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The prototype theory was proposed by Rosch 1978 who suggested that when people categorize objects they match them against the prototype ie an ideal exemplar which contains the most representative features inside the category Objects that do not share all the characteristics of the prototype are still members of the category but not prototypical ones She argued that prototypes represent a basic level of categorization eg chair as opposed to a superordinate eg furniture and a subordinate level eg kitchen chair The prototype theory has been particularly fruitful in providing several researchers with a convenient explanation of some phenomena in studies of vocabulary acquisition and teaching mental lexicon as well as in studies of cognitive linguistics and linguistic data Roschs concept of prototype served Griffiths 1986 to illustrate the nature of the mental representations children have for their nominals p 295 He focuses on dissimilarities between the language systems of a child and an adult paying special attention to the so-called overextension ie covering many meanings with one word only It is exemplified by presenting the situations in which a little girl R applied the word shoe to denote brown beetle dolls arm sock feet shoe The authors explanation of this phenomenon is as follows My version of prototypes theory would attribute to Rs mind something like videotape recordings of one or more shoe-involving episodes from her life she compared what she was currently experiencing with episodes in her mental video library and found that current input was closer to something in the shoe collection than to anything else p 298 The similarity was probably a matter of visual resemblance colour of the beetle shape of the sock and feet and action arm being fitted to a body Just like Griffiths Cook 1991 is also concerned with vocabulary however she put more emphasis on vocabulary teaching She stresses that Roschs theory has particular implications for teaching vocabulary at the beginning stages
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