Prospects and problems of prototype theory
Department of Linguistics, Catholic University of Leuven, Blijde-Inkomststraat 21, PO Box 03308, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
Received June 5, 2016
Accepted June 13, 2016
Published August 1, 2016
Parallel to the research that I did on the application of prototype theory to questions of semantic change (which eventually resulted in my Diachronic Prototype Semantics monograph of 1997), I paid attention on a number of occasions to the theoretical clarification of the notion of prototypicality as such (and of the related notion of polysemy: see the second section of this collection). In the paper reprinted here, I try to bring some systematicity into the many uses of the concept ‘prototypicality’ by distinguishing between two cross-classifying dimensions. First, I make a distinction between two crucial structural phenomena underlying prototypicality effects: flexibility (i.e. the absence of clear boundaries and demarcations) and salience (i.e. differences of structural weight). Second, I suggest that both prototypicality phenomena may be found on an intensional level (the level of definitions) and on an extensional level (the level of referents). The cross-classification of the two dimensions defines four basic types of prototypicality effects.
© 2016 The Authors. Publishing rights belong to the Journal. The article is freely-accessible under the terms and conditions of the CC-BY Open Access licence.