Compositionality I: Definitions and Variants

Philosophy Compass 5:265-282 (2010)
Compositionality is the property that the meaning of any complex expression is determined by the meanings of its parts and the way they are put together. The language can be natural or formal, but it has to be interpreted. That is, meanings, or more generally, semantic values of some sort, must be assigned to linguistic expressions, and compositionality concerns the distribution of these values. Even though similar ideas were expressed both in antiquity and in the middle ages (e.g. by Abelard and Buridan), Gottlob Frege is generally taken to be the first person to state explicitly the modern notion of compositionality and to claim that it is an essential feature of human language.
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