A probabilistic framework for analysing the compositionality of conceptual combinations

Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Conceptual combination performs a fundamental role in creating the broad range of compound phrases utilised in everyday language. This article provides a novel probabilistic framework for assessing whether the semantics of conceptual combinations are compositional, and so can be considered as a function of the semantics of the constituent concepts, or not. While the systematicity and productivity of language provide a strong argument in favor of assuming compositionality, this very assumption is still regularly questioned in both cognitive science and philosophy. Additionally, the principle of semantic compositionality is underspecifi ed, which means that notions of both "strong" and "weak" compositionality appear in the literature. Rather than adjudicating between different grades of compositionality, the framework presented here contributes formal methods for determining a clear dividing line between compositional and non-compositional semantics. In addition, we suggest that the distinction between these is contextually sensitive. Compositionality is equated with a joint probability distribution modeling how the constituent concepts in the combination are interpreted. Marginal selectivity is introduced as a pivotal probabilistic constraint for the application of the Bell/CH and CHSH systems of inequalities. Non-compositionality is equated with a failure of marginal selectivity, or violation of either system of inequalities in the presence of marginal selectivity. This means that the conceptual combination cannot be modeled in a joint probability distribution, the variables of which correspond to how the constituent concepts are being interpreted. The formal analysis methods are demonstrated by applying them to an empirical illustration of twenty-four non-lexicalised conceptual combinations.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Upload history
First archival date: 2017-08-24
Latest version: 2 (2020-02-07)
View other versions
Added to PP index

Total views
314 ( #21,371 of 64,181 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
48 ( #15,976 of 64,181 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.