What is a compound? The main criteria for compoundhood

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This study aims to identify the main cross-linguistic criteria for compoundhood discussed in the relevant literature, with a special focus on English, ranking them from the most reliable to the least. These criteria - orthographic, phonological, syntactic and semantic in nature - have been proposed to make a distinction between compounds and phrases. The analysis reveals that the most reliable cross-linguistic criteria to distinguish between phrases and compounds are adjacency and referentiality. With regard to the former criterion, no intervening elements can be inserted between the head and the non-head of compounds, whilst such insertion is allowed in phrases. With regard to the latter criterion, the nonhead of a phrase is always referential, whereas the non-head of a compound is normally nonreferential. Other criteria have been found to be partially applicable, e.g. free pluralisation of the nonhead, compositionality, stress, possibilities for modification and coordination, ellipsis, orthography and the replacement of the second element by a pro-form. The study also proposes a definition for compounds that may be the most widely applicable. Finally, the study concludes with ranking the main criteria for compoundhood discussed in the study.
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    ExELL (Explorations in English Language and Linguistics) 4.1 (2016): 58-86   DOI: 10.1515/exell-2017-0007  Original scientific article    What is a compound? The main criteria for compoundhood Abdel Rahman Mitib Altakhaineh  Al Ain University of Science and Technology  Al Ain, UAE Abstract This study aims to identify the main cross-linguistic criteria for compoundhood discussed in the rele-vant literature, with a special focus on English, ranking them from the most reliable to the least. These criteria - orthographic, phonological, syntactic and semantic in nature - have been proposed to make a distinction between compounds and phrases. The analysis reveals that the most reliable cross-linguistic criteria to distinguish between phrases and compounds are adjacency and referentiality. With regard to the former criterion, no intervening elements can be inserted between the head and the non-head of compounds, whilst such insertion is allowed in phrases. With regard to the latter criterion, the non-head of a phrase is always referential, whereas the non-head of a compound is normally non-referential. Other criteria have been found to be partially applicable, e.g. free pluralisation of the non-head, compositionality, stress, possibilities for modification and coordination, ellipsis, orthography and the replacement of the second element by a pro-form. The study also proposes a definition for com-pounds that may be the most widely applicable. Finally, the study concludes with ranking the main criteria for compoundhood discussed in the study. Key words: morphology; word-formation; compoundhood; phrasehood; derivation . 1. Introduction There has been much discussion of what exactly a compound is and whether com-pounds can be distinguished from other word-formation processes such as deriva-tion, on the one hand, and other syntactic constructs such as phrases, on the other. To answer the latter question, several criteria have been proposed (e.g. Bauer, 1998a; Donalies, 2004; Lieber & Štekauer, 2009; Fàbregas & Scalise, 2012; Bauer et al, 2013; among others), some of which deserve serious consideration, while others are less plausible. Hence, this study presents the criteria that have been proposed so far to draw borderlines between compounds, on the one hand, and phrases and derivation, on the other. In doing so, it aims to reveal the main universal criteria that can identify compounds and propose a hierarchical structure of these criteria.    59   ISSN 2303-4858 4.1 2016: 58-86 Abdel Rahman Mitib Altakhaineh: What is a compound? The main criteria for compoundhood In addition, it suggests a new definition of compounding that is meant to be appli-cable cross-linguistically. The significance of this study stems from the fact that compounds are considered a relatively cross-linguistic word-formation process found in many languages, and how determining their definition contributes to our understanding of how languages work. In fact, in their corpus of 55 languages, Štekauer et al. (2008, cited in Scalise & Vogel, 2010: 1) note that 50 languages have compounds. Languages which they cite as lacking compounds include East Dangla, Karao, West Greenlandic, Diola Fogny and Kwak’wala (Štekauer et al, ibid). Nonetheless, compounding is still a very productive word-formation process and examples of compounds from typologically different languages show the prominence of this process (Scalise & Vogel, 2010: 1). Thus, proposing a cross-linguistic definition for compounds could be regarded as an area still worthy of further investigation. The study proceeds as follows: section 2 discusses the main general criteria that have been suggested in the literature to distinguish compounds from phrases. Section 3 discusses the boundary between compounding and derivation. Finally, section 4 summarises the main points and provides a definition of compounding that may be used cross-linguistically. 2. Background to the study 2.1. What is a prototypical compound? Several scholars have provided definitions for compounds that are meant to be valid cross-linguistically. For instance, Marchand (1960: 11) indicates that com-pounds consist of two words or more which are combined to form a morphologi-cal unit. Katamba (1993: 54) proposes that compounds comprise two bases, at least, which could be words or root morphemes. According to Fabb (1998: 66), a com-pound can be defined as a word which itself consists of two or more words. Simi-larly, Olsen (2000: 280) states that compounding is a combination of two free forms or stems, forming a new complex word. Carstairs-McCarthy (2002: 59) suggests that compounds are words which are coined by combining roots. Ralli (2013: 10) states that compounds consist of more than one lexeme which can be realised as words or stems based on the language under investigation. Note that all these definitions can be viewed as being too narrow, since they do not acknowledge the fact that phrases can be elements of compounds, at least in English, e.g.  jack-in-the-box . In addition, these definitions do not provide help in distinguishing com-pounds from phrases. This lack of acknowledgment of phrases being elements of compounds has called the need for a more comprehensive definition that could be applicable cross-linguistically. Therefore, other researchers undertook the task of finding such a definition. In this regard, somewhat more precise definitions of compounding have been suggested by Bauer (2001: 695) and Plag (2003: 135). Bau-    60    ISSN 2303-4858 4.1 2016: 58-86 Abdel Rahman Mitib Altakhaineh: What is a compound? The main criteria for compoundhood er (2001: 695) posits that a “[c]ompound is a lexical unit made up of two or more elements, each of which can function as a lexeme, independent of the other(s) in other contexts, and which shows some phonological and/or grammatical isolation from normal syntactic usage.” Finally, Plag (2003: 135) proposes that “a compound is a word that consists of two elements, the first of which is either a root, a word or a phrase, the second of which is either a root or a word.” Of the definitions dis-cussed above, Plag provides the most concise, yet detailed, definition of a com-pound. Thus, his definition is my departure point to provide my definition that could be applicable cross-linguistically. 2. 2.  Compounds and phrases Several linguists (e.g. Katamba, 1993; Bauer, 2003; Booij, 2007; Lieber & Štekauer, 2009, among others) have attempted to differentiate between compounds and phrases in various languages. Katamba (1993: 332) defines a phrase as “a syntactic constituent whose head is a lexical category, i.e. a noun, adjective, verb, adverb or preposition”. A phrase may consist of one word, two words or more. Similarly, a compound consists of two words or more. This means that the number of words in a construct is not an indicator of whether this construct is a compound or phrase. Additionally, Bauer (2003: 135-136) shows that compounding is similar to phrase formation, due to the fact that compounds are sequences of lexemes, unlike idi-oms, which are formed through rules of syntax. It is frequently the case that the meaning of a noun plus noun compound is indistinguishable from the meaning of an adjective plus noun. For example: (1)   atom bomb atomic bomb (2)   verb paradigm verbal paradigm (3)   language development linguistic development These two constructions are equivalent alternatives despite the fact that N + N compounds are seen as products of morphology, while Adj + N compounds are products of syntax. Bauer (2003: 136) and Booij (2007: 82-83) explain that Adj + N compounds have an equivalent function to N + N compounds. N + N Adj + N (4)   city parks urban parks (5)   ocean/sea life marine life The adjectives in (1-3) are derived from the nouns used in the competing construc-tion, e.g. verbal  from verb and linguistic  from language. This is arguably also the case in (4) and (5), since urban  is the only available relational adjective for express-ing “related to cities” and marine  is the only available adjective that expresses the meaning “related to seas”. A sequence of N + N in English can also be equivalent to possessive plus noun. The latter is usually seen as an example of syntax, whereas the former is viewed as    61   ISSN 2303-4858 4.1 2016: 58-86 Abdel Rahman Mitib Altakhaineh: What is a compound? The main criteria for compoundhood a part of morphology. Relevant examples include the following (Bauer, 2003: 136; Rosenbach, 2007: 143): Compounds Phrases (6)   dog house dog’s house (7)   lawyer fees lawyer’s fees (8)   Sunday lunch Sunday’s lunch  Due to this overlap between the two constructs, several linguists (e.g. Bauer, 2003; Katamba & Stonham, 2006; Lieber & Štekauer, 2009; Fàbregas & Scalise, 2012; Bau-er et al, 2013, among others) propose criteria to distinguish between compounds and phrases cross-linguistically. However, the boundaries between compounds and phrases are not completely clear. Therefore, I compile these criteria to form a comprehensive list of eleven tests for compoundhood. In the next section, these criteria are applied to N + N combinations with special focus on English to decide whether such combinations are compounds or phrases. In doing so, this study seeks to answers to the following research questions: 1.   What are the most reliable criteria for compoundhood? 2.   What is the most widely applicable definition of a compound cross-linguistically? 3. The main distinguishing criteria between compounds and phrases 3.1. Orthography Although spelling is usually regarded as a relatively superficial phenomenon, it has been considered a possible criterion for compoundhood in some languages. In Czech and Slovak, for example, orthography has been considered an important criterion, because all compounds are spelled as one word, whereas syntactic phrases are spelled as separate words (Lieber & Štekauer, 2009: 7). Similarly, Szy-manek (2009: 466) indicates that most Polish compounds are spelled as one word without a hyphen. However, he recognises the existence of some exceptions, espe-cially with coordinate structures, such as Bo ś nia-Hercegowina ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina’ or czarno-bia ł  y ‘black and white’. In German too, compounds are usually spelled as a single word but coordinates like rot-grün  ‘red and green’, schwarz-rot-gold  ‘black and red and golden’ and Dichter-Maler-Komponist ‘poet and painter and composer’ are typically written with hyphens (Neef, 2009: 396). The same applies to Dutch, where coordinates such as zwart-wit ‘black and white’ and directeur- grootaandeelhouder   ‘director and major shareholder’ are normally written with hy-phens (see Booij, 1992: 40-41). In English, however, spelling offers no help in identifying compounds or dis-tinguishing compounds from phrases. Some compounds are written as one word,
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