Article

Composition Ality, Flexibility, And Context Dependence

François Recanati

in The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199541072
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199541072.013.0008

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Composition Ality, Flexibility, And Context Dependence

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The compositionality idea is the idea that semantic interpretation proceeds in two steps. Simple expressions are interpreted by means of lexical rules, which assign meanings to them directly. Complex expressions are interpreted by means of compositional rules, which assign meanings to them indirectly, as a function of the meanings of their parts. The syntax of natural language is such that the number of complex expressions is not finite. The meaning of a complex expression only depends upon two things: the meanings of its immediate constituents, and the way they are put together. A language exhibits semantic flexibility if a condition is satisfied: in that language, the meaning of a word may vary from occurrence to occurrence, and it may vary, in particular, as a function of the other words it combines with.

Keywords: compositionality; semantic interpretation; simple expressions; lexical rules; compositional rules

Article.  8500 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics ; Pragmatics

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