componential analysis


Also found in: Wikipedia.

componential analysis

a technique, based in phonological LINGUISTICS, for analysing complex elements into their components. In semantics, for example, the meaning of ‘woman’ could be seen as analysable into ‘human’ + ‘female’, which would be the components. Thus, research in a field of COGNITIVE ANTHROPOLOGY may involve assembling the apparently available kinship terms, and then seeking to identify the underlying components or dimensions which, taken together, would yield a particular term. Thus, ‘aunt’ might involve ‘female’ + ‘one generation older’ + ‘one distance of indirect descent’. ‘Great aunt’ would involve two generations, and so on. The ideal would be to account for all variation in the terminology of a field. Similar systems of relation and contrast have also been sought for actions themselves.