Linguists like to claim that the mapping from sounds to word meanings is mostly arbitrary. Can you point out research that supports this claim? Specificllay I am looking for hard evidience in form of experimental research and not arm chair linguistics.
Over the years I have repeatedly heard the claim, that the meaning of words is not compositionally computed from its constituent phonemes. In other words, the mapping from sounds to meaning is arbitrary. Whenever somebdy made this claim it obviously was always restricted to atomic words such as house or tree rather than compounds like treehouse. Nobody would argue the meaning of compounds is not derived from its constituent words.
Let me state this more formally, so we understand each other correctly.
(no latex support? really? uff...)
For atomic words (not compounds, not words with productive affixes like un, etc.), there is assumed to be a mapping
f : W_p --> W_s
where W_p denotes the set of phonological representations of the concepts of all words and W_s denotes the set of semantics of all words. The consensus seems to be that this mapping is just a big lookup table that contains only entire atomic words.
We do not assume the alternative function
g : P* --> W_s
where P* denotes the Keleene closure over the set of all phonemes (of a given language).
Let's also require that
forall w in W_p where w = p_0 .. p_n with p_i in P* . f(w) =~ g(p_0 .. p_n)
where =~ means approximately equal under some metric. For example the L2 norm of the difference vector of the vectors of f(w) and g(p_0 .. p_n) if f and g map into an n-dimensional vector space. (We could define f(a) =~ g(b) to be true, iff g(b) is among the k closest vectors to f(a) for example)
g in contrast to f internally performs some computation on the sequence of n input phonemes p_0 .. p_n. It does not perform a simple lookup of p_0 .. p_n. It only looks up either single phonemes or a limited number of phoneme combinations and then computes their composite meaning according to some unknown procedure.
So while f and g are extensionally equivalent (up to the error allowed for =~) they differ intensionally.
However, to this date, nobody claiming that g is not how sequences of sounds are mapped to meaning, but rather that f is how it happens, ever provided any research papers to back this up.
Can you point out to me any papers that investigated this and tried to falsify the assumption that a function like g exists? i.e. that the meaning of atomic words is computed from some composition of its constituent phonemes.