Remarks on Compositionality

James Higginbotham

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Interfaces

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780199247455
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Remarks on Compositionality


This article highlights some aspects of the division of labour between the semantic, context-independent and the pragmatic, context-dependent elements of meaning, turning afterwards to the formulation of compositionality as a restrictive empirical hypothesis. It then turns to the question of how to restrict compositionality in such a way that it becomes an empirical hypothesis. Next, some entanglements with syntax and the logic of the metalanguage taken to express the speaker's knowledge are emphasized. It is noted that so far, no way of understanding compositionality which simultaneously (a) satisfies the requirement which the combinatorial mode in simple sentences is given non-circularly and (b) satisfies that requirement that it be seen as predication or as yielding a proposition as value. The compositionality of complements is finally described.

Keywords: compositionality; semantic; pragmatic; empirical hypothesis; syntax; metalanguage

Article.  8733 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics

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