Minimum Description Length and Compositionality

  • Wlodek Zadrozny
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 73)


In (Zadrozny, 1994) we have shown that the standard definition of compositionality is formally vacuous; that is, any semantics can be easily encoded as a compositional semantics. We have also shown that when compositional semantics is required to be ‘systematic’, it is possible to introduce a non-vacuous concept of compositionality. However, a technical definition of systematicity was not given in that paper; only examples of systematic and non-systematic semantics were presented. As a result, although our paper clarified the concept of compositionality, it did not solve the problem of the systematic assignment of meanings. In other words, we have shown that the concept of compositionality is vacuous, but we have not replaced it with a better definition; a definition that would both be mathematically correct and would satisfy the common intuitions that there are parts of grammars which seem to have compositional semantics, and others, like idioms, that do not. We present such a non-vacuous definition of compositionality in this chapter.


Minimum Description Length Grammar Rule Language Understanding Compositional Semantic Minimum Description Length Principle 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

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  • Wlodek Zadrozny

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