Project Overview  ||  Ad hoc categories  ||  Research directions  ||  Converging evidence

The object of analysis of the LEAdhoC project are the linguistic reflections of a basic, prevalent cognitive process, namely the construction of ad hoc categories.

However, the scientific impact of the project goes beyond the borders of linguistics.

A comprehensive picture of how languages encode (and speakers use) ad hoc categories will have a strong impact on the disciplines involved in the modeling of human conceptual processing, providing them with a theory on the role played by verbal communication in the construction and use of non-stable categories. The goals of this project thus cross the boundaries between different fields of research, starting from linguistic data to reach and influence i) psychological, ii) philosophical and iii) computational models of human categorization. In particular we envisage:

  • implications for psychological (and psycholinguistic) research dealing with simulation in conceptual processing, the situated and embodied nature of knowledge, the dynamic online construction of conceptual representations, their storage in memory, the development of conceptual systems to support goal achievement, and the structure of knowledge;
  • Implications for philosophical research dealing with the foundations of human reasoning and intelligence, abduction, creative reasoning, model-based reasoning, the role of context in human reasoning, modeling and simulation of human reasoning and rational behavior, contextual dependence of human rationality.
  • Implications and potential applications for artificial intelligence and machine learning, allowing for the development of computational models, which are central both in replicating human linguistic behavior, and in advancing the state of automatic processing systems.

More generally, the analysis of how ad hoc categorization is expressed and used across languages will lead to important anthropological considerations: a typological perspective indeed naturally tackles the question whether there is something universal in categorization processes or whether, and to what degree, the construction and communication of categories is affected by specific and local cultural and linguistic factors.