Prototypes and their Composition from an Evolutionary Point of View

Gerhard Schurz

in The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Prototypes and their Composition from an Evolutionary Point of View

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  • Linguistics
  • Semantics
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The foregoing considerations support the conjecture that prototypes are semi-compositional in the sense that there exist unboundedly many combinations of nouns with non-exceptional adjectives, which satisfy the rule default-to-prototype (DP) and hence are compositional. Presumably there also exist unboundedly many combinations of nouns with exceptional adjectives, which violate DP and hence are non-compositional. An analysis of the connection between productivity (systematicity) and compositionality has been suggested by Robbins. He argues that, for the explanation of productivity, one need not assume that conceptual meanings (contents) always compose—it is enough that they compose in in(de)finitely many cases. Since semi-compositionality entails the existence of unboundedly many non-compositional cases, non-compositionality cannot be dealt away with a finite list of idiomatic exceptions, but is a genuine feature of prototype semantics in natural language.

Keywords: natural language; compositionality; default-to-prototype; semi-compositionality; natural language

Article.  10662 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics ; Language Evolution

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