Classification no doubt enters into all branches of scientific study. It has been particularly prominent, however, in the field of oral arts and traditions. The construction of typologies played a central part in many earlier studies, and in turn linked with the notion of genre, a deeply influential concept within linguistic, philological and literary study, as well as in anthropology, history and folklore. As a result categories such as ‘myth’, ‘folktale’, ‘epic’, or ‘proverb’ take on the air of real and permanent objects in themselves, seem-ingly the unquestioned basis for scientific taxonomies and the rep-resentatives of pure and enduring types. Such classifications, and in particular the concept of genre, have been productive ones, and certainly need to be noted by anyone involved in research on verbal art. As will appear, however, they also involve complexities and controversies of a kind which accord well with recent trends within anthropology to question traditional single-factor classifications and realist definitions.