A superordinate level category is a category placed at the top of a folk taxonomy and thus displays a low degree of class inclusion and a high degree of generality. They include basic level categories.
i) Superordinate categories are less good than basic level categories because within-category resemblance is relatively low
ii) Superordinate categories have fewer defining attributes than basic level categories
iii) Immediate superordinates of basic level categories often have a single-attribute realtion to a higher superordinate category
iv) Linguistically, lexical superordinates are often mass nouns while basic level terms are count nouns
A superordinate level category provides only very few and very general defining category-wide attributes. For instance, the defining category-wide attribute of the superordinate level category FURNITURE is LARGE MOVABLE OBJECT THAT MAKES A ROOM SUITABLE FOR LIVING, while that of VEHICLE is USED IN ORDER TO TRANSPORT PEOPLE AND OBJECTS.
The category-wide attributes are essential to human cognition, as they highlight the most functionally salient features of basic level categories. For instance, one of the most essential defining features of a CAR is that it is used for the transporation of personnel and objects, which is inherited from the category-wide feature of VEHICLE. In that sense, category-wide attributes constitute the cognitively economic collecting function of enabling humans to collect large quantities of related information under one label.
Superordinate categories do cover enough properties to provide a common gestalt. However, they may be assigned one through parasitic categorization. This implies that the gestalt of a basic level category is borrowed by the superordinate category.
Superordinate categories in languageEdit
In English and other languages the labels for superordinate categories are often, but far from always, mass nouns like FURNITURE.
- Ungerer, Friedrich & Hans-Jörg Schmid (1996). An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics. London: Longman.