Compositionality: Its Historic Context

Theo Janssen

in The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199541072
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Compositionality: Its Historic Context


The ideas of contextuality and of compositionality were discussed at the beginnings of the nineteenth century in Germany, but the contextuality was the significant one. In 1880, Wundt published a work called Logik, comprising two volumes, which evolved to the German standard text on logic. Gottlob Frege, a German mathematician, logician, and philosopher, presented (in 1884) contextuality as his basic principle; his solution of the foundational problems is based upon it, he meant the principle literally, and would have rejected compositionality. He introduced the distinction between sense and reference in his paper, “Über Sinn und Bedeutung” in 1892. He did not accept the notion the reference of an expression; instead, his approach is based upon the notion the reference of an expression in a given sentence. In the period before Tarski, logics were regarded as deductive theories. Tarski made an important step with his paper on “Truth in formalized languages,” in which he characterized the notion of a true sentence in a purely semantic way.

Keywords: compositionality; nineteenth century; Über Sinn; substitution principle; equivalence of substitutivity

Article.  12824 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics

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