Categories and Prototypes

Johan Van Der Auwera and Volker Gast

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199281251
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Categories and Prototypes

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This article first addresses some historical remarks on the notion of the categories in philosophy and in linguistics. The differences between prototype theory and the classical model of categorization are also described. It should be mentioned that the internal structure and the fuzzy boundaries should be kept apart. The article then briefly reports some of the central hypotheses of prototype theory and their impact on matters of categorization. The examples presented show the concepts from prototype theory that were used to define analytic notions, and which are indispensable tools in the description and comparison of languages. Furthermore, the idea of structuring a larger conceptual domain in terms of a family-resemblance graph has been used in the concept of ‘semantic’ or ‘conceptual maps’. Aspects of prototype theory, such as the assumption of internal category structures and family resemblances, can be very useful in many domains of grammar and lexicon, and in linguistic conceptualization.

Keywords: categories; philosophy; linguistics; prototype theory; classical model; categorization; languages

Article.  9026 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Linguistic Typology

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