. These raise many challenges to the study of each separately, let alone dealing with them jointly. Some icons and some silences are qualities in the real world, others are semiotic forms (signifiers) standing for or denoting objects. Simple, intuitive qualities of iconicity and of silence are naturally grasped and shared from antiquity to the present by cultures and peoples. The paper employs Peirce's initial basic trichotomy of iconic classes as well as his later hierarchies for studying the iconic stance of silence as a hypoiconic signifier (Secondness). Analyzing and illustrating the possible complexities between forms (a silent signifier), contents, their relations and their interpretations, group hypoiconic silences into silence as an image, silence as a diagram, and silence as a metaphor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-259
Number of pages21
Issue number221
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.


  • Peirce
  • diagram
  • iconicity
  • image
  • metaphor
  • silence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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