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By Chris Barker, Pauline Jacobson

This publication examines the speculation of "direct compositionality", which calls for that semantic interpretation continue in tandem with syntactic mixture. even though linked to the dominant view in formal semantics of the Seventies and Eighties, the feasibility of direct compositionality remained unsettled, and extra lately the dialogue to whether or now not this view could be maintained has receded. The syntax-semantics interplay is now frequently obvious as a approach within which the syntax builds representations which, on the summary point of logical shape, are despatched for interpretation to the semantics section of the language college. within the first prolonged dialogue of the speculation of direct compositionality for 20 years, this publication considers no matter if its abandonment could have been untimely and no matter if actually direct compositionality isn't in spite of everything a less complicated and more desirable perception of the grammar than the normal account of the syntax-semantics interface in generative grammar. It comprises contributions from either side of the talk, locates the controversy within the surroundings of a number of formal theories, and attracts on examples from a number languages and a number empirical phenomena.

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1 Meaning Algebras: How are Operations on Meanings Computed? Something that is easy to overlook in the highly general definition of compositional semantic interpretation Montague gave in UG, as a homomorphism between algebras, is that in his algebraic model nothing was said about how the result of applying a compositional semantic operation might be “computed” from its operands. Indeed nothing in these definitions entails that that had to be computable at all. Perhaps at the level of abstraction that is of interest at that point, this question should not matter, but for both syntax and semantics for natural languages, where the domains of these operations are infinite yet the operations are taken as a theory of a system that can be used by humans or computers, we must obviously require that there be some algorithm to determine what the result of applying any operation F i to its argument(s) ·, ‚, .

We ¹³ I have found no written precedent for this term, although I have occasionally heard it in conversations since at least 1996. ¹⁴ That is, the section titled “3. Semantics: Theory of Meaning” gives the “bare” algebraichomomorphism characterization I discussed above, and this is general enough that not only what is subsequently defined in “4. Semantics: Theory of Reference” but also the “theory of translation” and of “interpretation induced by translation” are formally all instances of it. Within the “Reference” section, the term meaning also appears, but here it refers to a function from {possible worlds} × {contexts} to denotations, while sense refers to a function from (solely) possible worlds to denotations.

NP-Storage could be treated as a null-effect syntactic rule (taking a single NP as input and giving the identical NP as output), but its associated compositional rule would replace the NP meaning with a variable and put the NP meaning “in storage”. NP-Scoping could be fitted into the homomorphic format in the same way. ) Compositionality as an Empirical Problem 37 Consider now compositionality: with no Quantifier-Raising/Lowering or other movement rules (or null-effect rules) the syntactic analysis of English has been greatly simplified, vis-à-vis Montague’s quantifying-in analysis, making the resulting theory rank higher in syntactic economy.

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