Analysis Of Linguistic Categorization In Cognitive Perspective


New studies in cognitive science fuel researchers’ interest in language categorization. Until now, categorization has been approached from a variety of perspectives – researchers focus on the process and mechanisms of categorization, linguistic means of its representation (such as articles, possessive and demonstrative pronouns, temporal-aspectual forms of verbs, word order and intonation, etc.), still the way the process and the results of categorization are verbalized as well as the language means that are employed in this cognitive operation are still under-researched. The paper identifies the categorization frame, reveals principles of profiling and language means employed to describe the process. The preliminary stage of the research consists in gathering lexical units from Russian-Russian Dictionary that describe categorization, then the categorization frame is offered: objects are classified into categories by the speaker, the speaker rationalizes the decision, then, the operation of categorizing goes – objects are referred to some class, the speaker expresses the degree of confidence in the decision, the extent to which the object can be assigned to the class, or relates the object with other members of the class without ‘establishing the membership’. The research findings result in a typology means that describe the process of categorization profiling, e.g. the way / mode of acquiring knowledge (cf. oboznachit’, vyglyadet’ ), surrounding circumstances, aspects of the decision making process – hesitating ( vsyo-taki ), doubting his / her decision (cf. vrode, kak budto ), estimating the degree to which the object meets the requirements to the members of the category ( identichny, pohozhy, nastoyashchy ), etc.

Keywords: Categorizationframecognitive operationclassprofiling principle


When a human being enters the world s/he has to learn to categorize all the objects and activities around so that s\he could learn how to survive in it, to understand what to expect from the surrounding cosmos, and categorizing is euristically indispensable means. When a person knows which class / category the object in question belongs to he understands the algorithm of handling the objects of this class. These algorithms are empirically deduced by previous generations, they offer invaluable prognostic guidelines for the humans and make them feel comfortable in predictable and no longer dangerous world (Bezukladova, 2018; Suleimanova & Petrova, 2018). So, the category is a powerful cognitive tool and at the same time the result of cognition; it is carried out on the different levels. (We shall use the terms category and class in the paper indiscriminately, to refer to categorization units; and use an abridged version for categorization - CAT.)

The cognitive paradigm stimulates interest to CAT, which is defined as “comprehension and sustaining the results of cognition process in cognitive units – concepts” and further relating them to “certain rubrics of experience – categories”, i.e. “conceptually joined objects” (Boldyrev, 2010, p. 45). What follows is that CAT is omnipresent in the everyday linguistic practice, it is effected practically in every speech act, e.g., in English this function belongs to the article, in Russian this function is performed by a variety of means, among which are equivalents of articles (such as word tsely – whole ), though more often it is delegated to FSP and zero determiner – in the phrase Mozhet priglasit’ mamu na vystavku ili v kino ( Maybe we could invite Mum to an / the exhibition or to a / the movie ) the objects exhibition and movie are referred to the corresponding classes of objects. (In English both nouns are preceded by articles, and the speaker, judging by the situation, opts either for the definite, or indefinite article).

Problem Statement

The researchers focus on a variety of CAT characteristics, different categories represented in the systems of concepts – cf. e.g. (Babushkin, 2019; Boldyrev, 2010; Kuznecov, 2019; Manaenko, 2019; Mescheryakova, 2019; Sharandin, 2019; Shen & Gil, 2017; Sroka, 2018). They research into the linguistic means specially designated for categorizing, namely: the article as the major explicator of the CAT process and its results; demonstrative and personal pronouns; markers of definiteness / indefiniteness such as Russian tsely whole (Suleimanova, 1984), noun plural / singular forms: On vyraschival tsvety / On vyraschival tsvetok ( He grew flowers / He grew the flower ); aspect verb characteristics On edet na mashine / On ezdit na mashine ( He is driving a / the car vs He drives a / the car ) (Krejdlin & Rakhilina, 1981); word order and intonation (Matezius, 1967), sense perception verbs – they draw attention to emerging objects of a dome class; spatial prepositions / adverbs. Besides lexical means languages feature syntactic constructions, whose meaning matches the CAT purpose, e.g., existential construction with be - and have- words which introduce the object identified as a member of a class: He had a nice voice, There was an accident at the crossroads, U Chekhova est’ stranny rasskaz ( Chekhov wrote one strange story ),. The word order in the attributive group is also determined by CAT, specifically, by the theory of classes, based, in its turn, on CAT theory (Suleimanova & Petrova, 2018).

In fact, every communication act starts with categorizing. Cf. below a text fragment:

Old age – are a taboo in our society. To discuss these issues – is mauvais tone , or a mistake is always a way , not the end of life. For any mistake is a lesson . Do you know what really disturbs me? What I consider a mistake? The lost sense of tact … Translating your own position is not a valour . Is not to think about others and not about your precious … What is dismaying is that nowadays it is treated as bravery (M. Mironova, Interview, transl. by the authors – O.S., A. V., M.F.), where the heroine explains her stand through assigning categories: in two cases she explicitly denotes CAT operation – consider, is called (is treated as), while in other occurrences the protagonist is doing it implicitly, fixing it as a given. Cf. also in D. Bykov’s Orphografia: One of the strongest and unpleasant human feelings is a sudden understanding of how strongly, it turns out, he is being hated and how serious the intentions of his enemies are, where the protagonist is trying to understand the situation in categorical terms.

At present, verbalization of the CAT process proper, as well of its result, have not been given comprehensive account yet, which makes the research into its specifics a relevant issue. The linguistic means which describe categorization operations have not been collected and systematized either.

Research Questions

To reveal the specifics of linguistic representation of the CAT process in Russian we have to answer the questions to follow:

  • what linguistic means are used to denote CAT processes and operations, understand how large this linguistic corpus is in the language;

  • what facets of the process are profiled by these linguistic means, what aspects of CAT process are relevant in the language as they have special verbal representation ;

  • what facets are represented in the CAT frame in Russian, what operations find explication.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the paper is to analyse verbalization of categorizing act in Russian which implies focusing on a variety of tasks.

First of all, the researcher has to pick out the verbal means (verbs, adjectives and various word combinations) which denote CAT act; deduce the cognitive frame of this act explaining which cognitive operations CAT is based on; and finally list linguistic means that are able to realize categorizing that will help suggest a comprehensive typology of enacted linguistic means of linguistic CAT.

Research Methods

One of the priorities the research is pursuing is building up a CAT frame and researching into the principles of profiling in describing the object / situation as a cognitive CAT mechanism (Bezukladova, 2018, p. 148): to pick up the linguistic means used to refer to CAT and to proceed to closer analysis of the cognitive operations reflected in the language to describe CAT.

We suggest distinguishing in the CAT frame basic operations constituting CAT act, which implies deciding on referring an object (X) to some category (X or Y), “weighting” arguments for / against the decision, and CAT – assigning an object to some class judging by its visual, tactile, audial, etc. characteristics; degree of (un)certainty of the speaker in his decision on the category he sends the object to; the degree of intensity / prominence of the features which determine class membership of an object; it can also be coordination of object X to the class of Y-s , though not placing X into the Y-class .

Then we classify the linguistic means which profile the operations, e.g. adjectives ( nastoyaschy - distinct, true (cf. a distinct therapeutic effect, a true breakthrough) refer X and its properties to other objects of the X-class); see adverbs ( sobstvenno in fact , vovse ne – not at all , po suty actually , cf. do nachala sobstvenno issledovaniya; vovse ne chudo; po suti rodnye brat'ya before the actual research, not a miracle at all, actually brothers ); verbs ( nazyvayut , cf. eto sostoyanie nazyvayut spazmom this condition is called a spasm ) and deverbal derivatives ( oboznachaemyj kak , cf. period otechestvennoj istorii, oboznachaemy kak «epoha ottepeli » – a period of our history referred to as “a thaw epoch” ). Note that part-of-speech characteristics normally does not affect CAT – e.g. combinations to conceive of X as and X conceived of as characterize CAT in the same way as regards the cognitive grounds of CAT – vosprinimat' / vosprinimaemy kak dogmu – to conceive X as dogma and X conceived as dogma .

At the next research step, to find out which operations the Russian speaker carries out to categorize objects, the Russian-Russian dictionary (S.I. Ozhegov) was scanned for the lexical means which (at least in one of their meanings) describe CAT profiles (the sampling counted more than 80 units, we did not distinguish words of the same root belonging to different parts of speech).


CAT operations in Russian (there is evidence to suggest that in many other languages – though it calls for verification – the CAT frames coincide to a great extent as they reflect the human logic) make up the frame to follow: CAT proper – calling / denoting ( nazyvaetsya, otnositsya k ), is called / refers to ; indicating perception modality which governs CAT ( vyglyadel ), looks like X ; expressing (un) certainty of the speaker in relating X to a class, claiming similarity between X- and Y-objects not actually referring the object to the class (analogichny ) like X , analogous to ; hesitating in his verdict, or voicing decision as a result of a sophisticated cognitive operation – in a kind of an internal dialogue of the speaker with himself ( vrode by ) as if . Though the frame of the cognitive mental operation is rather typical, the languages are selective in permitting these operations and linguistic means that represent the operations.

Then the speaker may emphasize the way he used to get the relevant CAT knowledge, or means of its verbalization ( oboznachit', vyglyadet' ) denote, look like ; of attendant circumstances, aspects of the decision-making process: hesitation ( vse-taki ) still, uncertainty ( vrode, kak budto ) as if, might (be) or assessing identity of the X-object with Y- objects or whether X- object meets the requirements which X-objects are expected to meet ( identichny, pokhozhy, nastoyaschy ) identical, similar, true .

One of the key features which discriminate the linguistic means is between the predicates which convey the information about CAT proper, on the one hand, and the predicates, which secure, anchor the CAT result and characterize the speaker’s attitude to the “reliability” of categorization.

The first group of verbs – made up of relatively few members – comprises verbs otnosit'(sya) k, yavlyat'sya, byt', - refer(red) to, be – the protagonist establishes compliance of the object’s relevant features, which serve as reference when referring the object to some class with the features of the class, for instance

V etom smysle, podgotovlenny specialistami MGU … otchet yavlyaetsya vazhnym dokumentom… – In this respect the… report is an important document …(Moscow State University. “Research on Olympic Games Influence” (most of the examples below are borrowed from National Corpus of Russian Language NCRL, translation is ours - authors), or Kakimi kachestvami dolzhen obladat' chelovek, chtoby pro nego mozhno bylo skazat', chto on yavlyaetsya zreloj lichnost'yu? (Anonymous poll in Internet Forum). What qualities should a person have so that he can be characterized as a mature person?

The next group comprises verbs schitat', kazat'sya, nazyvat', klassificirovat', oboznachat' kak, harakterizovat' kak, - consider, seem, classify, denote as, characterize as which do not denote CAT process as such but focus on the result of the prior cognitive CAT act – the speaker secures the result, relates to CAT precision (kazat'sya, vyglyadet') seem, appear, or other frame profiles: he may accentuate whether object X belongs to X-class or not, judging on the inference (schitat') consider, denote his classifying activity in different formats (harakterizovat' kak, oboznachit', nazvat') characterize as, denote, call; denoting perception channel (X kazalsya, vyglyadel kak) X seemed, looked like. CAT may be accompanied by a cognitive operation – e.g. v konechnom schete - in the long run may presuppose that making decision on referring X to a category is preceded by mental reasoning. For instance, in

"Kontra!" - negodovala moya mama, intuitivno ponimaya, chto Izabella Davydovna, myagko govorya, ne razdelyaet papinyh kommunisticheskih vzglyadov i ne schitaet menya genial'noj pianistkoj. (N. Scherbak. Roman s filfakom // «Zvezda», 2010). ”Dissent!” – said my mother indignantly as she instinctively understood that Isabella Davydovna, to put it mildly, does not share father’s communist views and does not rate me as a great pianist the speaker does not include herself into the class of great pianists.

The speaker may report CAT as the result of cognitive processing of the protagonist’s audial experience whenever a tram passed behind his windows: . Gluhoj shum tramvaya, donosivshijsya po vremenam s ulicy, kazalsya mne upoitel'nym rokotom okeanskogo priboya ( V. Gubarev. Troe na ostrove). The dull tram noise, reaching me from time to time, seemed to me entrancing beat of ocean waves.

Class membership can be defined through the cognitive operation harakterizovat' kak, markirovat', imenovat', obozvat', otobrazit' kak, predstavlyat' - characterize as, mark as, name, call, represent as, as well as the result of this operation: called, referred to as .

The speaker may establish similarity (not identity!) between the objects of different classes – upodobit', obraschat'sya kak s (ravnym / sopernikom / drugom) / imitirovat' / zakosit' pod, slovno, zakodirovat' / izobrazit' kak / otozhdestvit' s, klejmit' assimilate, to treat as (a peer / friend / rival) / imitate / feign / as if / to encode / picture as / identify with / to stamp (Furs & Vishnevskaya, 2019).

Assimilation is often worded by particles kak, budto and kak budto as, as if. Cf. a try to assimilate in The New Testament On zhe skazal: chemu podobno Carstvie Bozhie? i chemu upodoblyu ego? (Luka, 13: ) - Then said He, Unto what is the kingdom of God like ? and whereunto shall I resemble it? … And again He said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? (Luke, 13: 18; 13: 20).

Cf. the focus on the result of the protagonist’s attempt to assimilate object X with the objects of other classes (the class of equals / seniors): Natasha podnyala lico, i vdrug ee lico pokazalos' mne siyayuschim farforovym blyudcem. So mnoj Natasha obraschaetsya, kak s ravnym , a s Borisom Mihajlovichem - kak so starshim, lastitsya k nemu. (Yu. Olesha. Vishnevaya kostochka). – Natasha treated me as an equal , but with Boris Mikhailovich she behaved as if he was much older ; she looked up to him in fact. " (Y. Olesha “Cherry Stone”, transl. by O. Bogdanov).

The speaker may also accentuate the result of the cognitive operation of assimilating / dissimilating X-class object to Y-objects: X may be described as mnimyj, lozhnyj, otlichnyj ot, podobnyj, fiktivnyj, pohozhij, priblizitel'nyj, primernyj, shodnyj, analogichny, shozhiy , and even as identichnyj false, different from, similar, analogous, fictitious, approximate, as identical – practically fully coinciding with Y-objects though the speaker does not rush to recognize it as Y , cf.:

«Zamet'te, - skazal ya, - chto suschestvuyut manuskripty, napisannye zadolgo do togo, kak zhil prototip… mnimy prototip, potomu chto na samom dele vse `eto bylo emu tol'ko pripisano». « Mnimy , - skazala ona zadumchivo, - vy tak schitaete?» (B. Hazanov. Puteshestvie). “Mind you – I said – that there are manuscripts written well before the prototype’s lifetime … imaginary prototype, as all that was in fact only attributed to him”. “ Imaginary , - she said thoughtfully, - do you think so?”

The object may be characterized with respect to the degree it complies with the requirements the class member is to meet – nastoyaschy, tipichny, tochny, dejstvitel'ny, istinny, kanonichesky, nesomnenny, neosporimy, polnost'yu sootvetstvuyuschy, normal'ny, obychny, nepoddel'ny, polnocenny, sootvetstvuyuschy, bessporny, bukval'ny, banal'ny - real, typical, exact, true, canonical, undoubtful, fully complying, normal, common, full-fledge, banal, unquestionable, indisputable, obvious, literal, rather, ot`yavlenny, The speaker may claim weak resemblance between X and other class members – it is the “worst” member: zauryadny, zahudaly, nikudyshny, elementarny, nadumanny (predlog), kosvenny - garden variety, run-of-the-mill, mediocre, elementary, good-for-nothing. The adjective formal implies poor compliance: surface features may suggest (better) class X, while in fact the object in question is Y.

The protagonist may categorize after some doubt and cognitive analysis, some innate dialogue with himself: esli razobrat'sya, vrode (kak), vse-taki, vpravdu, budto, kak budto, vse-taki, dejstvitel'no, imenno, vovse ne - when you get right down to it, looks like, still, as if, if you come to think of it, cf.: Supruzheskaya para pustynnyh mokric okolo svoej norki. Ih detenyshi, pokazavshemusya na poroge svoego zhilischa, net esche i dvuh mesyacev. `Etakaya idilliya. A ved' dejstvitel'no : sem'ya mokric postoyanno truditsya nad blagoustrojstvom norki glubinoj do metra, sozdavaya snosnye usloviya suschestvovaniya… (K. Efremov. Razmyshleniya u knizhnoj polki: Begstvo ot odinochestva). A pair of woodlice is near their hole. Their prodigy emerging from the hole is not yet two months old. Such an idyll. If you come to think of it: the family has been toiling trying to make the hole as much comfortable as possible…

More examples:

Po-francuzski "ridicule" znachit "smeshno". I vpravdu , smeshno: tam vojna, a zdes' - ridikyuli. (I. Grekova. Fazan). Ridicule” means “funny” in French. It is really funny: the war has set in there, while here we have these ridicules .

Vasya-to byl, bol'shoj takoj, starshinoj-to rabotal… Tak taratoril Egor, a sam, pohozhe, prihodil poka v sebya - gost' byl i vpravdu nezhdannyj. - My s Shuroj sluzhili vmeste, - poyasnil on (V. Shukshin. Kalina krasnaya). -…the guest was reall y unwelcome. The object can be represented as normally categorizable as belonging to some class and its membership is a matter of belief – izvestny kak - known as: They practice here an ancient wood processing technique, which used to be called “menuizje” Zdes' praktikuyut starinnyj sposob obrabotki dereva, nekogda shiroko izvestny kak «metod menyuiz'e» (G. Kirillova. Vintazh ili neobarokko? // «Mir & Dom. City», 2003.05.15). The utterance may contain “as though”-CAT, it conveys the information that the speaker relies on visual, audial, tactile perception, not necessarily his own; he “suggests” handling the object of an unclear class as if it belongs to some other class with similar odoric, gluttonic, tactile, visual or audial characteristics: vosprinimaemyj / vidimyj / oschuschaemyj / zvuchaschij (kak) - seen as, felt as, sounding like / as. It seems that we have assimilation here, but we suggest distinguishing these operations as they are based on one cognitive perception principle.

The speaker may refer the object to some class with a certain degree of probability: veroyatno, bezuslovno, ochevidno, vidimo, vrode - without doubt, evident, obvious, seeming, etc.: Yansons - veliky muzykant. Sejchas, bezuslovno, vhodit v pyaterku luchshih dirizherov mira (R. Schedrin. «Kul'tura», 2002.03.25). Jansons is a great musician. Now he is undoubtedly in the five world top conductors.

Class membership may vary in degree and quality of dinstinctness – otchetlivy, razborchivy, vnyatny, vidimy, vyrazhenny (not ne vyrazitel'ny! - expressive ), nevnyatny, nevrazumitel'ny, yavny, yavstvenny, nerazlichimy, primetny - clear, distinct, (in)visible, discernible.

In some cases the speaker may express the extent to which he is convinced he can refer the object to a certain class – kak takovoj – kak takovogo muzha u nee ne bylo, kazat'sya, kazhuschijsya - as such, proper, she couldn’t say she had a husband per se, seeming, per se: V knyazhestve net kak takovoj kartinnoj galerei, no starinnye kartiny mozhno najti (A. Karabash. Tri dnya v Monako). The princedom can’t boast of a picture gallery per se , but old pictures could be found...

The speaker may focus on decision-making which is based on emphasizing the relevant and discarding the irrelevant po suti, v suschnosti, sobstvenno in fact, actually – or securing the result of a cognitive operation meant to establish associations between the elements of a class associirovat' - associate .

CAT may also accentuate a transfer of an X-object into some Y-class: gotovy (specialist), tol'ko posmotri na nego - ready specialist, to look at him, mature, ripe, ready-to-wear / for-service, ready, prepared cf. also originally was- iznachal'no byl; re-naming - ili inache, or, in other words, inoskazatel'no, or, on the contrary, pertaining categorical membership: ustojchivy - stable.

We have to admit, that referring polysemantic words, e.g. like , vrode into various profiles reflects a variety of meanings of a word: on the one hand, this word may emphasize similarity, on the other hand, it may imply that the speaker is hesitating what class to refer the object to (see dictionary entries for this word vrode – 1. podobno komu-chemu-n. like smth , 2. kak budto, kazhetsya as is , X seems (Suleimanova & Petrova, 2018). In such cases it is the context that dictates the choice of a profile in favour of the properties of an object, neglecting / excluding other properties: Vprochem, esli vy ustali i hotite otdohnut', u nas tut est' takie mesta, nu vrode kafe, restoranchikov. Tam mozhno i vypit' («`Ekran i scena», 2004.05.06). Well, if you are tired and want to have some rest, there are some places, like cafes or restaurants.


The analysis of the Russian means of expressing categorization made it possible to construct the general CAT frame.

First of all the speaker opts for the general CAT strategy – to either directly specify the category ( yavlyaetsya - verb be ) or focus on the categorization process ( classify - klassificirovat' ), or indirectly, practically via the adverbial metonymy, realize CAT, profiling some attendant cognitive operation which results in CAT ( schitat' - consider . (Note that part-of-speech characteristics variations seem irrelevant – сf. yavlyat'sya – yavlyayuschijsya, be - being . Though this statement calls for special analysis.)

Then the speaker concentrates on the properties of the cognitive situation and chooses one of them to represent the whole CAT. It can be accentuated on

- the well-grounded opinion of the speaker as the result of the performed cognitive operation– schitat', otnesti k, consider, refer to;

- assessing the opinion credibility – bezuslovny, absolute, unconditional;

- assessing the degree of the speaker’s confidence – nesomnenny, undeniable, unquestionable;

- assessing the compliance / non-conformity of the object in question with the requirements the object is expected to meet, so that it can be sent to this or that class – nastoyaschy, podlinny vs mnimy, lozhny, real, true vs false, imaginary, alleged, semblant;

- distinguishing the objects which are approximating some class, still cannot be considered its members – pohozhy, podobny, similar;

- specifying the perception modality which determines categorization choice – vyglyadet' kak - look / feel like.

This frame is determined by, first, how exactly the speaker represents his mental activity – accepting as a given or, on the contrary, the cognitive operation may imply the logical processing of the data; second, defining what properties make the speaker refer the object to some category, how distinctly and unambiguously and clearly they are expressed and understood by the speaker.

As a research perspective, it seems relevant to analyse the parts-of-speech differences in representing CAT by the derivatives, e.g. between attributive constructions nastoyaschy – true and the constructions with adverbials poistine, po-nastoyaschemu genuinely, truly .


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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation

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Suleimanova, O., Vodyanitskaya, A., & Fomina, M. (2020). Analysis Of Linguistic Categorization In Cognitive Perspective. In N. L. Amiryanovna (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 86. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1374-1382). European Publisher.