The goal of this contribution to Inheritance Lexicon Theory is to take a step towards a solution of problems such as the integration of morphology, idioms, and lexical prosody, to introduce a general notion of compositional sign and compositional co-interpretation for surface and semantic interpretation at all structural ranks.
In pursuing this goal, the concept of inheritance was introduced and used to account for both paradigmatic and syntagmatic generalisations, including ID and LP relations and morphographemic and morphophonemic mappings. Starting with a theory based on attribute-value matrices, a formal description of English compounds was outlined. As a heuristic device for investigating the complex implications of the theory, a technique for developing an operational DATR model for the theory was outlined, and an operational DATR model was presented in some detail. An explicit mapping from the theory to the model was not defined.
The results demonstrate the flexibility of the ILEX methodology, and provide a vivid illustration both of the complexity of natural language, in terms of the length and depth of the derivation of interpretative representations. But the results also demonstrate the elegance and simplicity of natural language lexical items, in terms of highly underspecified lemma entries. The operational model demonstrates for the first time that it is possible to integrate a variety of different facts about compositionality in the lexicon in a homogeneous, theoretically well-founded and computationally tractable fashion, without sacrificing linguistic perspicuity.
As well as adding a dimension of compositionality to the basic structuralist concept of a sign, the multiply linked lattice structures of inheritance lexicon methodology contribute towards a new interpretation of another basic structuralist position in respect of the structure of language: un système où tout se tient.