At this week’s MCQLL meeting, Michaela Socolof will be presenting Measuring Compositionality.

Monday, April 17, 15:00–16:00 (Montréal time, UTC-4)
MCQLL meetings this semester are in hybrid format. We will meet in-person in room 117 of the McGill Linguistics Department, 1085 Dr-Penfield. If you’d like to attend virtually, the Zoom link is here.

All are welcome to attend.

  • Speaker:
    Michaela Socolof
    Measuring Compositionality

    In linguistics, the principle of compositionality is often expressed as follows: the meaning of an utterance is determined by the meanings of its subparts and the way those subparts are combined. Natural language is usually understood to be compositional, even though many utterances seem to violate the principle. The most obvious example is idioms. With an idiom, it is not enough the know the meanings of the subparts and the way those parts are combined, as there is some extra information that comes from the joint occurrence of the subparts. At the same time, idioms seem to differ among themselves in how how much of their meaning comes from their individual words. These facts suggest that a definition of compositionality that corresponds to intuitions should place utterances along a spectrum and should make reference to an amount of meaning contribution. In this talk, I will propose a novel information-theoretic definition of compositionality and present ongoing experimental work on the topic.