Cool Logic

Wouter Posdijk (ILLC)

Compositionality without Cognition

October 5th at 18:00, in ILLC Seminar Room (F1.15)

Why do we combine words into sentences? And why should the meaning of these sentences be dependent on the meaning of the words that constitute it? Many ideas have been proposed for the evolution of compositionality (Franke (2016), Skyrms (2010), Steinert-Threlkeld (2016)), but these accounts all either incorporate some form of cognitive sophistication, or do not show compositionality in the sense that we want it. In addition, it is unclear whether these learning strategies can invade an already established holophrastic community.

In this talk, I try to make these Franke’s account more evolutionarily plausible by ‘setting the stage’; that is to say, I try to make the languages of holophrastically communicating agents more compositional solely through natural processes that lie outside the agent. The idea is that these natural processes emphasize the fact that sentences and their constituent words are related.