Folk taxonomy / folk classification

Taxonomies and classifications may be based on scientific or scholarly methods and principles or they may be based on social and cultural transmission. Some professionals study how different cultures classify things (indigenous knowledge). Such an activity may be related to user studies in knowledge organization


"A Folk taxonomy is a vernacular naming system, and can be contrasted with scientific taxonomy.

Folk taxonomies are generated from social knowledge and are used in everyday speech. They are distinguished from scientific taxonomies that claim to be disembedded from social relations and thus objective and universal." (Wikipedia, 2006).



Sociology and communication aspects of IPM. 1. Understanding farmers. Ethnoscience. 1.1 Folk taxonomy.






Bellon, M. & Taylor, E. (1993). Folk soil taxonomy and the partial adoption of new seed varieties. Economic Development and Cultural Change 41(4), 763-785.


Berlin, B. (1973). Folk systematics in relation to biological classification and nomenclature. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4: 259-271. (The author has revised some of his ideas since the publication of Berlin et al., 1966).


Berlin, B (1992) Ethnobiological classification - principles of categorization of plants and animals in traditional societies. Princeton, Princeton University Press.


Berlin, B., Breedlove, D. E. & Raven, P. H. (1966). Folk taxonomies and biological classification. Science, 154(3746), 273-275.


Frohmann, B. (1990). Rules of Indexing: A Critique of Mentalism in Information Retrieval Theory. Journal of Documentation, 46(2), 81-101.


Marks, J. (2006). ANTH 2141: Principles of Biological Anthropology. A Folk Classification of Animals.


Sandor, J. A. & Furbee, L. (1996).  Indigenous knowledge and classification of soils in the Andes of southern Peru. Soil Science Society of America  Journal, 60, 1503-1512.


Wikipedia. The free encyclopedia. (2006). Folk taxonomy.




See also: Indigenous knowledge (Core Concepts in LIS);  Naïve cognition (Epistemological lifeboat);




Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 09-08-2006