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 CP is the notion of context which, under modern (e.g. "dynamic") conceptions, not only conditions interpretation but also is transformed during interpretation. The tension between CP and context is examined relative to problems of anaphora, presupposition, idioms and ambiguity. A somewhat un-orthodox computational application of CP is suggested, emphasizing co-inductive aspects of interpretation that cut across the divide between model-theoretic and proof-theoretic approaches, and between procedural and declarative styles.
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