Compositionality is a feature of language in virtue of which the meaning of a sentence is a function of the meanings of its constituent parts. For example, the meaning of the sentence 'John thought the dog fetched the stick' is a function of the meanings of the component phrases 'the dog fetched the stick' and 'John thought,' whose meanings are in turn a function of their parts.
Compositionality is related to the semantic theory of truth, developed by Alfred Tarski (1902-83), which maintains that a sentence's truth is a function of the satisfaction conditions of its parts. A satisfaction condition of, for example, the predicate 'is greater than seven' is any number which is greater than seven.

Back to index.