It is often said that co-hyponyms are incompatible. For example, here's Alan Cruse:

Very often a superordinate has more than one immediate hyponym, and among these there is typically a set of terms each of which is related to all the others by the relation of incompatibility.

(Meaning in Language, 2004, p. 162.)

So, ‘apple’, ‘peach’, and ‘plum’ are co-hyponyms of ‘fruit’, and an apple is not a peach, which is not a plum, etc. They are "incompatible": that bit of fruit can't be both an apple and a peach.

However, it is also often said that co-hyponyms are not necessarily incompatible. A little later on that same page, Cruse offers this example:

For instance, queen and mother are both hyponyms of woman, but there is nothing to prevent someone who is a queen from at the same time being a mother.

I'm not so sure this is a good example, though. It implies this relation:

? A queen is a kind of woman.

But this isn't quite so. Mary, Queen of Scots became queen (just a few miles from where I type, in fact) at the ripe old age of 6 days ... which hardly qualifies as "woman"! So it leaves me wondering whether, in fact, ‘queen’ is a proper (?) hyponym of ‘woman’.

So I have been trying to come up with ANY good examples of compatible co-hyponyms, and failing in the attempt. I have done my web-searches, and while it is easy to find the theoretical position explained, as I have done above (viz., that co-hyponyms are typically but not necessarily incompatible), finding examples of the less common "compatible" sort is proving elusive.

Can anyone help me?

(P.s. I would have liked to tag this with "hyponyms" or "hyponymy", but these aren't yet in use, and I'm too new to create them.)

UPDATE [2014.01.09] : (This is prompted in part by EricS's suggestion below.)

There is a further problem with suggesting queen and mother as examples of compatible co-hyponyms, and it arises in an article by Cruse himself [D. A. Cruse, ‘Hyponymy and Its Varieties’, in The Semantics of Relationships: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, ed. by R. Green, C.A. Bean, and S.H. Myaeng (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2002), pp. 3-21; the Google Books scan has some problems]. In it, Cruse points out that some apparent co-hyponyms belong to different taxonomic classes, and so are not co-hyponyms properly speaking.

Cruse uses the example of ‘book’ for which ‘novel’, ‘textbook’, and ‘biography’ are hyponyms, but so too are ‘paperback’, ‘e-book’, and ‘hardback’: but ‘there is no embargo on something being simultaneously a paperback and a novel’ (Cruse, ‘Varieties’, p. 4). They are not, however, ‘co-hyponyms’ since they describe different aspects of the hyperonym.

This also applies to the example I originally used above. 'Queen' participates in a taxonymy to do with status relations and involves gender (like duke/duchess, etc.), 'mother' in a taxonymy of family relationship (like 'father', 'daughter', etc.), and of course there is no problem with intersections of taxonomies, much as with 'novel' and 'hardback' both of which have a superordinate in 'book'. I am beginning to doubt, then, that Cruse was correct to assert that both "queen and mother are both hyponyms of woman". Queen is a type of (hyponym of) noble; mother is a type of (hyponym of) kindred (= family relation). Or have I gone askew here?

At any rate, I'm still having trouble thinking of "good" examples of compatible co-hyponyms!

  • The first one that comes to mind is that, for example, Toyota and lorry are both types of car, but a Toyota Dyna is both a Toyota and a lorry at the same time. (I’m not sure if Toyota make things that are not cars, too—but there must be some manufacturers that make only cars) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 31 '13 at 22:24
  • @JanusBahsJacquet If you’re intent on finding hipponyms, I suggest starting with Bucephalus. :) – tchrist Jan 1 '14 at 1:37
  • 2
    A lorry is not a type of car, and a Dyna is not a car. Cars and lorries are both types of motor vehicle, if that helps... Also, I wouldn't say that Toyota is a type of car - it's company that makes motor vehicles, some of which are cars. Again, not sure that this is moving us closer to an answer though. – toryan Jan 8 '14 at 21:40

It seems to me that your problem with the queen and mother example is easily solved by replacing "woman" with "female".

  • Well, not quite. (1) "?A queen is a kind of woman." =/= "A queen is a kind of female." The latter could describe bees equally well as humans; the former could not. (2) This doesn't help me get a set of "compatible co-hyponyms" which is the main point. And (3) there is a further complication that arises (and this comment does not help to solve) that has clarified in my thoughts since the original post. I will update above at date heading [2014.01.09]; have a look if you're interested. Thanks for the suggestion, though. – Dɑvïd Jan 9 '14 at 23:21
  • I don't see how your (1) is a problem. So the base set is expanded to female animals rather than just humans. Queens and and mothers are still both subsets of female animals and overlapping. If my interpretation of "compatible co-hyponyms" as "overlapping subsets" is incorrect, please explain, or give your definitions. – EricS Jan 10 '14 at 6:44
  • I would also note that the queen with regard to bees and the queen with reqard to humans are really different meanings of the word. I think you need to restrict all words involved to a single meaning of that word. – EricS Jan 10 '14 at 6:46
  • In response to your update, in wanting to avoid mixing multiple "aspects" of the hypernym; how about: Integers, negative integers, non-positive integers. – EricS Jan 10 '14 at 6:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.