Wolfram Hinzen, Markus Werning and Edouard Machery

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 notion of compositionality was first introduced as a constraint on the relation between the syntax and the semantics of languages. It was later postulated as an adequacy condition also for other representational systems such as structures of mental concepts, computer programs, and even neural architectures. Syntax is compositional in that it builds more complex well-formed expressions recursively, on the basis of smaller ones, while semantics is compositional in that it constructs the meanings of larger expressions on the basis of the meanings of smaller ones. Unless empirical linguistic or psychological evidence were to require it nothing else should be needed to understand language. Traditionally, the term compositionality is used in opposition to various forms of holism, with which compositionality is often said to be inconsistent.

Keywords: compositionality; syntax; semantics of languages; computer programs; neural architectures

Article.  7638 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics

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