Prototype Theory and the Categorizationof the English Tense System

| February 7, 2011

June 2011
Volume 5 Issue 1

| June 2011 Index | PDF Version |

Prototype Theory and the Categorization of the English Tense System

Fengjuan Zhang
Soochow University, Jiangsu, China.

The author received her M.A. in Linguistics from Soochow University of China and completed the Faculty Development Program in MnSCU, the USA. She is currently an Associate Professor in teaching English language at Soochow University. Her primary research interests are cognitive linguistics, functional linguistics, intercultural communication and instruction in EFL classrooms.

This paper attempts to address an important concept— prototypicality —in cognitive studies on the categorization of the English tense system, and raises the grammatical and functional approaches to the tense system to the level of universal cognition. On the theoretical basis of prototype theory, this research addresses the prototype of category TENSE, its cognitive features, and the mechanisms in the categorization of the system. It is argued that category TENSE, starting from the prototype of simple present tense, extends in the chained way of concatenation and expands in the polysemous way of radiation. It also suggests that vagueness exists in the boundary of the tense category. This vagueness in the boundary helps the extension and expansion of category TENSE. With family resemblance as the operating principle, chained metonymies and the interaction between metonymic and metaphoric mechanisms contribute in the categorization.

Key Words: category TENSE; prototype; prototypicality; cognitive mechanism


Category: Volume 5 Issue 1 2011