Sebastian Löbner

in The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics


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The principle of compositionality (PC) states that the meaning of a complex expression is a function of the lexical meanings of its components and the syntactic structure of the whole. PC is usually considered necessary for explaining the apparent ability of human language users to interpret arbitrary regular complex expressions efficiently and uniformly. The meaning of a syntactically regular expression derives from the meanings of its components in a regular way. Any given lexical expression is not just of a certain type, but belongs to hierarchies of types in the sense of Carpenter. The possible types form a semi-lattice ordered by the partial ordering relation of subsumption. The most specific, or minimal, type consists of solely an individual lexical expression. The most general type comprises all lexical expressions indiscriminately.

Keywords: principle of compositionality; complex expression; syntactic structure; human language; lexical expression

Article.  8808 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics

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