For example, the most prototypical exemplars of bird is robin, the least ones are ostrich or penguin. But since it rejects the classical theory (aka the necessary and sufficient conditions), I think it should talk about conditions instead of exemplars to avoid comparing apple with orange. So for example, fly, animal, and eating worm are the most prototypical conditions, and running fast or living in Antarctica are less prototypical.

So why doesn't the prototype theory talk about features? I agree that the theory is meant to describe the reality that regular thinking isn't about features or boundaries, but being able to discuss with features is also convenient as well.

Advantages of using features can be seen in polysemy, meaning shift, or metaphor:

  • In polysemy there is a basic sense that is frequently used than others. (A course in Cognitive Linguistics: Polysemy)
  • In 1980s, most people in the United States would consider a "family" consisted a legally married heterosexual couple and a child. Without a child they are just a couple, and without a legally marriage they just cohabit. Now the definition/understanding/perception/attitude is more flexible.

  • When we say an argument is like a war, we don't think much about typical arguments, but about features of argument and war. Only with features that we can map from the source domain to the target; a list of exemplars of argument is hard to map to a list of exemplars of war. Comparing a fiery debate between John and Mary with World War 2 sounds odd.

  • 1
    Because the definition is provided by similarity to the exemplar. Any features that may occur to one are valid, but not "defining" -- definition by distinctive features comes much later, if ever, and it's not necessary in any event.
    – jlawler
    Oct 22, 2018 at 15:41
  • I think I can understand that. Can you elaborate more? Would the prototype theory be able to applied to defining features/conditions?
    – Ooker
    Oct 23, 2018 at 7:17
  • 1
    One can recognize features from a prototype, but one is never sure whether they're defining. Robins can fly, but some birds can't. Robins have feathers and two feet, but is that defining? They also have red breasts and yellow beaks. And then there are categories that don't have a central prototype. Anyway, why worry about features? They're just stick-figures of the real prototype.
    – jlawler
    Oct 23, 2018 at 16:06
  • 1
    Can you elaborate more? I just update the question to address why using features is better
    – Ooker
    Oct 26, 2018 at 14:31
  • 2
    "When we say an argument is like a war, we don't think much about typical arguments, but about features of argument and war." Citation needed. The whole point of Prototype Theory is that regular thinking isn't about features, or boundaries, or whatever. We normally categorise by similarity to the exemplars/prototypes. And your examples definitely don't show why features are better.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 27, 2018 at 0:28


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.