Context, Compositionality, and Brevity

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  • Because of ‘arguments from the infinity of language’, compositionality is often seen as a ‘non-negotiable’ feature of any theory of the semantics of natural language. But there are a number of features of ‘ordinary language discourse’ that make it seem that compositionality is not true of natural language semantics. Some of these features are lumped together under the rubric of ‘context’, and it is often argued that these features cannot be given any compositional analysis. This chapter explores a few of these features and arguments, with the idea that the evidence is not so clear-cut against compositionality. However, at least one of the accounts of compositionality and context that endeavours to show their compatibility is lacking, and the paper explores a remedy for this.

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    © 2013 F. J. Pelletier. Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press (
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Pelletier, F.J. (2013). Context, Compositionality, and Brevity. In L. Goldstein (Ed.), Brevity (pp. 178-197). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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