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The Morpho-Semantics of English Compound Words: Formation, Meaning and Productivity

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  1. Introduction
  2. Compound words in written form
  3. Compound word lexical categories
  4. The productivity of english compounds
  5. References

The ability to compound words in the English language has always been a very productive method of adding new words to the lexicon. Compound words are generally formed in one of two ways, as root compounds or synthetically. Whichever way they are formed, the rightmost constituent is always the grammatical head of the compound in English. Synthetic compounds are those with a grammatical head that is derived from a verb plus an affix, for example truck driver (drive + er) or truck driving (drive + ing). A root compound is one that is made by combining two or more free morphemes: for example tree house. The noun house is modified by the noun tree resulting in the root compound tree house, a type of house found in a tree.

[...] Libben (2003) suggested the following classification of compound word transparency: TT (transparent + transparent) (e.g., car-wash) OT (opaque + transparent) (e.g., strawberry) TO (transparent + opaque) (e.g., jailbird) OO (opaque + opaque) (e.g., hogwash) The Productivity of English Compounds As previously mentioned, most noun-noun compounds are endocentric or definable by their head with the constituent to the left modifying the meaning of the head. As an example, a barstool is not just any stool but one that is used specifically at a bar. [...]


[...] Indeed, the etymology of the prefix is the Greek from inside and is the Greek from outside. So endocentric compounds derive their meaning from inside the word and exocentric compounds derive their meaning from outside of the word. In the past, there has been much written about endocentric compound words (Adams 1973, Warren 1978, Bauer 1983, Ryder 1994). The analyses include suggested semantic classifications of constituents and rules for the interaction of the constituents as well as formulas used to develop new compounds. [...]

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