[b-greek] Re: Prototype theory

From: Kimmo Huovila (kimmo.huovila@helsinki.fi)
Date: Fri Mar 09 2001 - 06:39:33 EST

Mark Wilson wrote:
> Kimmo wrote:
> -------
> >Yes, semantics and pragmatics are two different things, but their
> >distinction is not clear cut (or if it is made to be discrete, it is
> >arbitrary), though sometimes practical and real. Linguists differ in how
> >much they want to ascribe to semantics and how much to pragmatics. I
> >prefer putting more on the semantics side, because theories of
> >pragmatics do not really deal with conventionalized uses, but those are
> >easily dealt with in semantics.
> ------
> A light went off when I read that phrase "conventionalized uses." That is
> essentially the driving force behind Prototype Theory, right? That IS
> brilliant.

I hesitate to say that it is THE driving force, though an important
part. Also important is the way prototype theory makes use of
encyclopedic knowledge in semantics. Any detail of encyclopedic
knowledge can become central in context, as illustrated by metaphors.
(Though not not all details are relevant all the time.) Some texts
cannot be adequately analyzed without including encyclopedic knowledge
in semantics. BTW, I am most familiar with prototype theory as used by
cognitive grammarians. Espousing prototype theory, however, does not
make one a cognitive grammarian. I am not claiming that all of my
comments apply to all prototype theorists. Historically, the roots of
the prototype theory are in E. Rosch's psychological experiments in the

> Are you saying that one should go about learning a language by examining the
> language's conventionalized uses?

Yes, it is very good when learning a language. Yet a linguistic theory
should not neglect abnormal uses, either.

> If so, I think Wallace and Fanning follow
> this model more closely than Porter. What this has done for me has been to
> expose the presuppositions behind the Wallace/Fanning versus Porter debates.
> Wallace/Fanning appear to give far more weight to conventionalized use, and
> Porter gives "much more" weight to unconventionalized uses. Would this be a
> fair assessment? (This is not to imply that one side is right and the other
> wrong.)

I think so. Yet, there is more at issue, as has already been argued in
this thread.

> Am I getting any of this?

At least some. You are a great student and make insightful observations.

Kimmo Huovila

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