If, however, instead of 'getting words for things,' we redefine the task as one of finding the 'things' that go with words, the eliciting of terminologies acquires a more general interest. This analysis will discuss the exact process of, and motivation behind, the formation of a lexical domain which finds "things that go with words," as mentioned in the above quotation from Charles Frake's article, 'The Ethnographic Study of Cognitive Systems.' Such words that head a category of things are called segregates, defined in the article as, "a terminology distinguished array of objects." Within each segregate, a native informant placed other words, some of which in turn became segregates themselves and housed increasingly exclusive words. This analysis will begin by stating objective facts about the lexical domain and follow with subjective interpretations of those facts. The lexical domain is "Reading Material," and is taxonomical. The native informant placed two words under this mother segregate: Books and Periodicals. These two words are in contrast, forming a contrast set, because they are alternatives "which occur in the same environment," meaning that the differences between each word determine their individual significance.
(A word such as "light" would not be in contrast because "light" is in a completely different context, and it is a condition of a contrast set that the words are in a mutual context. ) These two words are each segregates, both including more words under the respective categories. Under "books" are two words: fiction and non-fiction. "Non-fiction" is a separate segregate, while "fiction" is not.
The two words form a contrast set, as they are different alternatives from one environment. The three words under the segregate "non-fiction" are in contrast for the same reason. Under "periodicals,"magazines" and "newspapers" are in contrast, and each of these two words is a segregate, both containing respective contrast sets. The taxonomical nature of the domain is due to small contrast sets and many segregates. A first point of interest is the election of the initial two words under "Reading Material." There are many other forms of text which are legible in our society: menus, labels, signs, etc. , but these were excluded.
A possible reason for this exclusion is the second word of the title: material. This word may have suggested to the informant that the act of reading would sustain for some extended length of time, or that the reading would be engaging. These interpretations of the unspoken implications of the title of the lexical domain would explain the exclusion of the examples mentioned. Second, the contrast set [local, national] under the segregate "newspapers" is suggestive. The distinction is indicative of a distinguishing characteristic of our country: the two-tiered system of government, being the state and federal. The [local, national] contrast set alludes to the theory that in reference to periodicals, members of society are conscious of the two levels of government and recognize the impact of this bilateral system on media coverage.
A third and final subject of analysis is the interpreter's choice of which words from a contrast set become segregates. For example, in the contrast set [fiction, non-fiction], "fiction" is left as a word, while "non-fiction" becomes a segregate. This may allude to the conclusion that non-fiction is more valuable to our society than fiction. The effort to break down non-fiction may imply that from a societal perspective, factual texts have more depth and substance than fictional texts, which would explain why "fiction" is left with its many possible subcategories (mystery, romance, adventure, etc. ) intact. Frake states, "The analysis of a culture's terminological systems will not, of course, exhaustively reveal the cognitive world of its members, but it will certainly tap a central portion of it." While this lexical domain is a very small sample of a terminological system, examination provides evidence which suggests greater cultural conclusions.
This meager analysis many not tap a "central portion" of society, but it possibly taps a tip of the cultural iceberg.