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Abstract: Iconic representation is exemplified by 3D models, pictures, maps, and diagrams. Symbolic representation is exemplified by words, mathematical and logical symbols, sentences, and discourses. This classification, due to C.S. Peirce, has found growing currency in linguistics and cognitive science, even while the nature of the underlying distinction remains obscure. In approaching this problem, I am guided by Ferdinand de Saussure's famous dictum that linguistic signs bear a merely "arbitrary" relationship to the concepts they express, in contrast to any "natural" or "inner" connection. By reimagining Saussure's opposition through the lens of contemporary formal semantics, I hope to shed light on two basic ways that representation can work. Comparative study of semantic theories for languages, diagram systems, and pictorial systems further reveals deeply divergent expressive strategies for encoding content in representational form.