A Non-Prototypical Perspective of Transitivity: Evidence-based Research

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Cheng Yuanyuan


The prototype theory on transitivity was first developed in the 1970’s as a response to the Aristotelian classical theory. Despite its popularity, it has shortcomings that cannot go unchallenged including the existence of fuzzy boundaries and problems related to graded categorization. This study thus sought to refute the prototype perspective by highlighting its weaknesses by providing counter-evidence. It employed a thematic analysis methodology where 8 main sources were analyzed to find out the weaknesses of the prototypical theory and refuting their claims through empirically based counter-arguments. The thematic analysis method was important as the emergent themes directly provided answers to the research questions. The study points out that the prototype category does not solve the transitivity problem, and in fact complicates it. Due to the fact that it is constrained, the prototype category has no ultimate explanatory power. In contrast, the research is able to demonstrate the strong explanatory power of classical category theory. The implication of the study is that, to successfully falsify the prototypical transitivity is significant in that it goes against conventional thought. This argument against the prototype theory is a breakthrough and innovative, providing food for thought for linguists all across the world.

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