Linguistic categories

  • Acronyms – Acronyms are words that are produced using the first letter of other words. Acronyms are often used in government and business. Some examples of common acronyms are NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus).
  • Capitonyms – A capitonym is a word that has a different meaning and may be pronounced differently in capitalized form. For example, “The Polish woman used polish on her nails.”
  • Eponyms – Eponyms are words that come into the language from a person’s name. For example, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, gave the English language the word “aphrodisiac”.
  • Homographs – Homographs are two or more words that are spelled the same but differ in pronunciation and meaning. For example, “The dove glided through the air while the eagle dove toward the ground.”
  • Homonyms – Homonyms are two or more words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings. An example: “It’s best not to court your tennis opponent while on the court.”
  • Homophones – Homophones are two or more words that are pronounced the same but differ in spelling and meaning. The words “four, for, and fore” are homophones. A sentence with two homophones would be “I need you to knead this dough for me.”

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Kurt Schwitters: Gesetze der Bildform

Visiting the exhibition Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde at the Tate Modern, I was struck to see something like a website wireframe in a small book from 1930, ‘Gesetze der Bildform’, by the modernist artist Kurt Schwitters.

Kurt Schwitters: Gesetze der Bildform
Kurt Schwitters: Gesetze der Bildform, 1930

On these two pages he compares / contrasts orientation with advertising.

Orientation / Advertising … (Orientierung / Werbung)

  1. Static / Dynamic … (Ruhend / Bewegt )
  2. No center, balanced, hence stable / Distinct center, hence radiating … (Ohne Mitte, daher ausgeglichen / Betonte Mitte, daher austrahlend)
  3. Passiv / Aktive … (Passiv / aktiv)
  4. Objektiv / Subjective … (Objektiv / Subjectiv)
  5. Vertical, horizontal, rectangular forms / Parallel, any shape … (Senkrecht, waagerecht, Vierecke / Parallel oder schraeg, jede beliebige Form)
  6. Parts of the same type; the negative of each part is essentially the same as its positive / Parts of different types. Negative and positive are essentially different, like conkave and convex … (Teile gleichartig; das Negativ jedes Teiles ist im Wesen gleich seinem positiv / Teile verschiedenartig; Negativ und Positiv sind wesentlich verschieden, wie konkav und konvex)
  7. hence – providing orientation / hence – advertising, aggressive … (also – orientierend / also – werbend, aggressiv)

Knowledge at basic level

“Our knowledge at the basic level is mainly organized around part-whole divisions. The reason is that the way an object is divided into parts determines many things.

  1. First, parts are usually correlated with functions, and hence our knowledge about functions is usually associated with knowledge about parts.
  2. Second, parts determine shape, and hence the way that an object will be perceived and imaged.
  3. Third, we usually interact with things via their parts, and hence part-whole divisions play a major role in determining what motor programs we can use to interact with an object. Thus, a handle is not just long and thin, but it can be grasped by the human hand.”

Lakoff (1987) p.47

Gestalt (‘What is it?’) and affordance (‘What can I do with it?): core processes in screen communication

Basic level categories (Rosch)

Just as Hunn (1975) argued that the basic level for animal categories is the only level at which categorization is determined by overall gestalt perception (without distinctive feature analysis), so Rosch and others (1976) have found that the basic level is:

  • The highest level at which category members have similarly perceived overall shapes.
  • The highest level at which a single mental image can reflect the entire category.
  • The highest level at which a person uses similar motor actions for interacting with category members.
  • The level at which subjects are fastest at identifying category members.
  • The level with the most commonly used labels for category members.
  • The first level named and understood by children.
  • The first level to enter the lexicon of a language.
  • The level with the shortest primary lexemes.
  • The level at which terms are used in neutral contexts. For example, There’s a dog on the porch can be used in a neutral context, whereas special contexts are needed for There’s a mammal on the porch or There’s a wire-haired terrier on the porch. (See Cruse 1977.)
  • The level at which most of our knowledge is organized.

Thus basic-level categories are basic in four respects:

  • Perception: Overall perceived shape; single mental image; fast identicfication.
  • Function: General motor program.
  • Communication: Shortest, most commonly used and contextually neutral words, first learned by children and first to enter the lexicon.
  • Knowledge Organization: Most attributes of category members are stored at this level.

Lakoff (1987), p.46-7