Emergency!!!! Challenges to a Compositional Understanding of Noun–noun Combinations

Edward J. Wisniewski and Jing Wu

in The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Emergency!!!! Challenges to a Compositional Understanding of Noun–noun Combinations


Compositionality refers to how a complex expression is made up of its parts on the basis of grammatical rules, and derives its meaning from these parts. In general, emergent features are not initially present in concepts but arise when these concepts are combined. The source of these emergent features is explained by extensional feedback. Although there is strong evidence for emergent features that arise from extensional feedback, there is another type of emergent feature which is common. These emergent features are constructed or created from existing features represented in the modifier and head noun. One of the ways to view emergent features is in terms of processing stages. In the earliest stage, understanding a novel combination is initially a compositional process in which features of the constituents are activated. In a middle stage, it is proposed that the multiple-process model constructs emergent features from the compositional features. Finally, some researchers suggest that, after comprehending a novel combination, people elaborate the meaning with emergent features based on extensional feedback.

Keywords: compositionality; complex expression; emergent features; metonymic construal; relation interpretations

Article.  6651 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics

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