Can Prototype Representations Support Composition And Decomposition?

Lila R. Gleitman, Andrew C. Connolly and Sharon Lee Armstrong

in The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199541072
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Can Prototype Representations Support Composition And Decomposition?

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  • Linguistics
  • Semantics
  • Psycholinguistics



This article reviews two kinds of experimental evidence from laboratories that challenge the adequacy of prototypes for representing human concepts. First, experiments suggesting that prototype theory does not distinguish adequately among concepts of maximally variant types, such as formal vs. natural kind and artifact concepts. Second, a more recent experimental line demonstrating how theories of conceptual combination with lexical prototypes fail to predict actual phrasal interpretations, such as language users' doubts as to whether Lithuanian apples are likely to be as edible as apples. An extensive body of empirical research seems to provide evidence for the psychological validity of the prototype position. The default to the compositional stereotype strategy (DS) mentions that barring information, to the contrary, assumes that the typical adjective–noun combination satisfies the noun stereotype.

Keywords: human concepts; lexical prototypes; phrasal interpretations; default to compositional; stereotype strategy; prototype composition

Article.  9047 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics ; Psycholinguistics

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