Compositionality

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  • Created by: A. Person
  • Created on: 18-05-17 12:22
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  • Compositionality
    • Thesis that meaning of complex expression is determined by constituents and structure.
      • Syntax + Lexical Semanitcs = entire semantics!
    • Arguments in Favour of Compositionality
      • Productivity
        • Basically draws on ability to understand novel sentences.
          • Unboundedness - finite beings, who can potentially understand an infinite number of complex expressions.
            • Related to LEARNABILITY
        • Speakers can understand expressions never encountered before.
          • Because of  knowledge  of structure + meaning of words.
            • Appears to rule out rote learning?
      • Systematicity
        • We can recombine expressions to form new ones which we will understand.
          • Language made up of predictable patterns
          • If understand constituents of given sentences, and the meaning a syntactic operator conveys...
            • You will be able to recombine the constituents and structure
              • Understand the meaning - presumably because meaning is compositional!
        • OBJECTION
          • Johnson: what about cases like 'without a watch' and 'within an hour'
            • Basically relies on empirical hypothesis? i.e. that there's a natural non overlapping categorisation of all expressions...?
    • Arguments against :(
      • Non-linguistic counterexamples.
        • Cases where system of rep is systematic and productive, but not compositional.
          • Algebraic representation of chess
            • Seeing Bb5 won't tell you which bishop is moved; understanding requires following whole description w/ initial configuration.
              • So not just dependent on components + structure
      • Contextualism -Travis maple leaf exampe
        • Meaning of words + syntactic composition same in both,,,
          • Response: Allow that statement 'that leaf is green' is true on one occasion, false on another'
            • But reference changes.

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