Taylor 2 The Classical Approach to Categorization
2.1 Aristotelian Categorization • Aristotle distinguished between: • The essence of a thing • Its necessary and sufficient features Vs. • The accidents of a thing • Its other features
Aristotle’s distinction yields 4 assumptions: • 1) Categories are defined in terms of necessary and sufficient features • 2) Features are binary • 3) Categories have clear boundaries • 4) All members of a category have equal status
2.2 The classical approach in linguistics: phonology • [CAVEAT: Some of the assumptions listed below no longer hold; newer theories (especially Optimality Theory) have moved away from them] • Phonological feature analysis added the following assumptions: • 5) Features are primitive
2.2 The classical approach in linguistics: phonology, cont’d. • 6) Features are universal • Each language selects features from a fixed finite inventory • 7) Features are abstract • Features are conceptual, not necessarily measurable in terms of physics, they are mental representations
2.2 The classical approach in linguistics: phonology, cont’d. • 8) Features are innate • The universal inventory must be genetically inherited • This is the most controversial assumption
2.3 The classical approach in semantics • Some have adopted a parallel feature approach to syntax & semantics • Features do capture significant generalizations (natural classes) and do facilitate analysis of certain kinds of sentence meanings (entailment, inclusion, contradiction)
2.3 The classical approach in semantics • This line of reasoning has inspired the postulation of a universal set of primitive semantic features, “building blocks of human thought” (cf. Wierzbicka) • Semantic features do not stand for and are not learnable from any “physical properties and relations outside the human organism” – it is necessary to assume that the set of universal features is genetically inherited.
2.3 The classical approach in semantics • Distinguishes between • Reference: • Designation of entities in the world Vs. • Sense: • The set of relations which hold between the item in question and other items in the same lexical system
Questions about Classical Approaches • Do all members of a category share necessary and sufficient features? • Are words reducible to semantic primitives? • Can we distinguish between linguistic and non-linguistic knowledge? • Can one know the meaning of a word without being familiar with the relevant real-world facts?