Cognitive Linguistics
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Project Categorization
Aristotelian category
Category boundaries
Levels of categorization
Basic level
Category-wide attribute
Collective function
Subordinate level
Superordinate level
Parasitic categorization
Prototype category
Bad member
Degree of membership
Flexible adaptability
Goodness of exemplar
Good member
Informational density
Radial structure
Structural stability
Class inclusion
Degree of generality
Expert taxonomy
Folk taxonomy
Multiple parenting
Scientific taxonomy

Basic level categories, or generic level categories, are those categories in a folk taxonomy which are most culturally salient, and meet our basic cognitive needs the best. Basic level categories display a high degree of class inclusion and medium degree of generality, as they include subordinate level categories.

Gestalts and features[]

This is the level where the most differences between 'objects' in exterior and conceptual worlds are perceived. The largest number of common features of the members of a category are stored at the basic level, providing a basic recognizable idealized gestaltic configuration of the properties of the members of the category. This is because, the information based on interaction between humans and objects in exterior world are stored at the basic level.

Gestalts in language[]

Words that serve as names of basic level categories are typically short and morphologically simple. In many languages they are even monomorphemic and monosyllabic. This is taken to iconically reflect the cognitive status of basic level categories.


  • Ungerer, Friedrich & Hans-Jörg Schmid (1996). An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics. London: Longman.
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