On the nature of reverse compositionality

Erkenntnis 64 (1):37 - 60 (2006)
Reverse Compositionality (RC) is the thesis that one understands a complex expression only if one understands its parts. I argue that this thesis is false for natural languages. I then argue that the phenomenon that motivates the thesis is more likely to be a fact about human sentence-processing than linguistic understanding per se. Finally, I argue that RC is not useful in the debates about prototype-style theories of concepts in which it figures heavily.
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