Iconicity, Ratosh's lexical innovations, and beyond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Yonatan Ratosh (1909-1981), a renowned Hebrew poet, made his living as a translator. His translations and lists found in his lexical legacy, contain thousands of his suggestions for new Hebrew terms. Among them many instances stand out that manifest some sort of similarity between the concept and the term proposed by Ratosh, thus raising the issue of iconicity. This paper takes a closer look at these instances, integrating theoretical aspects of iconicity and issues concerning lexicon in general, and Ratosh's means of lexical innovations in particular. Specifically, we first look at image (onomatopoeia, sound symbolism, and also metalanguage) and diagram (matters of order, diminutive and echo-words). We then move beyond the dyad to consider metaphor. After that discussion we point out the asymmetry caused by omitting folk etymology, metonymy, and ellipsis. We propose, then, that semiotics should restrict iconicity only to intrinsic relations within the sign itself, hence image and diagram, thus not contaminating iconicity with cases of secondness, thirdness, or endless conventionalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-104
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
1. This study was supported by a grant (811/95) from the Israel Science Foundation.


  • Hebrew
  • Iconicity
  • Lexical-innovation
  • Metalanguage
  • Metaphor
  • Motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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