Years ago, if I heard the word bird I thought about a sparrow since I live in western Pennsylvania and there are sparrows everywhere. But now, if I hear the word bird I picture a blue, two-dimensional sparrow. Not quite a Twitter bird, just a sparrow that has lost a dimension and turned blue.

Is there a term to describe a mental prototype changing because of new influences?

  • And yes, I'm fully aware this question would also fit on CogSci, but bird is a word, and linguistics is about words and rules. So it mostly fits. On a side note, when I was typing this comment, rather than "bird is a word," I almost typed "the bird is the word." Aug 20 '12 at 2:49
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    I don't think the fact your example is the word "bird" makes it any more a linguistic question than an ornithological question. It's definitely either a cogsci.SE question that you should tag terminology or an english.SE question that you should tag single-word-requests. By the way, another term commonly used where you've used prototype is the adjective platonic. Aug 20 '12 at 8:59

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