Prototypes as compositional components of concepts

Synthese 193 (9):2899–2927 (2016)
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The aim of this paper is to reconcile two claims that have long been thought to be incompatible: that we compositionally determine the meaning of complex expressions from the meaning of their parts, and that prototypes are components of the meaning of lexical terms such as fish, red, and gun. Hypotheses and are independently plausible, but most researchers think that reconciling them is a difficult, if not hopeless task. In particular, most linguists and philosophers agree that is not negotiable; so they tend to reject. Recently, there have been some attempts to reconcile these claims, but they all adopt an implausibly weak notion of compositionality. Furthermore, parties to this debate tend to fall into a problematic way of individuating prototypes that is too externalistic. In contrast, I propose that we can reconcile and if we adopt, instead, an internalist and pluralist conception of prototypes and a context-sensitive but strong notion of compositionality. I argue that each of this proposals is independently plausible, and that, when taken together, provide the basis for a satisfactory account of prototype compositionality.
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