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Domain-Specific and General Properties of Folk Classifications

Author(s): Eric W. Holman Source: Journal of Ethnobiology, 25(1):71-91. 2005. Published By: Society of Ethnobiology DOI: 10.2993/0278-0771(2005)25[71:DAGPOF]2.0.CO;2 URL: http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.2993/02780771%282005%2925%5B71%3ADAGPOF%5D2.0.CO%3B2

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Journal of Ethnobiology 25(1): 71–91

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DOMAIN-SPECIFIC AND GENERAL PROPERTIES OF FOLK CLASSIFICATIONS
ERIC W. HOLMAN Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563 holman@psych.ucla.edu
ABSTRACT.—Published hierarchical folk classifications of animals, plants, and a wide variety of other things are surveyed in search of similarities and differences. In contrast to classifications of other things, classifications of animals and plants distinguish more categories, are more likely to be endowed with taxonomic ranks, and obey more consistently a nomenclatural rule related to ranks. Even within the set of things other than animals and plants, there is evidence for differences among classifications of different domains. These cross-cultural regularities suggest that taxonomic judgments are not entirely determined by culture. Despite their differences, most of the classifications are similar in their average number of hierarchical levels. The small number of levels in all folk classifications suggests a general limit, possibly on memory. Key words: folk classification, categorization, taxonomic rank, taxonomic nomenclature, ethnoscience. RESUMEN.—Se han examinado clasificaciones populares jerarquicas ya publica´ das de animales, plantas, y de una gran variedad de otras cosas, para buscar sus semejanzas y diferencias. Las clasificaciones de animales y plantas diferencian mas ´ categorıas, estan mas frecuentemente dotadas de rangos taxonomicos y suelen ´ ´ ´ ´ obedecer normalmente a una ley nomenclatural relacionada con los rangos. Dentro del conjunto de cosas que no son animales ni plantas, existen pruebas de diferencias entre las clasificaciones en dominios diferentes. Estas similitudes transculturales sugieren que los juicios taxonomicos no estan determinados totalmente ´ ´ por la cultura. A pesar de sus diferencias, la mayorıa de las clasificaciones son ´ similares en su numero medio de niveles jerarquicos. El bajo numero de niveles ´ ´ ´ en todas las clasificaciones populares sugiere un limitante general, posiblemente la memoria. ´ ´ RESUME.—Cette article cherche a etablir les ressemblances et differences entre ` ´ ´ les differentes classifications hierarchiques et folkloriques qui ont ete publiees sur ´ ´ ´ ´ ´ les animaux, les plantes et de nombreux autres objets. Les classifications animales et vegetales comportent davantage de categories et de rangs. Elles suivent de ´ ´ ´ facon plus reguliere un ensemble de regles nomenclaturales liees aux rangs tax¸ ´ ` ` ´ onomiques. En ce qui concerne les classifications d’objets autres que les animaux et les vegetaux, on remarque des differences entre les classifications refletant les ´ ´ ´ ´ differences entre domaines. Ces regularites interculturelles suggerent que les ju´ ´ ´ ` gements taxonomiques ne sont pas completement determines par la culture. Mal` ´ ´ gre leurs differences, la plupart des classifications se ressemblent quant au nombre ´ ´ de rangs hierarchiques. Le nombre peu eleve de rangs dans chacune des classi´ ´ ´ fications folkloriques suggere qu’il existe une limite universelle sans doute liee a ` ´ ` la memoire. ´

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INTRODUCTION Berlin et al. (1973) and Berlin (1992) have demonstrated striking cross-cultural regularities in many folk classifications of animals and plants. Folk classifications generally distinguish about 100 to 1000 kinds of animals or plants. To a first approximation, the classifications consist of categories, called taxa, that are hierarchically arranged in the sense that any two taxa are disjoint unless one is strictly included in the other; the hierarchical structure is only approximate because folk taxa are not necessarily discrete. Six distinct taxonomic ranks have been identified on psychological and linguistic grounds, called (from highest to lowest) kingdom, life form, intermediate, generic, specific, and varietal; for instance, in American English folk botanical classification, ‘plant’ is the kingdom, ‘tree’ is a life form, ‘evergreen’ is an intermediate, ‘oak’ is a generic, ‘white oak’ is a specific, and ‘swamp white oak’ is a varietal. Folk taxonomic hierarchies are shallow because most branches do not contain taxa of all six ranks; in the example just given, the branch leading to ‘swamp white oak’ contains only five levels because ‘evergreen’ is on a different branch. Although kingdoms and intermediate taxa are frequently unnamed, taxa of other ranks are generally named according to rules that depend on their rank; the generic rank is usually the basic level, more salient than the others. Finally, the taxa in folk classifications correspond fairly closely to the taxa independently defined in scientific classifications of the same organisms. Brown et al. (1976) raised the possibility that at least some of these findings may apply to folk classifications in general rather than to classifications of animals and plants in particular. After applying the principles of Berlin et al. (1973) to several folk classifications of other things, Brown et al. (1976:84) concluded: Whether the general principles of Berlin et al. are in some sense primarily attributed to biological taxonomy and only secondarily, perhaps by analogy, to non-biological and non-taxonomic classification, or whether the human mind is innately predisposed to a certain way of naming and classifying biological and non-biological phenomena alike is a question left to be resolved. That subsequent research has not yet answered this question to the satisfaction of all is evident in a recently published exchange on the subject. In favor of the first alternative answer, Atran (1998:549) describes a difference between folk classifications in different domains: ‘‘In other words, in many domains there is hierarchy without rank, but only in the domain of living kinds is there always rank.’’ Of the commentaries accompanying Atran’s paper, however, the four that address the issue all express skepticism about whether folk classifications of animals and plants are distinguished from other folk classifications by any particular feature such as taxonomic rank (Hunn 1998; MacLaury 1998; Matan and Strauss 1998; Morton 1998). On the assumption that additional data will help to answer the question, the present paper surveys a large sample of published folk classifications in order to compare classifications of animals and plants with other classifications.

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DATA The proposed comparison must address the possibility that if observed, any differences may just indicate that anthropologists collect or report folk classifications of animals and plants differently from folk classifications of other things. A degree of consensus has developed on how to treat classifications of animals and plants, but the same agreement may not extend to other classifications. To minimize spurious differences, all the classifications in the present sample are required to satisfy four conditions, described below, which reflect current standards for classifications of animals and plants. This requirement is conservative with respect to differences between classifications, but it carries the complementary risk of exaggerating their similarities. The first condition distinguishes folk classifications from scientific classifications of folk materials. Examples of the latter are the classifications of textiles, pottery, and basketry sometimes constructed by anthropologists and archaeologists to organize their data. In contrast, all the classifications in the present sample are described by the compilers as reflecting the taxonomic judgments of native informants. The second condition is completeness. In a complete classification, all the taxa are listed along with which is included in which. A classification is rejected as incomplete if parts of it are acknowledged to be missing, or if it is described as part of a larger classification the rest of which is not presented. Incomplete classifications cannot be used to infer the size of whole classifications without controversial extrapolations. Moreover, incomplete classifications are frequently presented as examples (or counterexamples) of general principles, and might therefore bias the sample for (or against) these principles. On the crucial question of whether a given classification is complete in its domain or incomplete in a larger domain, the judgment of the compiler of the classification is followed: for instance, the French classification of women’s clothes compiled by Barthes (1967) is accepted as a complete classification of women’s clothes rather than an incomplete classification of clothes, because Barthes treats it as a manifestation of the culture of fashion expressed in mass magazines, of which several are devoted to women’s clothes but none to clothes in general. Since the boundaries of folk classifications are sometimes unclear because of variation in knowledge among informants, a classification is accepted as substantially complete even if it is described as containing only those taxa that are known to all or most informants. The third condition is that the classifications be approximately hierarchical as previously defined. Classifications are not excluded because of fuzzy boundaries between taxa, or because of occasional crosscutting taxa such as ‘weed’, as long as their hierarchical structure is clearly presented. Classifications are excluded, however, if they are organized in a paradigmatic format, such as kinship systems. Also excluded are partonomies, in which the basic relation is ‘part of’ rather than ‘included in’ (Brown et al. 1976). The last condition excludes flat classifications, in which the taxa are all on the same hierarchical level except for the one superordinate taxon that includes all the rest. It is often unclear whether the flatness of such classifications reflects a lack of additional hierarchical structure in the informants’ cognitions or merely

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TABLE 1.—Numbers of classifications and societies by things classified and mode of subsistence of the society. Foraging Classifications Animals and plants Other things Societies Animals and plants Other things 10 2 7 2 Agriculture 21 53 17 46 Industry 0 13 0 8

its omission from the anthropologists’ reports. In contrast, if a classification is not flat, then it contains at least two taxa that strictly include other taxa, and thus conveys more than minimal hierarchical information. The published literature (including dissertations) was searched in an attempt to find all the folk classifications that are substantially complete, approximately hierarchical, and not flat. The search started with the sources cited by Conklin (1972), Brown et al. (1976), Brown (1985), and Berlin (1992). Additional sources came from citation and subject searches in the Web of Science (Thomson ISI 2004), subject searches in Digital Dissertations (UMI ProQuest n.d.), perusal of the Journal of Ethnobiology including its lists of dissertations, and suggestions by readers of previous versions of the present paper. Appendix 1 lists the classifications of animals and plants, and Appendix 2 lists the classifications of other things. The successive columns in each Appendix give various properties of the classifications, which are now discussed in turn. A significance criterion of 0.05 is used in all statistical tests. MODE OF SUBSISTENCE Some properties of classifications of animals and plants are known to depend on the mode of subsistence of the society producing the classification. In particular, Brown (1985) discovered, and Berlin (1992:275–280) confirmed, that agricultural societies produce classifications with more taxa, more generics, and more specifics per generic than do foraging societies. Also, Dougherty (1978) pointed out that the basic level usually corresponds to the generic rank in agricultural and foraging societies, but to the life form rank in industrial societies. Whether these differences are direct effects of mode of subsistence or indirect effects of other factors, their existence recommends attention to mode of subsistence in searching for differences between classifications. The first column in Appendices 1 and 2 therefore gives the principal mode of subsistence of the society that produced each classification: F stands for foraging (hunting and gathering); A stands for small-scale agriculture; and I stands for large-scale industry. Societies already present in the samples of Brown (1985) or Berlin (1992) are placed in the same subsistence categories here as in the earlier samples, including the two special cases (the Saami, migratory herders placed in foraging; and the Hong Kong boat people, commercial fishers placed in agriculture). As a summary of these data, Table 1 gives the totals for each mode of subsistence. Since some societies are

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represented by more than one classification in the sample, the top two rows in the table give the numbers of classifications and the bottom two rows give the numbers of societies. The lack of folk classifications of animals and plants in industrial societies is an artifact of methodology. There is a large body of research on such classifications, summarized by Atran (1998), which consists of experiments and surveys that refer only to portions of the classifications. Incomplete classifications are excluded from the present sample. The rarity of folk classifications of other things in foraging societies is a different matter. Classifications of other things are significantly less common, relative to classifications of animals and plants, in foraging societies than in agricultural societies, 2(1) 13.53 for classifications and 9.14 for societies. Exclusion of incomplete classifications does not account for the difference, because the present search discovered only one published incomplete classification of other things by foragers (Ainu diseases: Ohnuki-Tierney 1981). Anthropologists may be unlikely to report classifications of the sorts of things that foragers are most likely to classify. Also, many of the manufactured objects classified in agricultural and industrial societies are unavailable to foragers; some aspects of the environment, such as soils, are unlikely to be of much importance without agriculture; and even diseases may be less conspicuous to the extent that foragers are healthier and more dispersed than subsistence farmers. Whatever its causes, the observed relation between mode of subsistence and content of classifications complicates the interpretation of other differences among classifications. Any such difference is potentially explainable as a secondary effect related to mode of subsistence. To forestall such explanations, differences can be confirmed by tests restricted to classifications from agricultural societies, thus reducing variability associated with mode of subsistence. BREADTH AND DEPTH OF CLASSIFICATIONS The breadth of a classification is the number of things that it distinguishes at its most detailed level. These things are called terminal taxa; in other words, a terminal taxon is one that is not further subdivided in the classification. For instance, in the American English example previously mentioned, the varietal ‘swamp white oak’ is a terminal taxon but the other taxa are not. The breadth of a classification is then defined as its total number of terminal taxa. The depth of a classification is its mean number of hierarchical levels, averaged across all its branches. More specifically, the hierarchical level of a taxon is the number of distinct taxa that strictly include the given taxon. For instance, in the same American English example, ‘swamp white oak’ is at level 4 because it is included in ‘white oak’, ‘oak’, ‘tree’, and ‘plant’. Terminal taxa, such as ‘swamp white oak’, are clearly at the lowest level on each branch of the classification. Therefore, the depth of a classification is here defined as the mean level of its terminal taxa. The requirement that a classification be hierarchical and not flat implies that depth is bounded for any given breadth. Figure 1 illustrates the shallowest and deepest possible classifications with a breadth of N terminal taxa. For the lower

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FIGURE 1.—Tree diagrams of classifications with minimum (left side) and maximum (right side) depth for N terminal taxa.

bound (left side), taxa 1 and 2 are at level 2 because the classification is not flat, and all the other terminal taxa are at level 1; the depth of the classification is therefore 1 2/N. For the upper bound (right side), taxa 1 and 2 are at level N 1, taxon 3 is at level N 2, and so on until taxon N is at level 1; the depth of the classification is therefore (N 1)/2 1/N. As N increases, the lower bound approaches 1 while the upper bound increases about half as fast as N does. The second and third columns in Appendices 1 and 2 give the breadth and depth of each classification. Both Appendices list the classifications in order of decreasing breadth, and then decreasing depth in case of ties in breadth. Because of its wide range and skewed distribution, breadth is transformed logarithmically in all statistical tests and correlations; for the same reason, breadth is summarized by the geometric mean, which is the antilogarithm of the conventional arithmetic mean of the logarithmically transformed data. Figure 2 plots depth against breadth, with the latter on a logarithmic scale. The most obvious feature in the figure is the greater breadth of classifications of animals and plants than of other things. Geometric mean breadth is 345.7 for animals and plants and 25.1 for other things; the difference is significant, t(97) 11.60. Also, classifications of animals and plants produced by farmers are broader than those produced by foragers: geometric mean breadth is 500.2 for farmers and 159.1 for foragers, t(29) 4.89. This effect of mode of subsistence is consistent with the differences found by Brown (1985) and Berlin (1992). There is little evidence for a corresponding effect of mode of subsistence in classifications of other things: geometric mean breadth is 23.8 for agriculture and 31.3 for industry, t(64) 0.76. Not surprisingly, breadth remains significantly greater for animals and plants than for other things when the test is restricted to classifications by farmers, t(72) 11.90. In Figure 2, the theoretical upper and lower bounds on depth are close together for low values of breadth, and the points for the narrowest classifications span most of the range between the bounds on depth; but for higher values of breadth, the upper bound rises above the graph, while the points for broader classifications stay near the lower bound. Consistent with this pattern, the correlation across classifications between depth and the logarithm of breadth is 0.48 for things other than animals and plants, which is significantly positive because the narrowest classifications are constrained by the upper bound on depth; but the correlation is only 0.02 for animals and plants, because broader classifications are far below the upper bound on depth. For the same reason, the mean depth

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FIGURE 2.—Breadth and depth of folk classifications. Dotted lines trace the upper and lower bounds on depth for each breadth. Each symbol indicates the things classified and the mode of subsistence of the society. Black symbols are animals and plants; white symbols are other things. Triangles subsist by foraging; diamonds by agriculture; squares by industry.

of 2.93 for animals and plants is slightly greater than the mean depth of 2.51 for other things; the difference is significant in the complete sample, t(97) 2.20, but not in the sample of classifications by farmers, t(72) 1.00. Mode of subsistence itself has no appreciable effect on depth. Within animals and plants, mean depth is 2.77 for agriculture and 3.15 for foraging, t(29) 1.22. Within other things, mean depth is 2.56 for agriculture and 2.40 for industry, t(64) 0.54. The fact that the depth of folk classifications remains far below its mathematical upper bound except in very narrow classifications suggests a cognitive limit on depth. The classifications of animals and plants actually provide some further evidence for this possibility. One reason that farmers’ classifications are broader than foragers’ is that taxa at the generic rank are more likely to be subdivided into specific and varietal taxa (Brown 1985; Berlin 1992:275–280). Such subdivision can add one or two levels to farmers’ classifications below the generic rank, while few generics are subdivided in foragers’ classifications. If total depth is limited, then farmers’ classifications should have fewer levels above the generic rank than foragers’. To test this prediction, let the generic depth of a classification be defined as the mean level of its generic taxa. The fourth column in Appendix 1 gives the generic depth of each classification of animals and plants (except that the column contains a dash for Nuaulu animals because taxonomic ranks are not

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TABLE 2.—Numbers of classifications by things classified and presence or absence of taxonomic ranks. Ranks Animals and plants Other things 30 21 No ranks 1 47

reported for that classification). Mean generic depth is 2.27 for farmers and 2.96 for foragers, t(29) 2.54. The significantly lesser depth of farmers’ classifications at the generic rank compensates for their greater depth below, with the result that total depth does not depend upon mode of subsistence. TAXONOMIC RANK Taxonomic rank is distinct from hierarchical level because taxa at the same rank are supposed to be comparable even if they are at different levels. The clearest example of this distinction within the same classification is described by Berlin (1992:23–24) for taxa of generic rank in classifications of animals and plants. Most generics are included in life forms and are therefore at level 2 or below, but a few unaffiliated generics are not included in any life form and are therefore at level 1. Although unaffiliated generics are rare in the American English folk classification of plants, a possible example is ‘cactus’, which does not easily fit in the life forms ‘tree’, ‘bush’, or ‘herb’. In the present sample, a classification is scored as having ranks if it satisfies at least one of the following two criteria. The first criterion is that the publication explicitly names at least one rank. In most cases, if one rank in a classification is named, the rest are too; but in a few cases, only the generic rank or basic level is named and the other ranks are located relative to the basic level without being named. The second criterion is that the publication implicitly distinguishes ranks by the use of different typefaces or different positions on the page. This criterion is invoked only if some nonterminal taxa at different levels are nevertheless given the same typeface or position, thus distinguishing rank from level. The next to last column in Appendices 1 and 2 indicates the presence or absence of ranks in each classification. Table 2 summarizes the totals. Ranks are present in all the classifications of animals and plants except one (Nuaulu animals), but ranks are absent in a large majority of the other classifications, 2(1) 37.01. The difference remains significant when the test is restricted to classifications by farmers, 2(1) 24.00. The present results confirm Atran’s (1998) suggestion that ranks are characteristic of classifications of animals and plants. The presence of ranks in only some of the other classifications raises the question of what additional factors may be correlated with ranks in those classifications. There is no association between the presence of ranks and mode of subsistence, 2(1) 0.01. The presence of ranks is related to the size of classifications, however. Geometric mean breadth is 47.9 for classifications with ranks and 18.8 for classifications without ranks, t(66) 3.39. Mean depth is 2.89 for classifications with ranks and 2.34 for classifications without ranks, t(66) 2.34. Ranks may be more likely to occur in broader and deeper classifications be-

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cause ranks may help in the comparison of taxa that would otherwise be too widely separated in different parts of a large classification. The greater likelihood of ranks in larger classifications also suggests that the presence of ranks in nearly all classifications of animals and plants may be a secondary effect of the relatively large size of such classifications. A more radical explanation for the observed properties of ranks is based on Ellen’s (1986, 1993a) hypothesis that ranks are imposed on the ambiguous data in folk classifications of animals and plants by anthropologists emulating scientific classifications. It is because of this theory that Ellen (1993b) describes the Nuaulu classification of animals without ranks. Under Ellen’s hypothesis, the absence of ranks in most other folk classifications would reflect the absence of other scientific classifications prominent enough to inspire widespread imitation, and the presence of ranks in some large classifications would facilitate the comparison of taxa by anthropologists rather than by informants. NOMENCLATURE Taxonomic nomenclature is closely related to rank in folk classifications of animals and plants. In order to reduce the need for subjective judgments of rank, at least one nomenclatural rule can be recast into a form that does not depend upon such judgments. This reformulated rule can then be tested in all folk classifications. The rule to be tested follows from Berlin’s (1992:28–29) general principles of nomenclature in classifications of animals and plants: if a named taxon is of generic or lower rank, then the name of any included subtaxon is the name of the given taxon with or without a modifier. In particular, if a generic taxon is subdivided into specific taxa, then the name of any specific is the name of the generic plus a modifier, unless the name of the specific is the same as the name of the generic. Similarly, if a specific is divided into varietals, then the name of any varietal is either the name of the specific plus another modifier, or else the same as the name of the specific. For instance, the American English example of ‘oak’, ‘white oak’, and ‘swamp white oak’ follows the rule by adding a modifier at each rank. This rule is well suited for comparative research because it can be tested in published data even if the taxa are named in an unfamiliar language, particularly since the names are usually accompanied by literal translations into English or in some cases French, Portuguese, or Spanish. Exceptions to the rule are known but not common in classifications of animals and plants (Berlin 1992:30); an example in American English is ‘box elder’, which is a specific within the generic ‘maple’. The question is whether exceptions are equally uncommon in classifications of other things. To test the rule in all classifications, the premise of generic or lower rank is replaced by three criteria based on Berlin’s (1992:22–24) general principles of categorization, which can be applied to any named taxon even in classifications without ranks. The first criterion is that the given taxon is at level 2 or below. Most life forms fail to satisfy the criterion because they are at level 1; but most generics are included in life forms and are therefore at level 2 or below, satisfying the criterion; and all specifics are included in generics and therefore satisfy the cri-

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terion. The second criterion is that the taxon is divided into exactly two subtaxa. Most life forms and named intermediates fail to satisfy this criterion because they include several to many generics; but most generics and specifics that are subdivided at all satisfy the criterion, because they usually contain few if any subtaxa. The third criterion is that both subtaxa of the given taxon are terminal taxa. This criterion is satisfied only by taxa at the lowest ranks available on any given branch of the classification. Applied to the classifications of animals and plants (except Nuaulu animals, which are reported without ranks), these criteria are indeed effective in identifying taxa at or below the generic rank. Of the 915 taxa identified by the criteria, all but one are ranked as generic or lower in the published reports. The one exception, a named intermediate in the Saami classification of plants (Anderson 1978:531), is nevertheless included in subsequent analyses, which rely entirely on the objective criteria. Each named taxon identified by the criteria includes two subtaxa whose names can be checked against the nomenclatural rule. Across an entire classification, the percentage of the subtaxa whose names satisfy the rule will be called the nomenclatural regularity of the classification. Nomenclatural regularity as defined here is an objective measure of the extent to which a classification follows the nomenclatural principles of Berlin (1992). The last column in Appendices 1 and 2 gives the nomenclatural regularity of each classification that contains at least one taxon identified by the criteria; the column contains dashes for the other classifications, which lack taxa that qualify for testing. Figure 3 shows the distributions of nomenclatural regularity. The distribution for animals and plants is unimodal with its mode above 90%, while the distribution for other things is bimodal with a primary mode above 90% and a secondary mode below 10%. To allow for this bimodality, the distributions are divided at 30% into two parts for statistical tests. The proportion of classifications above the 30% threshold is significantly higher for animals and plants than for other things, 2(1) 7.19. The exact location of the dividing line is not crucial; the difference is significant if the threshold is anywhere from 10% to 80% inclusive. The difference also remains significant if the test is restricted to classifications by farmers, 2(1) 6.07. Nomenclatural regularity as measured objectively shows a contrast of animals and plants against other things that is very similar to the contrast previously found for taxonomic rank as inferred by anthropologists. In classifications of animals and plants, the generally high levels of nomenclatural regularity provide quantitative support for Berlin’s (1992) principles, which in turn are commonly used by anthropologists to infer ranks. Classifications of other things, however, are more diverse with respect to nomenclature as well as ranks. Some have ranks and some do not; some are nomenclaturally indistinguishable from classifications of animals and plants, and some are completely different, at least with respect to the rule tested here. Perhaps surprisingly, nomenclatural regularity is unrelated to the presence of taxonomic ranks in classifications of things other than animals and plants, 2(1) 0.95. Anthropologists inferring rank from nomenclature apparently do not generalize the same principles from classifications of animals and plants to other

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FIGURE 3.—Frequency distributions of nomenclatural regularity. Black bars are classifications of animals and plants; white bars are classifications of other things.

classifications. It follows that even if anthropologists’ biases are responsible for the difference in ranks between classifications of animals and plants and other classifications, at least the difference in nomenclature is not a result of the same biases. Nomenclature is likewise not significantly related to the other variables studied here. For animals and plants, nomenclatural regularity does not differ between classifications by farmers and foragers, t(24) 1.49; and nomenclatural regularity correlates 0.24 with the logarithm of breadth and 0.17 with depth. For other things, regularity does not differ between classifications by agricultural and industrial societies, 2(1) 0.49; and regularity correlates 0.27 with the logarithm of breadth and 0.02 with depth. These null results indicate that the difference in nomenclature that distinguishes animals and plants from other things is not a secondary effect of differences in any of the other variables. The results also imply that the classifications of other things in the upper and lower parts of the distribution of nomenclatural regularity are nevertheless similar in their other properties, and therefore equally different from classifications of animals and plants except in nomenclature. COMPARISONS OF INDIVIDUAL DOMAINS Across cultures, therefore, folk classifications of animals and plants have noticeably different properties from classifications of other things. The set of other things is moreover very heterogeneous both in the domains classified and in the

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properties of the classifications. The question now arises whether there is any cross-cultural agreement on how individual domains differ in the properties of their classifications. Meaningful comparisons of individual domains require the content of each domain to be similar across cultures. Berlin (1992:190–195) presents evidence for cross-cultural agreement about the domains of animals and plants, but the present sample includes some cases of disagreement among cultures about the domains of other things. For instance, diseases are the entire domain of several classifications but only a subset of the Ogori classification of misfortunes. Similarly, pottery (Puebla, Hopi) is a subset of arts (Akan), and music (Palau) is a subset of play (Kpelle) and also of sounds (Kayamura). Nevertheless, ´ a few domains reappear in the present sample often enough to suggest some agreement on their definition across cultures and by anthropologists, notably soils, diseases, vegetation zones, and supernatural beings. Soils and diseases are the domains other than animals and plants that are represented by the largest number of classifications in the sample, 11 each. Geometric mean breadth is 13.4 for soils and 84.4 for diseases, t(20) 6.51. Mean depth is 2.05 for soils and 2.72 for diseases, t(20) 2.56. The significant differences indicate crosscultural consistency in the size of classifications that do not involve animals or plants. Compared to animals and plants, classifications of soils are both narrower and shallower, t(40) 13.50 and 3.76, while classifications of diseases are narrower but not shallower, t(40) 5.05 and 0.68. Classifications of soils and diseases do not differ in the proportion with ranks, 2(1) 3.14, despite their difference in size. As for nomenclatural regularity, soils and diseases do not differ significantly from each other or from animals and plants, although the tests are weak because not enough classifications contain taxa that qualify for nomenclatural testing. The domain of vegetation zones consists of groups of plants that grow in the same environment, such as ‘rain forest’ in English. The six classifications of this domain refer to the same physical things as do classifications of plants, except considered as ecological groups rather than individual organisms. Nevertheless, breadth is significantly different, with a geometric mean of 9.2 for vegetation zones and 344.9 for plants, t(25) 8.75. The other properties of vegetation-zone classifications are consistent with their low breadth. Mean depth is 1.83, significantly below the 2.74 of plants, t(25) 2.96. None of the classifications have ranks, or taxa that qualify for nomenclatural testing. In short, there is cross-cultural agreement that the many different kinds of plants grow in far fewer distinct combinations. The domain of supernatural beings is of theoretical interest because of its freedom from empirical constraints. Systems of supernatural beings are indeed many and various, although only three are described as classifications: Gubatnun invisible beings, Thai spirits and ghosts, and Subanun participants in religious offerings (most of whom are supernatural). The geometric mean breadth of these classifications is 27.1, significantly below animals and plants, t(32) 5.30, and about average for other things. Mean depth is 3.07, not significantly different from animals and plants, t(32) 0.35. The presence of ranks in one of the three classifications is typical for their size. Nomenclatural regularity, however, is 0 for all three classifications, significantly below animals and plants, 2(1) 29.00, and even significantly below other things that are not supernatural, 2(1) 10.52. Classifications of supernatural beings appear to be distinctive both as supernatural systems and as classifications.

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The last comparison is between animals and plants themselves, represented by 10 and 21 classifications, respectively. There are no significant differences in breadth (t(29) 0.02), depth (t(29) 1.77), or nomenclatural regularity (t(24) 0.45), and ranks are practically ubiquitous in both domains. Although different from classifications of many other things, classifications of animals and plants differ little from each other in the properties studied here. DISCUSSION Three aspects of the present data support the first alternative of Brown et al. (1976:84), that ‘‘the general principles of Berlin et al. are in some sense primarily attributed to biological taxonomy and only secondarily, perhaps by analogy, to non-biological and non-taxonomic classification.’’ First, classifications of animals and plants are much broader than most other classifications. Second, anthropologists infer taxonomic ranks in nearly all classifications of animals and plants but in only a minority of other classifications. Third, the principles of nomenclature that characterize classifications of animals and plants are less widely applicable to other classifications. Moreover, the present results if anything underestimate the differences among classifications, which were sampled according to criteria based on classifications of animals and plants. The fact that animals and plants dominate the classifications reported in foraging societies suggests that these domains may be among the first to be classified by many cultures; then, as economic development makes a wider variety of things available for classification, people may attempt with mixed success to generalize taxonomic systems originally adapted for animals and plants. Alternatively, the differences among individual domains may indicate that the properties tested here, which were previously discovered in classifications of animals and plants, simply miss the point in other domains, where classifications may follow other rules that remain to be discovered; differences among the various rules may reflect different uses to which the classifications are put in different domains. These alternatives are not mutually exclusive; many other classifications may develop in the context of existing classifications of animals and plants, which are thus in a position to influence whatever new rules are adopted. In any case, the observed differences indicate cross-cultural agreement that different domains require classifications with different properties. This agreement, like the agreement between folk and scientific classifications of animals and plants, implies that folk classifications are not just arbitrary cultural artifacts. In particular, the present finding that folk classifications are broader in some domains than in others is analogous to Berlin’s (1990, 1992:87) observation that folk classifications of animals are more likely to divide a scientific genus into two or more folk specifics if the genus is represented in the local fauna by at least two scientific species than if it is represented by only one. Both findings indicate consistency in the number of terminal taxa used by independent classifications to divide the same portion of the world. Consistency holds across scales as large as kingdoms in the present study and as small as genera in Berlin’s. There remains one aspect of the present data that is well described by the second alternative of Brown et al. (1976:84), that ‘‘the human mind is innately

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predisposed to a certain way of naming and classifying biological and non-biological phenomena alike.’’ The depth of most folk classifications is close to the overall average of 2.64, largely independent of their content and even their breadth except for the narrowest classifications. For instance, in the transition from foraging to agriculture, classifications of animals and plants accommodate a threefold increase in breadth with no net change in depth, which decreases at the generic rank while increasing below. Meanwhile, other classifications fill nearly the same depth with much smaller numbers of taxa. The observed limit on depth is unlikely to be an artifact of the criteria used to select the present sample of classifications, because the depth of all except the narrowest classifications is far below the upper bound imposed by the sampling requirements. The causes of the limit on depth are unclear. It is not even known whether the limit applies to the cognitions of the informants or the methods used by anthropologists to study those cognitions, or for that matter whether such a distinction is meaningful in this context (Randall 1976). A limit on memory somewhere in the process is suggested by the fact that scientific classifications, which are usually transmitted in writing rather than orally, do not share the same limit on depth (Holman 1992). The deepest scientific classifications are also much broader than folk classifications but are still limited in the average size of their taxa. General limits on memory have already been invoked to explain both the maximum breadth of folk classifications (Levi-Strauss 1962:203) and the average ´ taxon size in scientific classifications (McNeill 1979). The limit on depth may also be related to another similarity among classifications: the existence of a basic level that is more salient than the other levels of the hierarchy. In addition to descriptive reports of the sort surveyed here, there is a large experimental literature, starting with Rosch et al. (1976), on the basic level and its properties. A basic level has been demonstrated experimentally in classifications of animals, plants, and a wide variety of other things such as concrete objects, environmental scenes (Tversky and Hemenway 1983), events (Rifkin 1985), personality traits (John et al. 1991), and even artificial categories (Murphy and Smith 1982). The usual design of these experiments compares a basic level with a terminal level below and a more inclusive level above, all within a superordinate domain, giving the whole classification a depth of 3, near the average for the classifications studied here.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank Cecil H. Brown, Gilles Brunel, Per Hage, Brad R. Huber, Flora S. Kaplan, Naomi F. Miller, Thomas D. Wickens, and the anonymous referees for helpful suggestions at earlier stages of this research. The project was supported by grants from the UCLA Academic Senate. REFERENCES CITED Adams, Charles R. 1974. Ethnography of Basotho Evaluative Expression in the Cognitive Domain Lipapali (Games). Ph.D. Dissertation (Anthropology), Indiana University, Bloomington. Ali, Abu Muhammad Shajaat. 2003. Farmers’ knowledge of soils and the sustainability of agriculture in a saline water ecosystem in southwestern Bangladesh. Geoderma 111:333–353.

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APPENDIX 1.—Properties of folk classifications of animals and plants. Mode of subsistence Breadth A A A A A A A A A A A A A F A F A A A A A F F F A A F F F F F 1632 1110 1040 719 694 657 644 621 617 599 596 586 492 419 417 414 404 382 323 300 221 211 201 190 159 140 112 101 91 88 82 Nomenclatural regularity* 100 97 90 100 50 100 100 99 100 96 91 92 100 100 100 75 83 100 100 100 — 88 100 100 100 — — 75 — — 67

Classification Hanunoo plants (Philippines) ´ Tzotzil plants (Mexico) Tobelo plants (Indonesia) Mixe plants (Mexico) Ndumba plants (New Guinea) Bunaq plants (Indonesia) Tzeltal plants (Mexico) Ka‘apor plants (Brazil) Chinantec plants (Mexico) K‘ekchi‘ plants (Mexico) Amuzgo animals (Mexico) Tobelo animals (Indonesia) Tzeltal animals (Mexico) Seri plants (Mexico) Nuaulu animals (Indonesia) Anindilyakwa animals (Australia) Bellona plants (Solomon Islands) Quechua plants (Peru) Hong Kong animals Futuna-Aniwa animals (Vanuatu) Rangi animals (Tanzania) Montagnais animals (Canada) Anindilyakwa plants (Australia) Saami animals (Norway) Futuna-Aniwa plants (Vanuatu) Rangi plants (Tanzania) Bella Coola plants (Canada) Montagnais plants (Canada) Gitksan plants (Canada) Witsuwit‘en plants (Canada) Saami plants (Norway)

Depth 2.62 3.49 2.57 2.63 2.30 3.50 3.02 3.89 2.61 2.38 3.54 3.24 2.90 1.56 2.58 3.84 2.66 1.87 2.46 2.75 2.47 4.22 3.29 4.09 2.13 2.62 2.96 3.89 2.15 1.76 3.74

Generic depth* 1.97 2.85 1.90 2.01 1.93 2.45 2.60 3.63 2.06 1.99 2.56 2.75 2.47 1.14 — 3.83 1.29 1.69 1.95 2.59 2.38 3.56 3.25 3.87 1.89 2.62 2.96 3.57 2.15 1.67 3.54

Rank Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

* If generic depth cannot be calculated because a classification lacks taxonomic ranks, the corresponding cell in the table contains a dash; if nomenclatural regularity cannot be calculated because a classification lacks taxa that qualify for nomenclatural testing, the corresponding cell likewise contains a dash. Sources: Amuzgo (Cuevas Suarez 1985, 1987); Anindilyakwa (Waddy 1988); Bella Coola (Turner 1973, ´ 1974); Bellona (Christiansen 1975); Bunaq (Friedberg 1990); Chinantec (Martin 1996); Futuna-Aniwa (Dougherty 1983); Gitksan (Johnson 1999); Hanunoo (Conklin 1954); Hong Kong (Anderson 1972); ´ Ka‘apor (Balee 1994); K‘ekchi‘ (Wilson 1972); Mixe (Martin 1996); Montagnais (Clement 1990, 1995); ´ ´ Ndumba (Hays 1974); Nuaulu (Ellen 1993b); Quechua (Brunel 1975); Rangi (Kesby 1986); Saami (Anderson 1978); Seri (Felger and Moser 1985); Tobelo (Taylor 1990); Tzeltal animals (Hunn 1977); Tzeltal plants (Berlin et al. 1974); Tzotzil (Breedlove and Laughlin 1993); Witsuwit‘en (Johnson-Gottesfeld and Hargus 1998).

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APPENDIX 2.—Properties of folk classifications of other things. Mode of subsistence Breadth A I A I A A A I A A A A A A I A A A A I A A A I I A F I A A A A A A A F A A A A A A A A A I A A I A 352 350 164 140 136 132 129 106 93 90 86 82 76 76 72 65 65 65 64 64 59 53 50 41 35 28 27 27 25 24 22 22 22 21 21 20 19 19 19 18 17 17 17 16 15 15 14 14 13 12 Nomenclatural regularity* — 100 12 100 — — — 100 — 100 50 100 67 100 100 — — 100 100 40 — 100 0 0 — 75 — 50 — 100 60 0 — — — — 83 100 100 0 — — — 0 — — 100 — — 100

Classification

Depth 2.52 2.24 3.79 2.85 3.92 3.95 3.98 2.11 2.44 2.69 1.65 2.76 3.17 2.38 2.38 3.92 2.85 2.22 3.70 2.67 3.22 5.13 3.14 2.07 5.17 3.29 2.89 2.48 1.95 2.12 5.05 2.91 2.00 1.95 1.90 1.25 4.37 2.47 2.26 3.17 3.12 2.00 1.53 2.06 2.00 1.33 2.29 1.57 1.54 2.83

Rank Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes No No No No No No No Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No No No No No No

Gubatnun diseases (Philippines) French women’s clothes Akan arts (Ghana) Quebec diseases (Canada) Quajiro diseases (Venezuela) Puebla pottery (Mexico) Kpelle work (Liberia) Seattle places to sleep (U. S.) Kpelle play (Liberia) Matsigenka disease (Peru) Huastec diseases (Mexico) Yora disease (Peru) Santal diseases (India) Cokwe diseases (Congo) Munich beer (Germany) Basotho games (Lesotho) Navajo song ceremonials (U. S.) Mixe diseases (Mexico) Warao diseases (Venezuela) Seattle people in the city jail (U. S.) Gubatnun causes of illness (Philippines) Palau music (Caroline Islands) Gubatnun invisible beings (Philippines) American tools California wines (U. S.) Maring cutting tools (New Guinea) Toba-Pilaga vegetation zones (Argentina) ´ Finnish winter vehicles Mapuche meetings (Chile) Southern Rwanda soils Kamayura musical instruments (Brazil) ´ Thai spirits and ghosts Swazi soils Ankole musical instruments (Uganda) Ogori misfortunes (Nigeria) Gitksan landscape (Canada) Chayantaka musical instruments (Bolivia) Purhepecha soils (Mexico) ´ Yoruba soils (Nigeria) Subanun religions participants (Philippines) Charan soils (Bangladesh) Mossi soils (Burkina Faso) Bete soils (Ivory Coast) ´ ´ Mapuche diseases (Chile) Jhiku Khola farmland (Nepal) Seattle ways to beat a drunk charge (U. S.) Hopi pottery (U. S.) Gorkha soils (Nepal) Seattle tramps (U. S.) Woleai canoes (Caroline Islands)

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APPENDIX 2.—Continued. Mode of subsistence Breadth A A A A A A A A A A I A I I A A A A 12 10 9 9 9 9 8 8 7 7 6 6 5 5 4 4 4 3 Nomenclatural regularity* — — — — — — — — 0 — — — — — — — — —

Classification Kamayura sounds (Brazil) ´ Wola vegetation zones (Papua New Guinea) Bontok land use (Philippines) Kayapo vegetation zones (Brazil) ´ Maya vegetation zones (Mexico) Desana land (Brazil) ˆ Tharu farmland (Nepal) Dagomba soils (Ghana) Gubatnun people (Philippines) Tharu vegetation zones (Nepal) Munich intoxication (Germany) Damarpota soils (Bangladesh) Munich beer drinkers (Germany) Cat Harbour occasions (Canada) Fandou Beri soils (Niger) ´ Mbya-Guaranı vegetation zones (Argentina) ´ ´ Shipibo land use (Peru) Safwa medicines (Tanzania)

Depth 2.58 1.40 2.11 1.89 1.89 1.44 2.25 2.00 2.14 1.43 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.40 1.50 1.50 1.50 1.67

Rank No No No No No No No Yes No No No Yes No No No No No No

* If nomenclatural regularity cannot be calculated because a classification lacks taxa that qualify for nomenclatural testing, the corresponding cell in the table contains a dash. Sources: Akan (Warren and Andrews 1977); American (Brown et al. 1976); Ankole (Thiel 1977); Basotho (Adams 1974); Bete (Birmingham 2003); Bontok (Prill-Brett 1986); California (Lindstrom 1975); ´ ´ Cat Harbour (Faris 1968); Charan (Payton et al. 2003); Chayantaka (Solomon 1997); Cokwe (Yoder 1981); Dagomba (Mikkelsen and Langohr 1997); Damarpota (Ali 2003); Desana (Ribeira 1990); Fandou ˆ Beri (Osbahr and Allan 2003); Finnish (Brown et al. 1976); French (Barthes 1967); Gitksan (Johnson ´ 2000); Gorkha (Muller-Boker 1991); Guajira (Perrin 1986); Gubatnun (Kasberg 1994); Hopi (Wyckoff ¨ ¨ 1990); Huastec (Brown 1971); Jhiku Khola (Shah 1993); Kamayura (Bastos 1978); Kayapo (Parker et al. ´ ´ 1983); Kpelle (Lancy 1974); Mapuche diseases (Grebe Vicuna 1975); Mapuche meetings (Gumucio ˜ 1999); Maring (Healey 1978); Matsigenka (Shepard 1999); Maya (La Torre-Cuadros and Islebe 2003); Mbya-Guaranı (Pochettino et al. 2002); Mixe (Heinrich 1994); Mossi (Dialla 1993); Munich (Hage 1972); ´ ´ Navajo (Wyman and Kluckhohn 1938); Ogori (Gillies 1976); Palau (Yamaguchi 1968); Puebla (Kaplan 1994); Purhepecha (Barrera-Bassols and Zinck 2003); Quebec (Brunel and Morissette 1979); Rwanda ´ (Haberurema and Steiner 1997); Safwa (Harwood 1970); Santal (Carrin-Bouez 1980); Seattle (Spradley 1970); Shipibo (Behrens 1989); Subanun (Frake 1964); Swazi (Osunade 1994); Thai (Brown et al. 1976); Tharu (Muller-Boker 1999); Toba-Pilaga (Scarpa and Arenas 2004); Warao (Wilbert 1986, 1996); Wola ¨ ¨ ´ (Sillitoe 1998); Woleai (Alkire 1970); Yora (Shepard 1999); Yoruba (Osunade 1988).