categorization in language German: –die Gabel, das Messer, der Löffel Dyirbal: –bayi: human males, animals –balan: human females, water, fire, fighting –balam: non-flesh food –bala: everything else
Same experience – same category If there is a basic domain of experience associated with A, then it is natural for entities in that domain to be in the same category as A. –Fire is in the balan class, as are light and stars, which are related to fire –Weapons (spears, shields) are related to fighting, so are in balan class –Fish are animate, so use bayi. All fishing instruments are also in this class
Myth and Belief If some noun has characteristic X (on the basis of which its class membership is expected to be decided) but is, through belief or myth, connected with characteristic Y, then generally it will belong to the class corresponding to Y and not the class corresponding to X
Myth and Belief Birds are animate, so “should be” classified by bayi. BUT the Dyirbal believe that birds are the spirits of dead human females, so they are classified by balan. Some birds are believed to be mythical men, so are classified by bayi. Crickets are “old ladies” in myths so are classified by balan The hairy mary grub, whose sting feels like sunburn, is classified with the sun, by balan. Storms and rainbows are thought to be mythical men (bayi)
categorization seeing something as a kind of thing, a member of a group categories reflect our ‘interpretation’ of things in the world
categorization a cognitive ability that we mostly apply unconsciously rises to awareness mostly in problematic cases
the classic view Categories are defined by necessary and sufficient criteria These criteria are inherent in the category members The criteria are binary: X, not X Something is either in the category or not Every instance of a category represents that category equally well
necessary and sufficient criteria A square is a closed, flat figure. It has four sides. All sides are equal in length. All interior angles are equal. Includes all true squares, excludes rectangles, triangles, circles, free forms, etc.
word meanings: classic categories ‘A meaning is not a thing in itself, but only a set of contrastive relations. There is no way to determine a meaning apart from comparisons and contrasts with other meanings within the same semantic area.’ (Nida 1975:151) boy [+human, -adult, +male] girl [+human, -adult, -male] man [+human, +adult, +male] woman [+human, +adult, -male]
syntactic categories: classic categories This book is very ___. –interesting, expensive, old, … –*read, *sell, *buy –*library, *money, *author –*on, *under, *below –*interestingly, *honestly Question formation –SUB AUX VP >> AUX SUB VP –John could have missed the train. >> Could John have missed the train? –I ought to go and see him. >> Ought I to go and see him? –I promised to go and see him. >> *Promised I to go and see him?
the classic view in linguistics Linguistic categories, like phonemes, word meanings, and syntactic word classes, are defined by necessary and sufficient features. An element is either found within a category or it is not in that category. Knowledge of language is knowledge of the categorical differences between classes of linguistic elements.
problems with necessary and sufficient features
necessary and sufficient criteria What are the defining features of a game? –opponents –played for fun –winners and losers –you need luck, skills
What still counts as a game and what no longer does? Can you give the boundary? No. You can draw one, for none so far has been drawn. (But that never troubled you when you used the word ‘game’.) (Wittgenstein 1978: 31)
priming effects After seeing ‘furniture’, speakers verify the word ‘chair’ more quickly than usual After seeing ‘furniture’, speakers do not verify the word ‘ashtray’ more quickly than usual >> furniture primes chair but not ashtray
Rosch 1975 degrees of category membership are psychologically real goodness-of-example ratings speed of category verification priming effects >> categories are organized around prototypes
Prototype Best, clearest example of the category Combines all of the typical features Results from frequent exposure Represents the category as a whole
Prototype theory Categories are organized around prototypes (or “best”, most typical examples). To be included in the category, some but not all of the characteristic features must be present. Category membership is a matter of degree. Members resemble each other, but are not equally good representatives.
another problem of the classical view: transitive relations
transitivity On the classical view, a member of a subcategory is necessarily also a member of all superordinate categories hamster rodent mammal animal car seat seat furniture
WH-questions Forming WH-questions: –I think John will throw a party if he passes the test. –What do you think John will do if he passes the test? The classical view of syntactic categories would predict that all questions that are formed by this rule are equally grammatical. But some examples seem to be awkward: –Frank denies that John will throw a party. –? What does Frank deny that John will do?
Dabrowska 2008 Speakers are asked to rate different kinds of WH-questions: 1.WH Prototypical: What do you think the witness will say? 2.WH Subject: What does Claire think the witness will say? 3.WH Auxiliary: What would you think the witness will say? 4.WH Verb: What do you believe the witness will say? 5.WH that: What do you think that the witness will say? 6.WH Long: What do you think Jo believes the witness will say? 7.WH Unprototypical: What would Claire believe that Jo thinks the witness will say?
Dabrowska 2008 Prediction of the classical view: –all types should receive similar ratings Prediction of the prototype view: –the prototypical type should receive the best ratings –the more atypical features are included, the worse the ratings should get
Dabrowska 2008 Speakers are asked to rate different kinds of WH-questions: 1.WH Prototypical: What do you think the witness will say? 2.WH Subject: What does Claire think the witness will say? 3.WH Auxiliary: What would you think the witness will say? 4.WH Verb: What do you believe the witness will say? 5.WH that: What do you think that the witness will say? 6.WH Long: What do you think Jo believes the witness will say? 7.WH Unprototypical: What would Claire believe that Jo thinks the witness will say? 4,31 4,25 3,93 3,23 3,84 3,85 2,54
another example: the ditransitive construction vs. the prepositional dative
John gave Mary the book. John gave the book to Mary.
John gave her the book. John gave the book to her.
John threw the floor his keys. John threw his keys to the floor.
John gave Mary a letter. John gave a letter to Mary.
John gave Mary the keys. John gave the keys to Mary.
Bresnan et al. 2007 The prototypical ditransitive: –has a recipient that is animate, short, and discourse-active –has a theme that is expressed lexically, that is longer than the recipient, that is inanimate, and that is indefinite (not discourse active), and that is singular (not plural) The prototypical prepositional dative is the mirror image. Nonetheless, non-prototypical instances of these constructions are regularly produced! –This gives me the creeps / *This gives the creeps to me. –This movie will give the creeps to just about anyone who has a problem with spiders.
Summary categorization is a basic cognitive ability that is reflected in all human activity, including language the classic view of categorization holds that categories are formed on the basis of necessary and sufficient characteristics this view is challenged and replaced with a model of prototype categories –family resemblances instead of necessary features –‘best exemplars’ as representatives for categories –association with a category diminishes as members become less similar to the prototype
Summary five problems of the classical view –necessary and sufficient features are sometimes inadequate (games) –inherent characteristics are sometimes inadequate (cups) –not all category members represent their categories equally well (birds) –not all transitive relations hold (car seat)
Summary Also linguistic categories are organized in a prototypical fashion: –there are ‘good’ WH-questions and ‘odd’ WH-questions –some ditransitives are more prototypical than others –>> knowledge of grammar is a network of constructions, not a system of discrete rules
for next time remember: NO CLASS on March 3 but: reading assignment Lakoff 1993 Please do the quiz by Monday evening.
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