The Processing Consequences of Compositionality

Giosuè Baggio, Michiel van Lambalgen and Peter Hagoort

in The Oxford Handbook of Compositionality

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

The Processing Consequences of Compositionality

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  • Linguistics
  • Semantics
  • Psycholinguistics



Compositionality remains effective as an explanation of cases in which processing complexity increases due to syntactic factors only. It falls short of accounting for situations in which complexity arises from interactions with the sentence or discourse context, perceptual cues, and stored knowledge. The idea of compositionality as a methodological principle is appealing, but imputing the complexity to one component of the grammar or another, instead of enriching the notion of composition, is not always an innocuous move, leading to fully equivalent theories. Compositionality sets an upper bound on the degree of informational encapsulation that can be posited by modular or component-based theories of language: simple composition ties in with a strongly modular take on meaning assembly, which is seen as sealed off from information streams other than the lexicon and the syntax.

Keywords: lexicon; syntax; compositionality; syntactic factors; theories of language; neuroscience

Article.  8008 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics ; Psycholinguistics

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