What compositionality still can do

Philosophical Quarterly 51 (204):328-336 (2001)
Proponents of deflationism about meaning often claim that the principle of compositionality, when properly understood, places no constraint whatsoever on the nature of lexical meaning. This deflationary thesis admits of both strong and weak readings. On the strong reading, the principle does not rule out any theory of lexical meaning either alone or in conjunction with other independently plausible semantic assumptions. On the weak reading, the principle alone does not rule out any such theory. I argue that, though weak deflationism about compositionality has better initial prospects than strong, neither version of the thesis is credible. In particular, weak deflationism cannot be maintained in conformity with the deflationist commitment to explaining facts about phrase meanings in compositional terms, that is, by appeal to facts about the lexicon
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9213.00232
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Paul Horwich (1997). The Composition of Meanings. Philosophical Review 106 (4):503-532.

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