Idioms and Compositionality

Dag Westerståhl

Deptartment of Philosophy
Gothenburg University
Box 200
405 30 Göteborg


A standard view is that idioms present problems for compositionality. The question of compositionality, however, should be posed for a semantics, not for individual phrases. The paper focuses on the idiom extension problem : Suppose in a given language a certain phrase acquires the status of an idiom. How can the syntax and semantics be extended to accommodate the idiom, while preserving desirable properties such as compositionality? Various ways to achieve such extensions are discussed within an abstract algebraic framework for language due to Wilfrid Hodges.

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