Compositionality, Flexibility, and Context-Dependence

In Wolfram Hinzen, Edouard Machery & Markus Werning (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Compositionality. Oxford University Press. pp. 175-191 (2012)
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Abstract

It has often been observed that the meaning of a word may be affected by the other words which occur in the same sentence. How are we to account for this phenomenon of 'semantic flexibility'? It is argued that semantic flexibility reduces to context-sensitivity and does not raise unsurmountable problems for standard compositional accounts. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to assume too simple a view of context-sensitivity. Two basic forms of context-sensitivity are distinguished in the paper. The second form — sense modulation — shows that, in a sense, there is more in the meaning of the whole than can be derived from the meanings of the parts.

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Francois Recanati
Institut Jean Nicod