Compositionality, relevance, and Peirce's logic of existential graphs

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Charles S. Peirce's pragmatist theory of logic teaches us to take the context of utterances as an indispensable logical notion without which there is no meaning. This is not a spat against compositionality per se, since it is possible to posit extra arguments to the meaning function that composes complex meaning. However, that method would be inappropriate for a realistic notion of the meaning of assertions. To accomplish a realistic notion of meaning (as opposed e.g. to algebraic meaning), Sperber and Wilson's Relevance Theory (RT) may be applied in the spirit of Peirce's Pragmatic Maxim (PM): the weighing of information depends on (i) the practical consequences of accommodating the chosen piece of information introduced in communication, and (ii) what will ensue in actually using that piece in further cycles of discourse. Peirce's unpublished papers suggest a relevance-like approach to meaning. Contextual features influenced his logic of Existential Graphs (EG). Arguments are presented pro and con the view in which EGs endorse non-compositionality of meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-540
Number of pages28
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)
  • Philosophy

User-Defined Keywords

  • Compositionality
  • Existential graphs
  • Peirce's pragmaticism
  • Relevance


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