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In social and cultural studies, in which the significant distinctions are not of the genus and species kind, this kind of ordering has been less successful.Typologies are characteristic of the social sciences and have had a great development in archaeology.Arne Furumark, a Swedish archaeologist, regards typologies as applicable to archaeology because of the inertia of the human mind, which usually views the undisturbed development of material culture as taking place gradually.
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A typology elicits a particular order depending on the purposes of the investigator and on the phenomena so arranged, an order that limits the ways in which the data can be explained.
There can be different interpretations of the relations of the phenomena.
The Linnaean system for setting up divisions in biology is an ordering that was only later found to be in accord with biological evolution.
system of groupings (such as “landed gentry” or “rain forests”), usually called types, the members of which are identified by postulating specified attributes that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive—groupings set up to aid demonstration or inquiry by establishing a limited relationship among phenomena.
A type may represent one kind of attribute or several and need include only those features that are significant for the problem at hand.
Because a type need deal with only one kind of attribute, typologies can be used for the study of variables and of transitional situations.
Classifications, on the other hand, deal with “natural classes”— with groupings that differ from other groupings in as many particulars as one can discover.
For this reason classifications can be only a preliminary step in the study of variables, for they cannot deal elegantly with transitional situations in which variables are to be expected.
The more gradual the change, the fewer are the distinctive features upon which to define natural classes and the more difficult it becomes to draw a line between classes. When the problem is simply that of ordering unconditioned phenomena, it is difficult to distinguish typologies from classifications.
The latter have been considered preliminary to the discovery of sequences or laws.
Because typologies invariably use ordering for additional purposes, classifications can be regarded as typologies that are limited to the problem of order.