more from Stephen Read

Single Idea 11005

[catalogued under 19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 4. Compositionality]

Full Idea

A problem with compositionality is negative existential propositions. If some of the terms of the proposition are empty, and don't refer, then compositionality implies that the whole will lack meaning too.

Gist of Idea

Negative existentials with compositionality make the whole sentence meaningless


Stephen Read (Thinking About Logic [1995], Ch.5)

Book Reference

Read,Stephen: 'Thinking About Logic' [OUP 1995], p.123

A Reaction

I don't agree. I don't see why compositionality implies holism about sentence-meaning. If I say 'that circular square is a psychopath', you understand the predication, despite being puzzled by the singular term.