Categories Are for Talking: On the Cognitive and Discursive Bases of Categorization

  • Edwards D
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This paper begins by drawing a distinction between cognitive and discursive approaches to linguistic categorization, and it is argued that cognitive approaches have ignored the prime importance of discourse. Rather than attempting to reject or refute the cognitive orientation in favour of a social alternative, it is argued that talk enlists cognition as a powerful element in the rhetoric of description and reality construction. Important features of categorization, such as prototype structures, in-definiteness of membership, indexicality of application and contrastive organization are shown to make sense as features designed for the situated rhetoric of talk, rather than for displaying a person's abstracted understanding of the world. It is argued that cognitive theories, while providing important insights into semantic organization, manage to sustain the explanatory primacy of perception and cognition only through the use of methods that systematically remove from view the flexibilities and action orientation of talk, while using imaginations of situated talk as a basis for semantic analysis.

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  • Derek Edwards

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