Reader Comments

Post a new comment on this article

The classification of nouns into semantic categories

Posted by genezistan on 20 Jan 2010 at 17:59 GMT

The classification of nouns into semantic categories is best imagined by groupping them in the order of their stipulated development over time. As seen in the above study such semantic categories are established according to some “basic human fundamentals.” Such comprehensive categories as also seen in the development of the vocabulary of human languages. They are basically related to different chunks of reality that we, humans become familiar with. In historical order such categories include animals, their parts, plants and their parts, tools and other artefacts and their parts, etc.

In a list to share, but not necessarily in the brain they may be sorted in a hierarchical fashion according to the complexity of the objects, or the complexity of our knowledge of such objects. Complexity is mesured by the nature and amount of knowledge required to be familiar with such objects and to be able to classify them. Therefore this is the suggested list sorted in the order of learning about the world and the resulting growing complexity of knowledge.

The least complex names or nouns are personal names. They individually do not make up a category. You need to learn a proper noun together with a face to go with it. Such a word is an identifier of an individual and a class at the same time. Why a class, because the level of details you know make the subject of your knowledge unique and special.

Next comes the common nouns denoting peole and animals with a varying degree of familiary (knowledge) on your behalf. Then the names of various parts of the body of animals and people follow. Even more complex are the names of plants. The knowledge of what to do with the plants is an important extension. Most plants are food, so the names of plants come as food names, or fruits, vegetables and herbs. They are identified in terms of their use or exploitation, such as good or bad, dangerous or useful.

At the next level of complexity you find human artefacts, physical objects, clothing, shelter, musical instruments, tools, furniture, vessels, vehicles, etc. as they appear in history. The parts of such artefacts are another group. When more complex artefacts are manufactured, or assembled, then the relevant names further proliferate into a new category.

All those categories were possible to check visually. But also, we have a group of categories that denote objects that cannot be identified visually. They are verbs and relations. The categories would identify such relations, starting with the words descriibing realtives and with the word mother in the centre of the relatives. Note that it is not possibe to tell of a woman, if she is a mother, unless by inference, by context, when she is in the relevant situation.
The names of occupations, roles and functions are a similar group and include physicists, priests, generals, kings, etc. You cannot tell the profession of a person just by looking at her or him. You need to see his/her clothes or other cues to figure out. In other words you must have previous knowledge of their functions or roles before you meet them.
This category is determined by the function, the individual is an example, an incidence or occurrence, “the materialization of a class” – a concept.

No competing interests declared.