Advertisement

Synthese

, Volume 193, Issue 9, pp 2899–2927 | Cite as

Prototypes as compositional components of concepts

Article

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to reconcile two claims that have long been thought to be incompatible: (a) that we compositionally determine the meaning of complex expressions from the meaning of their parts, and (b) that prototypes are components of the meaning of lexical terms such as fish, red, and gun. Hypotheses (a) and (b) are independently plausible, but most researchers think that reconciling them is a difficult, if not hopeless task. In particular, most linguists and philosophers agree that (a) is not negotiable; so they tend to reject (b). Recently, there have been some attempts to reconcile these claims (Prinz, Furnishing the mind: concepts and their perceptual basis 2002; The Oxford handbook of compositionality 2012; Jönsson and Hampton, Cognition 106:913–923, 2008; Hampton and Jönsson, The Oxford handbook of compositionality 2012; Schurz, The Oxford handbook of compositionality 2012), but they all adopt an implausibly weak notion of compositionality. Furthermore, parties to this debate tend to fall into a problematic way of individuating prototypes that is too externalistic. In contrast, I propose that we can reconcile (a) and (b) if we adopt, instead, an internalist and pluralist conception of prototypes and a context-sensitive but strong notion of compositionality. I argue that each of this proposals is independently plausible, and that, when taken together, provide the basis for a satisfactory account of prototype compositionality.

Keywords

Prototypes Concepts Meaning Compositionality Emergent features 

Notes

Acknowledgments

For helpful comments and discussions of earlier drafts of this paper, I am grateful to Luca Barlassina, Akeel Bilgrami, Brian H. Kim, Karen S. Lewis, Eleonore Neufeld, Daniel Rothschild, and Achille Varzi. I am also extremely grateful to two anonymous referees whose excellent comments led to substantial improvements of the paper. This work was supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and by BMBG Grant No. 01UG1411.

References

  1. Asher, N. (2011). Lexical meaning in context: A web of words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barsalou, L. W. (1987). The instability of graded structure: Implications for the nature of concepts. In U. Neisser (Ed.), Concepts and conceptual development: Ecological and intellectual factors in categorization (pp. 101–140). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Chomsky, N. (2001a). Beyond explanatory adequacy. Tech. Rep. Cambridge, MA: MIT.Google Scholar
  4. Chomsky, N. (2001b). Derivation by phase. In M. Kenstowitz (Ed.), Ken Hale: A life in language (pp. 1–52). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Connolly, A. C., Fodor, J., Gleitman, L., & Gleitman, H. (2007). Why stereotypes don’t even make good defaults. Cognition, 103(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cook, V. J., & Newson, M. (2007). Chomsky’s universal grammar: An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. Del Pinal, G. (2014). The architecture of our semantic compentence: Compositional operations and complex lexical representations. Ph.D. Thesis, Columbia University, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Del Pinal, G. (2015). Dual content semantics, privative adjectives and dynamic compositionality. Semantics and Pragmatics, 8(6), 1–56.Google Scholar
  9. Fodor, J. (1999). Concepts: Where cognitive science went wrong. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fodor, J., & Lepore, E. (1996). The pet fish and the red herring: Why concepts still can’t be prototypes. Cognition, 58(2), 329–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fodor, J., & Pylyshyn, Z. (1988). Connectionism and cognitive architecture: A critical analysis. Tech. Rep. Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science.Google Scholar
  12. Fodor, J. A., & Pylyshyn, Z. W. (2015). Minds without meanings. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gagne, C. L., & Spalding, T. L. (2014). Subcategorization, not uncertainty, drives the modification effect. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29(10), 1283–1294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gleitman, L. R., Connolly, A. C., & Armstrong, S. L. (2012). Can prototype representations support composition and decompositions? In M. Werning, W. Hinzen, & E. Machery (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of compositionality (Chap. 20). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hall, A. (2008). Free enrichment or hidden indexicals? Memory & Language, 23, 426–456.Google Scholar
  16. Hamill, R., Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1980). Insensitivity to sample bias: Generalizing from atypical cases. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(4), 578–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hampton, J. (1997). Conceptual combination. In K. Lamberts & D. Shanks (Eds.), Knowledge, concepts, and categories (pp. 133–160). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hampton, J. (2006). Concepts as prototypes. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 46, pp. 79–113). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  19. Hampton, J. A. (1987). Inheritance of attributes in natural concept conjunctions. Memory & Language, 16, 579–591.Google Scholar
  20. Hampton, J. A., & Jönsson, M. L. (2012). Typicality and compositionality: the logic of combining vague concepts. In M. Werning, W. Hinzen, & E. Machery (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of compositionality (Chap. 18). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Horwich, P. (1998). Concept constitution. Philosophical Issues, 9, 15–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jacobson, P. (2012). Direct compositionality. In W. H. Marcus Werning & E. Machery (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of compositionality (Chap. 5, pp. 109–128). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Johnson, C., & Keil, F. (2000). Explanatory understanding and conceptual combination. In F. Keil & R. Wilson (Eds.), Explanation and cognition (pp. 327–359). Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Jönsson, M. L., & Hampton, J. A. (2008). On prototypes as defaults (comments on Connolly, Fodor, Gleitman and Gleitman 2007). Cognition, 106, 913–923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kahneman, D. (1973). Attention and effort. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  26. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking fast, thinking slow. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Google Scholar
  27. Kunda, Z., Miller, D. T., & Claire, T. (1990). Combining social concepts: The role of causal reasoning. Cognitive Science, 14, 551–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kutas, M., & Federmeier, K. D. (2011). Thirty years and counting: Finding meaning in the n400 component of the event-related brain potential. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 621–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Leslie, S. J. (2015). Hillary Clinton is the only man in the Obama administration: Dual character concepts, generics, and gender. Analytic Philosophy, 56(2), 111–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Machery, E. (2011). Concepts: A tutorial. In R. Belohlavek & G. J. Klir (Eds.), Concepts and fuzzy logic (Chap. 2). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. Margolis, E., & Laurence, S. (1999). Concepts and cognitive science. In E. Margolis & S. Laurence (Eds.), Concepts: Core readings (Chap. 1, pp. 3–82). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  32. McElree, B., Murphy, G. L., & Ochoa, T. (2006). Time course of retrieving conceptual information: A speed-accuracy trade-off study. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13(5), 848–853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Morewedge, C. K., & Kahneman, D. (2010). Associative processes in intuitive judgment. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(10), 435–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Morzycki, M. (2015). Modification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (in press).Google Scholar
  35. Murphy, G. L. (1990). Noun phrase interpretation and conceptual combination. Journal of Memory and Language, 29, 259–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Murphy, G. L. (2002). The big book of concepts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  37. Pagin, P., & Pelletier, J. (2007). Content, context, and composition. In Context-sensitivity and semantic minimalism: New essays on semantics and pragmatics (p. 25).Google Scholar
  38. Partee, B. (1998). Lexical semantics and compositionality. In L. Gleitman & M. Liberman (Eds.), An invitation to cognitive science (Vol. 1). Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  39. Prinz, J. (2012). Regaining composure: A defense of prototype compositionality. In M. Werning, W. Hinzen, & E. Machery (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of compositionality (Chap. 21). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Prinz, J. J. (2002). Furnishing the mind: Concepts and their perceptual basis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  41. Putnam, H. (1997). Is semantics possible? In Mind, language and reality: Philosophical papers (Vol. 2). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Rabagliati, H., Marcus, G. F., & Pylkkanen, L. (2011). Rules, radical pragmatics and restrictions on regular polysemy. Journal of Semantics, 28(4), 485–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Radford, A. (2004). Minimalist syntax: Exploring the structure of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Recanati, F. (2006). Indexical concepts. In M. Garcia-Carpintero & J. Macia (Eds.), Two-dimensional semantics. Oxford: Claredon Press.Google Scholar
  45. Recanati, F. (2010). Truth-conditional pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Robbins, P. (2002). How to blunt the sword of compositionality. Nous, 36, 313–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rosch, E. (1973). Natural categories. Cognitive Psychology, 4, 532–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rosch, E. H. (2011). Slow lettuce: Categories, concepts, fuzzy sets, and logical deduction. In R. Belohlavek & G. J. Klir (Eds.), Concepts and fuzzy logic (Chap. 4). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  49. Roth, E. M., & Shoben, E. J. (1983). The effect of context on the structure of categories. Cognitive Psychology, 15, 346–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sassoon, G. W. (2011). Adjectival vs. nominal categorization processes: The rule vs. similarity hypothesis. Belgium Journal of Linguistics, 24, 104–147.Google Scholar
  51. Schurz, G. (2012). Prototypes and their composition from an evolutionary point of view. In M. Werning, W. Hinzen, & E. Machery (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of compositionality (Chap. 26). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sloman, S. (2002). Two systems of reasoning. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment (Chap. 22). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Smith, E. E., Medin, D. L., Rips, L. J., & Keane, M. (1988). Combining prototypes: A selective modification model. Cognitive Science, 12, 485–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Stanley, J. (2007). Language in context. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Swinney, D., Love, T., Walenski, M., & Smith, E. E. (2007). Conceptual combination during sentence processing. Psychological Science, 18(5), 397–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tabossi, P. (1988). Effects of context on the immediate interpretaion of unambiguous nouns. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 14(1), 153–162.Google Scholar
  57. Taylor, J. R. (2009). Linguistic categorization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Vespoor, C. (1996). Lexical limits on the influence of context. In Proceedings of the eighteenth annual conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  59. Weiskopf, D. (2009). Atomism, pluralism and conceptual content. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LXXIX(1), 131–164.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for General Linguistics (ZAS)BerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations