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Summary The principle of semantic compositionality (PC) says, in a standard formulation: "The meaning of a complex expression is a function of the meanings of its parts and its mode of composition." It is a guiding principle in most of formal semantics. In the philosophy of language, as well as in linguistics more generally, it is controversial. Some think it is trivially true, or even empirically empty. Others think it is false (e.g. because of quotation, or belief sentences, or idioms). Yet others think it is true, or approximately true, and that it has explanatory value. Intuitions anticipating (PC) were expressed already in medieval times, but it was not stated in its modern form until the early 1980s.
Key works Carnap's Meaning and Necessity contains approximate statements of (PC), under the heading 'Frege's Principle'. Richard Montague (Montague 1974) pioneered formal semantics, and compositionality was central to Montague's approach. It was stated by him as a required property of formal semantics.  Several of the early papers in  Davidson 1984, such as 'Truth and meaning', give argument why natural language must have a property like compositionality (although Davidson does not use the term). In 'Compositionality', included in Partee 2004, Barbara Partee was the first to state (PC) as a principle in the modern format.   Hodges 2001 provides an algebraic framework for compositionality different from Montague's, defines important concepts and proves fundamental theorems.
Introductions Szabó 2008; Pagin 2010; Pagin 2010.
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  1. Barbara Abbott (2000). Fodor and Lepore on Meaning Similarity and Compositionality. Journal of Philosophy 97 (8):454-455.
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  2. Scott AnderBois (2012). Focus and Uninformativity in Yucatec Maya Questions. Natural Language Semantics 20 (4):349-390.
    Crosslinguistically, questions frequently make crucial use of morphosyntactic elements which also occur outside of questions. Chief among these are focus, disjunctions, and wh-words with indefinite semantics. This paper provides a compositional account of the semantics of wh-, alternative, and polar questions in Yucatec Maya (YM), which are composed primarily of these elements. Key to the account is a theory of disjunctions and indefinites (extending work by others) which recognizes the inherently inquisitive nature of these elements. While disjunctions and indefinites are (...)
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  3. R. Bradshaw Angell (1960). Note on a Less Restricted Type of Rule of Inference. Mind 69 (274):253-255.
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  4. Emmon Bach, ACTL Semantics: Compositionality and Morphosemantics: II: Words, Morphemes, Constructions, Interpretations.
    A language is specified by a Lexicon and a Grammar. A constructive grammar goes like this: The Lexicon provides a set of items. The items are associated with Categories and Denotations. The Grammar gives a recursive specification of the language by defining sets of derived expressions starting with the Lexicon as the base and allowing the combination of lexical items into expressions with their Categories and Denotations, by a rule-to-rule procedure, and so on ad libitum.
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  5. Emmon Bach, ACTL Semantics: Compositionality and Morphosemantics: I: Syntactic and Semantic Assumptions: Compositionality.
    Theme of two lectures: how does meaning work in grammar and lexicon? General question: Are morphemes the minimal meaningful units of language? Are the meanings of the parts of words of the same kind as those of syntax? The answer to this question has an obvious bearing on the question of the derivation of complex words "in the syntax." Is the split between syntax and morphology the proper division for asking the previous question? Answer: No. The crucial distinction is that (...)
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  6. Chris Barker & Pauline I. Jacobson (eds.) (2007). Direct Compositionality. Oxford University Press.
    This book examines the hypothesis of "direct compositionality", which requires that semantic interpretation proceed in tandem with syntactic combination. Although associated with the dominant view in formal semantics of the 1970s and 1980s, the feasibility of direct compositionality remained unsettled, and more recently the discussion as to whether or not this view can be maintained has receded. The syntax-semantics interaction is now often seen as a process in which the syntax builds representations which, at the abstract level of logical form, (...)
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  7. Arvid Båve (2013). Compositional Semantics for Expressivists. Philosophical Quarterly 63 (253):633-659.
    I here propose a hitherto unnoticed possibility of solving embedding problems for noncognitivist expressivists in metaethics by appeal to Conceptual Role Semantics. I show that claims from the latter as to what constitutes various concepts can be used to define functions from states expressed by atomic sentences to states expressed by complex sentences, thereby allowing an expressivist semantics that satisfies a rather strict compositionality constraint (as well as a further, substantial explanatory constraint). The proposal can be coupled with several different (...)
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  8. Jacob Beck (2012). The Generality Constraint and the Structure of Thought. Mind 121 (483):563-600.
    According to the Generality Constraint, mental states with conceptual content must be capable of recombining in certain systematic ways. Drawing on empirical evidence from cognitive science, I argue that so-called analogue magnitude states violate this recombinability condition and thus have nonconceptual content. I further argue that this result has two significant consequences: it demonstrates that nonconceptual content seeps beyond perception and infiltrates cognition; and it shows that whether mental states have nonconceptual content is largely an empirical matter determined by the (...)
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  9. Maria Bittner, Scope in English: Analysis in CCG+UC2.
    Day 5 of advanced course on "Crosslinguistic compositional semantics" at 2009 LSA Summer Institute at UC Berkeley. Plan for today: (a) Introduction: scope prediction (SA vs. BA), sample data (English vs. Kalaallisut), (b) Analysis of English data.
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  10. Maria Bittner, From Kalaallisut to English: Analysis in CCG+UC2.
    Day 4 of advanced course on "Crosslinguistic compositional semantics" at 2009 LSA Summer Institute at UC Berkeley. Plan to today: (a) Introduction (syn-sem traits of English vs. Kalaallisut, scope corollary), (b) UC1 + event (re)centering = UC2, (c) English and Kalaallisut in CCG+UC2, (d) Analysis of Kalaallisut BA.TO.L (review) vs. English SA.SU.S (new).
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  11. Maria Bittner, Scope in Kalaallisut: Analysis in CCG+UC2.
    Day 6 of advanced course on "Crosslinguistic compositional semantics" at 2009 LSA Summer Institute at UC Berkeley. Plan for today: (a) Review: scope prediction, Kalaallisut data, (b) Analysis of Kalaallisut data, (c) Questions & discussion.
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  12. Maria Bittner, Semantic Composition: Kalaallisut in CCG+UC1.
    Day 3 of advanced course on "Crosslinguistic compositional semantics" at 2009 LSA Summer Institute at UC Berkeley. Plan for the day: (a) Introduction: Toward sun-sem typology (b) CCG+UC1 fragment of Kalaallisut, (c) Kalaallisut BA.TO.L-traits explained.
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  13. Maria Bittner (2003). Word Order and Incremental Update. In Proceedings from CLS 39-1. CLS.
    The central claim of this paper is that surface-faithful word-by-word update is feasible and desirable, even in languages where word order is supposedly free. As a first step, in sections 1 and 2, I review an argument from Bittner 2001a that semantic composition is not a static process, as in PTQ, but rather a species of anaphoric bridging. But in that case the context-setting role of word order should extend from cross-sentential discourse anaphora to sentence-internal anaphoric composition. This can be (...)
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  14. Maria Bittner (1995). Quantification in Eskimo: A Challenge for Compositional Semantics. In E. Bach, E. Jelinek, A. Kratzer & B. Partee (eds.), Quantification in Natural Languages. Kluwer. 59--80.
    This paper describes quantificational structures in Greenlandic Eskimo (Kalaallisut), a language where familiar quantificational meanings are expressed in ways that are quite different from English. Evidence from this language thus poses some formidable challenges for cross-linguistic theories of compositional semantics.
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  15. Ned Block (1993). Holism, Hyper-Analyticity and Hyper-Compositionality. Mind and Language 8 (1):1-26.
  16. Ben Blumson, Depiction and Composition.
    Traditionally, the structure of a language is revealed by constructing an appropriate theory of meaning for that language, which exhibits how – and whether – the meaning of sentences in the language depends upon the meaning of their parts. In this paper, I argue that whether – and how – what pictures represent depends on what their parts represent should likewise by revealed by the construction of appropriate theories of representation for the symbol system of those pictures. This generalisation, I (...)
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  17. Ben Blumson, Interpreting Images.
    Just as it’s possible to understand novel sentences without having heard them before, it’s possible to understand novel pictures without have seen them before. But these possibilities are traditionally supposed to have very different explanations: whereas the possibility of understanding novel sentences is supposed to be explained by their compositional structure, the possibility of understanding novel depictions is supposed not to be. In this paper, I argue against this disanalogy: the possibility of understanding both some, but not all, novel sentences (...)
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  18. Reinhard Blutner, Petra Hendriks, Helen de Hoop & Oren Schwartz (2004). When Compositionality Fails to Predict Systematicity. In Simon D. Levy & Ross Gayler (eds.), Compositional Connectionism in Cognitive Science. AAAI Press.
    has to do with the acquisition of encyclopedic knowledge.
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  19. Andrew Botterell & Robert J. Stainton (2005). Quotation: Compositionality and Innocence Without Demonstration. Critica 37 (110):3-33.
    We discuss two kinds of quotation, namely indirect quotation (e.g., 'Anita said that Mexico is beautiful') and pure quotation (e.g., 'Mexico' has six letters). With respect to each, we have both a negative and a positive plaint. The negative plaint is that the strict Davidsonian (1968, 1979a) treatment of indirect and pure quotation cannot be correct. The positive plaint is an alternative account of how quotation of these two sorts works.
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  20. Nick Braisby (1998). Compositionality and the Modelling of Complex Concepts. Minds and Machines 8 (4):479-508.
    The nature of complex concepts has important implications for the computational modelling of the mind, as well as for the cognitive science of concepts. This paper outlines the way in which RVC – a Relational View of Concepts – accommodates a range of complex concepts, cases which have been argued to be non-compositional. RVC attempts to integrate a number of psychological, linguistic and psycholinguistic considerations with the situation-theoretic view that information-carrying relations hold only relative to background situations. The central tenet (...)
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  21. Keith Butler (1995). Content, Context, and Compositionality. Mind and Language 10 (1-2):3-24.
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  22. Keith Butler (1995). Compositionality in Cognitive Models: The Real Issue. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 78 (2):153-62.
  23. Darragh Byrne (2005). Compositionality and the Manifestation Challenge. Synthese 144 (1):101--136.
    I address the question whether Dummetts manifestation challenge to semantic realism can be disarmed by reflection on the compositionality of meaning. Building on work of Dummett and Wright, I develop in §§12 what I argue to be the most formidable version of the manifestation challenge. Along the way I review attempts by previous authors to deploy considerations about compositionality in realisms favour, and argue that they are unsuccessful. The formulation of the challenge I develop renders explicit something which I argue (...)
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  24. H. G. Callaway (2008). Meaning Without Analyticity: Essays on Logic, Language and Meaning. Cambridge Scholars.
    Meaning without Analyticity draws upon the author’s essays and articles, over a period of 20 years, focused on language, logic and meaning. The book explores the prospect of a non-behavioristic theory of cognitive meaning which rejects the analytic-synthetic distinction, Quinean behaviorism, and the logical and social-intellectual excesses of extreme holism. Cast in clear, perspicuous language and oriented to scientific discussions, this book takes up the challenges of philosophical communication and evaluation implicit in the recent revival of the pragmatist tradition—especially those (...)
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  25. David J. Chalmers (1993). Connectionism and Compositionality: Why Fodor and Pylyshyn Were Wrong. Philosophical Psychology 6 (3):305-319.
    This paper offers both a theoretical and an experimental perspective on the relationship between connectionist and Classical (symbol-processing) models. Firstly, a serious flaw in Fodor and Pylyshyn’s argument against connectionism is pointed out: if, in fact, a part of their argument is valid, then it establishes a conclusion quite different from that which they intend, a conclusion which is demonstrably false. The source of this flaw is traced to an underestimation of the differences between localist and distributed representation. It has (...)
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  26. Jon Cogburn & Roy Cook (2005). Inverted Space: Minimal Verificationism, Propositional Attitudes, and Compositionality. Philosophia 32 (1-4):73-92.
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  27. Daniel Cohnitz (2005). Is Compositionality an a Priori Principle? In M. Wening, E. Machery & G. Schurz (eds.), The Compositionality of Concepts and Meanings: Foundational Issues. Ontos.
    When reasons are given for compositionality, the arguments usually purport to establish compositionality in an almost a priori manner. I will rehearse these arguments why one could think that compositionality is a priori true, or almost a priori true, and will find all of them inconclusive. This, in itself, is no reason against compositionality, but a reason to try to establish or defend the principle on other than quasi-a priori grounds.
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  28. John Collins (2003). Horwich's Schemata Meet Syntactic Structures. Mind 112 (447):399-432.
    Paul Horwich (1998), following a number of others, proposes a schematic compositional format for the specification of the meanings of complex expressions. The format is schematic in the sense that it identifies grammatical schemata that do not presuppose any particular account of primitive word meanings: whatever the nature of meanings, the application of the schemata to them will serve to explain compositionality. This signals, for Horwich, that compositionality is a non-substantive constraint on theories of meaning. Drawing on a range of (...)
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  29. M. Arbib D. Bickerton (ed.) (2010). The Emergence of Protolanguage: Holophrasis Vs Compositionality. John Benjamins.
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  30. Nic Damnjanovic (2004). The Compositionality Papers. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (2):366 – 367.
    Book Information The Compositionality Papers. The Compositionality Papers Jerry A. Fodor and Ernest Lepore , Oxford: Clarendon Press , 2002 , viii + 212 , US$65.00 ( cloth ), US$19.95 ( paper ) By Jerry A. Fodor. and Ernest Lepore. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pp. viii + 212. US$65.00 (cloth:), US$19.95 (paper:).
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  31. J. Dever (2003). Problems of Compositionality. Philosophical Review 112 (2):254-258.
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  32. Josh Dever, Review of Problems of Compositionality. [REVIEW]
    Problems of Compositionality is a revised version of Zolt´an Szab´o’s 1995 doctoral dissertation. Of its five chapters, three have appeared (in heavily modified form) in print independently1, so I will concentrate most of my remarks on the second and third chapters, which remain unpublished outside the book. As it happens, I find these two chapters to be the most philosophically rewarding of the book. The principle of compositionality is a general constraint on the shape of a theory of meaning. Szab´o (...)
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  33. Josh Dever (2006). Compositionality. In Ernest Lepore & Barry Smith (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language. Oxford University Press. 633--666.
    Nevertheless, any competent speaker will know what it means. What explains our ability to understand sentences we have never before encountered? One natural hypothesis is that those novel sentences are built up out of familiar parts, put together in familiar ways. This hypothesis requires the backing hypothesis that English has a compositional semantic theory.
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  34. Josh Dever (2003). Modal Fictionalism and Compositionality. Philosophical Studies 114 (3):223 - 251.
    Modal fictionalists propose to defuse the unwanted ontological commitments of modal realism by treating modal realism as a fictional story, and modal assertions as assertions, prefixed by a fictionalist operator, that something is true in that story. However, consideration of conditionals with modal antecedents raises the problem ofembedding, which shows that the simple prefixing strategy cannotsucceed. A compositional version of the fictionalist strategy isdeveloped and critiqued, and some general semantic morals aredrawn from the failures of both strategies.
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  35. Josh Dever (1999). Compositionality as Methodology. Linguistics and Philosophy 22 (3):311-326.
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  36. David Dowty (2007). Compositionality as an Empirical Problem. In Chris Barker & Pauline I. Jacobson (eds.), Direct Compositionality. Oxford University Press. 14--23.
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  37. Tim Fernando, Compositionality Inductively, Co-Inductively and Contextually.
    with the meaning function [[·]] appearing on both sides. (1) is commonly construed as a prescription for computing the meaning of a based on the parts of a and their mode of combination. As equality is symmetric, however, we can also read (1) from right to left, as a constraint on the meaning [[b]] of a term b that brings in the wider context where b may occur, in accordance with what Dag Westerst˚ahl has recently described as “one version of (...)
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  38. Tim Fernando, Ambiguous Discourse in a Compositional Context.
    The processing of sequences of (English) sentences is analyzed compositionally through transitions that merge sentences, rather than decomposing them. Transitions that are in a precise sense inertial are related to disjunctive and non-deterministic approaches to ambiguity. Modal interpretations are investigated, inducing various equivalences on sequences.
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  39. Tim Fernando, Compositionality and Context.
    This course aims to assess the principle of compositionality (CP) and how it fits with recent developments in natural language interpretation, especially those that stress the role of context. We first try to lay down a suitable formal framework for CP, reviewing proposals by Montague, Janssen, Hendriks, Kracht and Hodges. Versions of CP of varying strength are formulated, and some recent results on the existence of compositional semantics and the (much debated) issue of the empirical import of CP discussed. Complementing (...)
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  40. Tim Fernando (1997). Ambiguity Under Changing Contexts. Linguistics and Philosophy 20 (6):575-606.
    Notions of disambiguation supporting a compositional interpretation ofvambiguous expressions and reflecting intuitions about how sentences combinevin discourse are investigated. Expressions are analyzed both inductively byvbreaking them apart, and co-inductively by embedding them within larger contexts.
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  41. Jerry A. Fodor (2001). Language, Thought and Compositionality. Mind and Language 16 (1):1-15.
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  42. Jerry A. Fodor & Ernest Lepore (2002). The Compositionality Papers. Oxford University Press.
    Ernie Lepore and Jerry Fodor have published a series of original and controversial essays on issues relating to compositionality in language and mind; they have...
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  43. Jerry Fodor & Ernie Lepore (2001). Brandom's Burdens: Compositionality and Inferentialism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2):465-481.
  44. Jerry Fodor & Ernie Lepore (2001). Why Compositionality Won't Go Away: Reflections on Horwich's 'Deflationary' Theory. Ratio 14 (4):350–368.
    Compositionality is the idea that the meanings of complex expressions (or concepts) are constructed from the meanings of the less complex expressions (or concepts) that are their constituents.1 Over the last few years, we have just about convinced ourselves that compositionality is the sovereign test for theories of lexical meaning.2 So hard is this test to pass, we think, that it filters out practically all of the theories of lexical meaning that are current in either philosophy or cognitive science. Among (...)
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  45. Nissim Francez & Mark Steedman (2006). Categorial Grammar and the Semantics of Contextual Prepositional Phrases. Linguistics and Philosophy 29 (4):381 - 417.
    The paper proposes a semantics for contextual (i.e., Temporal and Locative) Prepositional Phrases (CPPs) like during every meeting, in the garden, when Harry met Sally and where I’m calling from. The semantics is embodied in a multi-modal extension of Combinatory Categoral Grammar (CCG). The grammar allows the strictly monotonic compositional derivation of multiple correct interpretations for “stacked” or multiple CPPs, including interpretations whose scope relations are not what would be expected on standard assumptions about surfacesyntactic command and monotonic derivation. A (...)
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  46. Joseph S. Fulda (2010). Vann McGee’s Counterexample to Modus Ponens: An Enthymeme. Journal of Pragmatics 42 (1):271-273.
    Solves Vann McGee's counterexample to Modus Ponens within classical logic by disclosing the suppressed premises and bringing them /within/ the argument.
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  47. Manuel Garcia-Carpintero (1996). Two Spurious Varieties of Compositionality. Minds and Machines 6 (2):159-72.
    The paper examines an alleged distinction claimed to exist by Van Gelder between two different, but equally acceptable ways of accounting for the systematicity of cognitive output (two varieties of compositionality): concatenative compositionality vs. functional compositionality. The second is supposed to provide an explanation alternative to the Language of Thought Hypothesis. I contend that, if the definition of concatenative compositionality is taken in a different way from the official one given by Van Gelder (but one suggested by some of his (...)
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  48. Anastasia Giannakidou, Only and Even: Sanctioning, Compositionality, and Variation in Polarity. (Handout).
    This is my response as key discussant to papers presented at the workshop on Polarity at this year’s LSA meeting in Anaheim, CA.
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  49. Anastasia Giannakidou, Negative and Positive Polarity Items: Variation, Licensing, and Compositionality.
    In this chapter, we discuss the distribution and lexical properties of common varieties of negative polarity items (NPIs) and positive polarity items (PPIs). We establish first that NPIs can be licensed in negative, downward entailing, and nonveridical environments. Then we examine if the scalarity approach (originating in Kadmon and Landman 1993) can handle the attested NPI distribution and empirical variation. By positing a unitary lexical source for NPIs—widening, plus EVEN— scalarity fails to capture the fact that a significant number of (...)
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  50. Gilberto Gomes (2006). If A, Then B Too, but Only If C: A Reply to Varzi. Analysis 66 (290):157–161.
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