The principle of compositionality claims that the content of a complex concept is determined by its constituent concepts and the way in which they are composed. However, for prototype concepts this principle is often too rigid. Blurring the division between conceptual composition and belief update has therefore been suggested. Inspired by this idea, we develop a normative account of how belief revision and meaning composition should interact in modifications such as “red apple” or “pet hamster”. We do this by (...) combining the well-known selective modification model :485–527 1988) with the rules of Bayesian belief update. Moreover, we relate this model to systems of defeasible reasoning as discussed in the field of artificial intelligence. (shrink)
It is a common view that radical contextualism about linguistic meaning is incompatible with a compositional explanation of linguistic comprehension. Recently, some philosophers of language have proposed theories of 'pragmatic' compositionality challenging this assumption. This paper takes a close look at a prominent proposal of this kind due to François Recanati. The objective is to give a plausible formulation of the view. The major results are threefold. First, a basic distinction that contextualists make between mandatory and optional pragmatic processes (...) needs to be revised. Second, the pragmatic theory can withstand a Davidsonian objection only by rejecting the importance of a distinction between primitive and non-primitive semantic items. Thirdly, however, the theory is now open to a worry about how it should be understood: either the theory consists in a very broad functionalist generalization about communication, which makes it explanatorily inert, or it boils down to a highly particularist view about linguistic meaning. Finally, I argue that Recanati's notion of 'occasion meaning' is problematic and suggest replacing it with the notion of speaker meaning, which is explanatorily more basic. (shrink)
This is the first part of a two-part article on semantic compositionality, that is, the principle that the meaning of a complex expression is determined by the meanings of its parts and the way they are put together. Here we provide a brief historical background, a formal framework for syntax and semantics, precise definitions, and a survey of variants of compositionality. Stronger and weaker forms are distinguished, as well as generalized forms that cover extra-linguistic context dependence as well (...) as linguistic context dependence. In the second article, we survey arguments for and arguments against the claim that natural languages are compositional, and consider some problem cases. It will be referred to as Part II. (shrink)
This is the second part of a two-part article on compositionality, i.e. the principle that the meaning of a complex expression is determined by the meanings of its parts and the way they are put together. In the first, Pagin and Westerståhl (2010), we provide a general historical background, a formal framework, definitions, and a survey of variants of compositionality. It will be referred to as Part I. Here we discuss arguments for and against the claim that natural (...) languages have a compositional semantics. We also discuss some problem cases, including belief reports, quotation, idioms, and ambiguity. (shrink)
This paper contains a discussion of how the concept of compositionality is to be extended from context invariant to context dependent meaning, and of how the compositionality of natural language might conflict with context dependence. Several new distinctions are needed, including a distinction between a weaker (e-) and a stronger (ec-) concept of compositionality for context dependent meaning. The relations between the various notions are investigated. A claim by Jerry Fodor that there is a general conflict between (...) context dependence and compositionality is considered. There is in fact a possible conflict betwee ec-compositionality and context dependence, but not of the kind Fodor suggests. It turns on the presence of so-called unarticulated constituents, in John Perry’s sense. Because of this phenomenon, on some semantic accounts there might be a variation in the meaning of a complex expression between contexts without any corresponding variation in any of the syntactic parts of that complex. The conflict can be resolved in several ways. One way is to make the unarticulated context dependence explicit only in the meta-language, which makes it into an unarticulated constituent account. A recent argument by Jason Stanley against such accounts is discussed. According to Stanley, certain readings of English sentences involving binding of contextual variables, are unavailable in these theories. After considering a reply to Stanley by François Recanati, I present an outline of a fully compositional theory, of the unarticulated constituent variety, which does deliver these readings. Concluding remarks on, inter alia, the semantics/pragmatics distinction. (shrink)
In this article, we evaluate the Compositionality Argument for structured propositions. This argument hinges on two seemingly innocuous and widely accepted premises: the Principle of Semantic Compositionality and Propositionalism (the thesis that sentential semantic values are propositions). We show that the Compositionality Argument presupposes that compositionality involves a form of building, and that this metaphysically robust account of compositionality is subject to counter-example: there are compositional representational systems that this principle cannot accommodate. If this is (...) correct, one of the most important arguments for structured propositions is undermined. (shrink)
Charles S. Peirce’s pragmatist theory of logic teaches us to take the context of utterances as an indispensable logical notion without which there is no meaning. This is not a spat against compositionality per se , since it is possible to posit extra arguments to the meaning function that composes complex meaning. However, that method would be inappropriate for a realistic notion of the meaning of assertions. To accomplish a realistic notion of meaning (as opposed e.g. to algebraic meaning), (...) Sperber and Wilson’s Relevance Theory (RT) may be applied in the spirit of Peirce’s Pragmatic Maxim (PM): the weighing of information depends on (i) the practical consequences of accommodating the chosen piece of information introduced in communication, and (ii) what will ensue in actually using that piece in further cycles of discourse. Peirce’s unpublished papers suggest a relevance-like approach to meaning. Contextual features influenced his logic of Existential Graphs (EG). Arguments are presented pro and con the view in which EGs endorse non-compositionality of meaning. (shrink)
This book examines the hypothesis of "direct compositionality", which requires that semantic interpretation proceed in tandem with syntactic combination. Although associated with the dominant view in formal semantics of the 1970s and 1980s, the feasibility of direct compositionality remained unsettled, and more recently the discussion as to whether or not this view can be maintained has receded. The syntax-semantics interaction is now often seen as a process in which the syntax builds representations which, at the abstract level of (...) logical form, are sent for interpretation to the semantics component of the language faculty. In the first extended discussion of the hypothesis of direct compositionality for twenty years, this book considers whether its abandonment might have been premature and whether in fact direct compositionality is not after all a simpler and more effective conception of the grammar than the conventional account of the syntax-semantics interface in generative grammar. It contains contributions from both sides of the debate, locates the debate in the setting of a variety of formal theories, and draws on examples from a range of languages and a range of empirical phenomena. (shrink)
Peter Pagin Is the principle of semantic compositionality compatible with the principle of semantic holism? The question is of interest, since both principles have a lot that speaks for them, and since they do seem to be in conflict. The view that natural languages have compositional structure is almost unavoidable, since linguistic communication by means of new combinations of words would be virtually incomprehensible otherwise. And holism too seems generally plausible, since the meaning of an expression is directly connected (...) with the way that expression interacts with other. (shrink)
Compositionality is the idea that the meanings of complex expressions (or concepts) are constructed from the meanings of the less complex expressions (or concepts) that are their constituents.1 Over the last few years, we have just about convinced ourselves that compositionality is the sovereign test for theories of lexical meaning.2 So hard is this test to pass, we think, that it filters out practically all of the theories of lexical meaning that are current in either philosophy or cognitive (...) science. Among the casualties are, for example, the theory that lexical meanings are statistical structures (like stereotypes); the theory that the meaning of a word is its use; the theory that knowing the meaning of (at least some) words requires having a recognitional capacity for (at least some) of the things that it applies to; and the theory that knowing the meaning of a word requires knowing criteria for applying it. Indeed, we think that only two theories of the lexicon survive the compositionality constraint: viz., the theory that all lexical meanings are primitive and the theory that some lexical meanings are primitive and the rest are definitions. So compositionality does a lot of work in lexical semantics, according to our lights. (shrink)
The present paper studies the general implications of theprinciple of compositionality for the organization of grammar.It will be argued that Janssen''s (1986) requirement that syntax andsemantics be similar algebras is too strong, and that the moreliberal requirement that syntax be interpretable into semanticsleads to a formalization that can be motivated and applied more easily,while it avoids the complications that encumber Janssen''s formalization.Moreover, it will be shown that this alternative formalization evenallows one to further complete the formal theory of (...) class='Hi'>compositionality, inthat it is capable of clarifying the role played by translation,model-theoretic interpretation and meaning postulates,of which the latter two aspects received little or no attention inMontague (1970) and Janssen (1986). (shrink)
Open Compositionality: Towards a Methodology of Language offers a fresh view into human languages as supermodular, highly interactive cognitive capacities allowing for human unique thought and communication. It is a novel account of semantics as decision-making in tandem with the cognition first methodology.
In this paper, we defend a traditional approach to semantics, that holds that the outputs of compositional semantics are propositional, i.e. truth conditions. Though traditional, this view has been challenged on a number of fronts over the years. Since classic work of Lewis, arguments have been offered which purport to show that semantic composition requires values that are relativized, e.g. to times, or other parameters that render them no longer propositional. Focusing in recent variants of these arguments involving quantification and (...) binding, we argue that a correct understanding of how composition works gives no reason to relativize semantic values, and that propositional semantic values are in fact the preferred option. We take our argument to be mainly empirical, but along the way, we defend some more general theses. Simple propositional semantic values are viable in composition, we maintain, because composition is itself a complex phenomenon, involving multiple modes of composition. Furthermore, some composition principles make adjustments to the meanings of constituents in the course of composition. These adjustments are by triggered syntactic environments. We argue such small contributions of meaning from syntactic structure are acceptable. (shrink)
The standard relation of logical consequence allows for non-standard interpretations of logical constants, as was shown early on by Carnap. But then how can we learn the interpretations of logical constants, if not from the rules which govern their use? Answers in the literature have mostly consisted in devising clever rule formats going beyond the familiar what follows from what. A more conservative answer is possible. We may be able to learn the correct interpretations from the standard rules, because the (...) space of possible interpretations is a priori restricted by universal semantic principles. We show that this is indeed the case. The principles are familiar from modern formal semantics: compositionality, supplemented, for quantifiers, with topic-neutrality. (shrink)
Leading linguists and philosophers report on all aspects of compositionality, the notion that the meaning of an expression can be derived from its parts. This book explores every dimension of this field, reporting critically on different lines of research, revealing connections between them, and highlighting current problems and opportunities.
The lack of conceptual analysis within cognitive science results in multiple models of the same phenomena. However, these models incorporate assumptions that contradict basic structural features of the domain they are describing. This is particularly true about the domain of mathematical cognition. In this paper we argue that foundational theoretic aspects of psychological models for language and arithmetic should be clarified before postulating such models. We propose a means to clarify these foundational concepts by analyzing the distinctions between metric and (...) linguistic compositionality, which we use to assess current models of mathematical cognition. Our proposal is consistent with the scientific methodology that determines that careful conceptual analysis should precede theoretical descriptions of data. 2012 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
This paper provides both a solution and a problem for the account of compositionality in Christopher Peacocke’s modest inferentialism. The immediate issue facing Peacocke’s account is that it looks as if compositionality can only be understood at the level of semantics, which is difficult to reconcile with inferentialism. Here, following up a brief suggestion by Peacocke, I provide a formal framework wherein compositionality occurs the level of the determining relation between inference and semantics. This, in turn provides (...) a “test” for compositionality, which, problematically, Peacocke’s natural deduction framework for classical logic can not meet. To finish, I briefly outline an alternative, bilateralist, framework for modest inferentialism, for which compositionality holds. (shrink)
The goal of inquiry in this essay is to ascertain to what extent the Principle of Compositionality – the thesis that the meaning of a complex expression is determined by the meaning of its parts and its mode of composition – can be justifiably imposed as a constraint on semantic theories, and thereby provide information about what meanings are. Apart from the introduction and the concluding chapter the thesis is divided into five chapters addressing different questions pertaining to the (...) overarching goal of inquiry. Chapter Two is an attempt to determine whether the Principle of Compositionality is a trivial principle. It is argued that this is not the case in the context of providing the semantics of natural languages since it is an open question whether the best theories that respect available syntactic and semantic data are compositional. Chapter Three and Chapter Four ask whether there are reasons to think that the Principle of Compositionality is true. It is argued that the three most commonly cited reasons for thinking that correct semantic theories must be compositional – Linguistic Creativity, Productivity and Systematicity – in fact only give us reasons to think that the meaning of complex expressions depend on the meanings of their parts and their modes of composition, but not that the meaning of complex expressions depend ONLY on those factors. Chapter Five asks whether there are any reasons to think that the Principle of Compositionality is false. It is argued that all the phenomena that have been suggested entail non-compositionality are in fact compatible with some versions of compositionality. Even if this conclusion is reached in this chapter, the conclusion of the previous two chapters entails that we are not justified in imposing the Principle of Compositionality as an adequacy constraint on Semantic theories. Chapter Six explores the ways in which information about what meanings are can be derived by imposing constraints on semantic theories. It is argued that the distinction emphasized in Chapter Three and Chapter Four between depending on and depending ONLY on is of critical importance. It is demonstrated that the informative potential of the Principle of Compositionality goes far beyond that of the principle we are in fact justified in imposing on semantic theories. So not only is it the case that we cannot learn anything about meanings from the justified imposition of the Principle of Compositionality – since we cannot justifiably impose it as a constraint on semantic theories – what we could have learned from it had we been justified in imposing it is very different from what we can learn from the principle that we are justified in imposing. (shrink)
The paper analyses what is said and what is presupposed by thePrinciple of Compositionality for semantics, as it is commonly stated. ThePrinciple of Compositionality is an axiom which some semantics satisfy andsome don’t. It says essentially that if two expressions have the same meaning then they make the same contribution to the meanings of expressionscontaining them. This is a sensible axiom only if one combines it with aconverse, that if two expressions make the same contribution to the meanings (...) of sentences containing them, then they have the same meaning;and some assumption that two expressions which can’t meaningfully besubstituted for each other have diﬀerent meanings. as a full abstraction principle, and as ‘Husserl’s principle’.) Moreoverthe Principle of Compositionality speaks only about when two expressionshave the same meaning; it adds nothing whatever about what that meaningmight be . Some recent discussions by writers in linguistics and logic are assessed. The paper ﬁnishes by reviewing thehistory of the notion of compositionality. (shrink)
The principle of semantic compositionality, as Jerry Fodor and Ernie Lepore have emphasized, imposes constraints on theories of meaning that it is hard to meet with psychological or epistemic accounts. Here, I argue that this general tendency is exemplified in Michael Dummett's account of meaning. On that account, the so-called manifestability requirement has the effect that the speaker who understands a sentence s must be able to tell whether or not s satisfies central semantic conditions. This requirement is not (...) met by truth-conditional accounts of meaning. On Dummett's view, it is met by a proof conditional account: understanding amounts to knowledge of what counts as a proof of a sentence. A speaker is supposed always to be capable of deciding whether or not a given object is a proof of a given sentence she understands. This requirement comes into conflict with compositionality. If meaning is compositionally determined, then all you need for understanding a sentence is what you get from combining your understanding of the parts according to the mode of composition. But that knowledge is not always sufficient for recognizing any proof at all of a given sentence. Dummett's proof-theoretic argument to the contrary is mistaken. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor and Ernie Lepore have produced a series of original and controversial essays on issues relating to compositionality in language and mind; they have now revised them all for publication together in this volume. Compositionality is the following aspect of a system of representation: the complex symbols in the system inherit their syntactic and semantic properties from the primitive symbols of the system. Fodor and Lepore argue that compositionality determines what view we must take of the (...) nature of concepts. Anyone trying to figure out how language and mind work must take account of this challenging work by two leading figures in the field. (shrink)
This paper argues against Zoltán Szabó’s claim in “Compositionality as Supervenience” that we ought to understand the principle of compositionality as the idea that in natural language, the meanings of complex expressions strongly supervene on the meanings of their constituents and how the constituents are combined. The argument is that if we understand compositionality Szabó’s way, then compositionality can play no role in explanations of the acquirability of natural languages, because it makes these explanations circular. This, (...) in turn, would undermine the primary motivation for thinking that natural language is compositional, and would thus undermine the importance of the principle in natural language semantics. Thus, even if Szabó’s reading of the principle best accords with theorists’ intuitions about what sorts of languages are compositional—as he claims it does—there is good reason to reject that reading. Finally, the paper defends the claim that we ought to think of the principle as the idea that in natural language, the meanings of complexes weakly supervene on the meanings of their constituents and how they are combined. (shrink)
Nevertheless, any competent speaker will know what it means. What explains our ability to understand sentences we have never before encountered? One natural hypothesis is that those novel sentences are built up out of familiar parts, put together in familiar ways. This hypothesis requires the backing hypothesis that English has a compositional semantic theory.
The goal of this paper is to investigate a case in which certain features have been argued to sometimes play a role in the interpretation of an expression and sometimes not—in particular, the case of gender and person features on pronouns.1 That these are in certain configurations only agreement features which have no semantic content has been explored in numerous places; for an especially detailed study, see Kratzer (1998, 2008); see also Heim (2008), von Stechow (2003) and others. I argue (...) here that the view that these are ‘uninterpretable’ is incorrect; they do in fact play the normal role in the semantic composition and their appearance of uninterpretability comes from the particular role they play in the interpretation of focus.2 In a nutshell, the proposal is that these features make no contribution to the focus value of an expression (i.e., they play no role in the computation of a set of alternatives in the sense of Rooth 1984), but they are always fully interpreted in the regular semantic value of an expression. The ‘punchline’ of this paper centres on the interaction of these features with paycheck pronouns—I will show that this interaction provides striking confirmation for the proposal here and presents a serious challenge to the agreement solution. But before turning to the details of the analysis and the paycheck evidence, let me step back to discuss just what is at stake in broader terms. The agreement hypothesis maintains that in certain cases these features play the expected role in the interpretation while in other cases they are only agreement features and play no role in the semantic computation. As will be documented below, this view—if correct—would pose a very real threat to the hypothesis of direct compositionality. Thus, the case of features on pronouns is not just a small and isolated piece of grammatical investigation, but one with quite striking implications for the organization of the grammar. (shrink)
I address the question whether Dummetts manifestation challenge to semantic realism can be disarmed by reflection on the compositionality of meaning. Building on work of Dummett and Wright, I develop in §§12 what I argue to be the most formidable version of the manifestation challenge. Along the way I review attempts by previous authors to deploy considerations about compositionality in realisms favour, and argue that they are unsuccessful. The formulation of the challenge I develop renders explicit something which (...) I argue to be implicit in Dummetts and Wrights presentations: that the challenge depends on a contention about the constitution of speakers states of declarative sentence understanding: i.e., that many such states incorporate abilities to recognize whether the associated sentences truth conditions are satisfied. In §3 I argue that reflection on the compositionality of meaning reveals, first, that this contention must be rejected by the realist, and second, that it is unmotivated. This result does not settle the debate over the manifestation challenge, but it implies that the onus of argument does not currently rest with the realist. (shrink)
CompositionalityCompositionality is a concept in the philosophy of language. A symbolic system is compositional if the meaning of every complex expression E in that system depends on, and depends only on, E’s syntactic structure and the meanings of E’s simple parts. If a language is compositional, then the meaning of a sentence … Continue reading Compositionality →.
I argue that compositionality (in the sense of homomorphic interpretation) is compatible with radical and pervasive contextual effects on interpretation. Apparent problems with this claim lose their force if we are careful in distinguishing the question of how a grammar assigns interpretations from the question of how people figure out which interpretations the grammar assigns. I demonstrate, using a simple example, that this latter task must sometimes be done not by computing a derivation defined directly by the grammar, but (...) through the use of pragmatic background knowledge and extragrammatical reasoning, even when the grammar is designed to be fully compositional. The fact that people must sometimes use global pragmatic mechanisms to identify truth conditions therefore tells us nothing about whether the grammar assigns truth conditions compositionally. Compositional interpretation (or the lack thereof) is identifiable not by the mechanisms necessary to calculating truth conditions, but by the structural relation between the interpretation of a phrase in context and the interpretations of its parts in that same context. Even if this relation varies by context, an invariant grammar is possible if grammars can “invoke” pragmatic concepts; but this does not imply that grammatical theory must explain these concepts or incorporate a theory of pragmatics. (shrink)
I believe that the validity of [the Fregean principle of compositionality] is beyond doubt and thus any grammar, whether organized to reflect [it] directly or not, may ultimately be required to satisfy it. One of the systems that are precisely designed to reflect [it] is Montague Grammar, where, technical details aside, it is realized as follows: (2) a. Sentences are composed by putting their constituents together step by step, with no subsequent rearrangement; b. Not only each lexical item but (...) also each rule of composition is assigned an explicit interpretation; c. Interpretation is given in terms of model theory: the denotation conditions of expressions are defined relative to a mathematical construct which, loosely speaking, models the relevant aspects of the world talked about. (shrink)
This paper offers both a theoretical and an experimental perspective on the relationship between connectionist and Classical (symbol-processing) models. Firstly, a serious flaw in Fodor and Pylyshyn’s argument against connectionism is pointed out: if, in fact, a part of their argument is valid, then it establishes a conclusion quite different from that which they intend, a conclusion which is demonstrably false. The source of this flaw is traced to an underestimation of the differences between localist and distributed representation. It has (...) been claimed that distributed representations cannot support systematic operations, or that if they can, then they will be mere implementations of traditional ideas. This paper presents experimental evidence against this conclusion: distributed representations can be used to support direct structure-sensitive operations, in a man- ner quite unlike the Classical approach. Finally, it is argued that even if Fodor and Pylyshyn’s argument that connectionist models of compositionality must be mere implementations were correct, then this would still not be a serious argument against connectionism as a theory of mind. (shrink)
Compositionality is a key design feature of human language: the meaning of complex expressions is, for the most part, systematically constructed from the meanings of its parts and their manner of composition. This paper demonstrates that rudimentary forms of compositional communicative behavior can emerge from a variant of reinforcement learning applied to signaling games. This helps explain how compositionality could have emerged gradually: if unsophisticated agents can evolve prevalent dispositions to communicate compositional-like, there is a direct evolutionary benefit (...) for adaptations that exploit the systematicity in form-meaning mappings more rigorously. (shrink)
This article is concerned with the principle of compositionality, i.e. the principle that the meaning of a complex expression is a function of the meanings of its parts and its mode of composition. After a brief historical background, a formal algebraic framework for syntax and semantics is presented. In this framework, both syntactic operations and semantic functions are partial. Using 20 the framework, the basic idea of compositionality is given a precise statement, and several variants, both weaker and (...) stronger, as well as related properties, are distinguished. Several arguments for compositionality are discussed, and the standard arguments are found inconclusive. Also, several arguments against compositionality, and for the claim that it is a trivial property, are discussed, 25 and are found to be flawed. Finally, a number of real or apparent problems for compositionality are considered, and some solutions are proposed. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
This paper seeks to illustrate the advantages of not treating phonological words as distinguished building blocks in compositional semantics. Following Bobaljik 2012, we derive the relative readings of amount superlatives in two steps, [[[d-many] comparative] superlative]. The existence of two comparative constructions is revealed, involving more vs. the more. Each builds a different superlative construction, explaining the conflicting intuitions about superlatives in the literature, as well as puzzles relating to the definite article in superlatives.
This paper attempts to describe and address a specific puzzle related to compositionality in artificial networks such as Deep Neural Networks and machine learning in general. The puzzle identified here touches on a larger debate in Artificial Intelligence related to epistemic opacity but specifically focuses on computational applications of human level linguistic abilities or properties and a special difficulty with relation to these. Thus, the resulting issue is both general and unique. A partial solution is suggested.
Starting from the familiar observation that no straightforward treatment of pure quotation can be compositional in the standard (homomorphism) sense, we introduce general compositionality, which can be described as compositionality that takes linguistic context into account. A formal notion of linguistic context type is developed, allowing the context type of a complex expression to be distinct from those of its constituents. We formulate natural conditions under which an ordinary meaning assignment can be non-trivially extended to one that is (...) sensitive to context types and satisfies general compositionality. As our main example we work out a Fregean treatment of pure quotation, but we also indicate that the method applies to other kinds of context, e.g. intensional contexts. (shrink)
This paper presents a new solution to the problems for orthodox decision theory posed by the Pasadena game and its relatives. I argue that a key question raised by consideration of these gambles is whether evaluative compositionality (as I term it) is a requirement of rationality: is the value that an ideally rational agent places on a gamble determined by the values that she places on its possible outcomes, together with their mode of composition into the gamble (i.e. the (...) probabilities assigned to them)? The paper first outlines a certain simple response to the Pasadena game and identifies two problems with this response, the second of which is that it leads to a wholesale violation of evaluative compositionality. I then argue that rationality does not require decision makers to factor in outcomes of arbitrarily low probability. A method for making decisions which flows from this basic idea is then developed, and it is shown that this decision method (Truncation) leads to a limited — as opposed to wholesale — violation of evaluative compositionality. The paper then argues that the truncation method yields solutions to the problems posed by the Pasadena game and its relatives that are both attractive in themselves and superior to those yielded by alternative proposals in the literature. (shrink)
When reasons are given for compositionality, the arguments usually purport to establish compositionality in an almost a priori manner. I will rehearse these arguments why one could think that compositionality is a priori true, or almost a priori true, and will find all of them inconclusive. This, in itself, is no reason against compositionality, but a reason to try to establish or defend the principle on other than quasi-a priori grounds.
Ordinary semantic compositionality (meaning of whole determined from meanings of parts plus composition) can serve to explain how a hearer manages to assign an appropriate meaning to a new sentence. But it does not serve to explain how the speaker manages to find an appropriate sentence for expressing a new thought. For this we would need a principle of inverse compositionality, by which the expression of a complex content is determined by the expressions of it parts and the (...) mode of composition. But this presupposes that contents have constituent structure, and this cannot be taken for granted. However, it can be proved that if a certain principle of substitutivity is valid for a particular language, then the meanings expressed by its sentences can justifiably be treated as structured. In its simplest form, this principle says that if in a complex expression a constituent is replaced by another constituent with a different meaning, the new complex has a meaning different from the original. This principle is again inversely related to the normal compositional principle of substitutivity. The combination of ordinary and inverse compositionality is here called 'strong compositionality'. The proof is carried out in the algebraic framework developed by Wilfrid Hodges and Dag Westerståhl. (shrink)