PROTOTYPE THEORY by Don L. F. Nilsen 1 FAMILY RESEMBLANCES The idea that members of a category may be related to one another without all members having any properties in common that define the category.
EXAMPLES: Wittgensteins gameschess vs. soccer vs. dice 2 GENERALITY The idea that some members of a category may be better examples of that category than others. EXAMPLES: Ludwig Wittgenstein prime number vs. fraction; Lakoff
robin vs. penguin 3 GESTALT RECOGNITION The idea that related meanings of words form categories and that the meanings bear family resemblances to one another. EXAMPLE: John L. Austin cricket bat cricket umpire
4 GENERATIVITY This idea concerns categories that are defined by a generator (a particular member or subcategory) plus rules (or a general principle such as similarity). In such cases, the generator has the status of a central, or prototypical, category member. EXAMPLE: Don Nilsen self vs. mother uncle
5 MEMBERSHIP GRADIENCE The idea that at least some members have degrees of membership and no clear boundaries. EXAMPLE: Lofti Zadehs rich tall and most other adjectives 6
CENTRALITY GRADIENCE The idea that members (or subcategories) which are clearly within the category boundaries may still be more or less central. EXAMPLE: George Lakoff: mother of the year (paragon) vs. working mother; first cousin vs. third cousin twice removed 7
CONCEPTUAL EMBODIMENT The idea that the properties of certain categories are a consequence of the nature of human biological capacities and of the experience of functioning in a physical and social environment. It is contrasted with the idea that concepts exist independent of the bodily nature of any thinking beings and independent of their experience. EXAMPLE: Brent Berlin, Paul Kay, and Chad McDaniels color acquisition
8 FUNCTIONAL EMBODIMENT: The idea that certain concepts are not merely understood intellectually; rather, they are used automatically, unconsciously, and without noticeable effort as part of normal functioning. Concepts used in this way have a different, and more important, psychological status than those that are only thought about consciously. EXAMPLES: Roger Brown Noun-Action cat-pet
flower-smell ball-bounce; Paul Ekman 7 emotions happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, interest, relief 9 BASIC-LEVEL CATEGORIZATION The idea that categories are not merely organized in a hierarchy from the most general to the most specific, but are also organized so that the categories that are cognitively basic are in the middle of a
general-to-specific hierarchy. Generalization proceeds upward from the basic level and specialization proceeds downward. EXAMPLE: George Lakoff apple orange pine and other Genus level. 10 BASIC-LEVEL PRIMACY The idea that basic-level categories are functionally and epistemologically primary with respect to the following factors: gestalt
perceptions, image formation, motor movement, knowledge, organization, ease of cognitive processing (learning, recognition, memory, etc.), and ease of linguistic expression. EXAMPLE: Berlin-Kay-McDaniel primary colors & natural colors 11 METONYMIC REASONING The idea that a part of a category (that is,
a member or subcategory) can stand for the whole category in certain reasoning processes. EXAMPLES: Eleanor Rosch, Barbara Tversky, K. Hemenways orange entails peel pulp; Synecdoche like 7 `head of cattle, and all `hands on deck 12 A Book and Movie Based on Prototype Theory
13 References: Eschholz, Paul, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark. Language Awareness. New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. Lakoff, George. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Mey, Jacob L. Pragmatics: An Introduction, 2nd Edition. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 2001. Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000.
Raskin, Victor, ed. The Primer of Humor Research. New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter, 2008. Schiffrin, Deborah. Approaches to Discourse. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1994. 14
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