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Re: Compounded compounds.

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Friday, June 29, 2007, 2:08
On 6/28/07, Eldin Raigmore <eldin_raigmore@...> wrote:
> Are there many languages with many compound words one of whose > constituents is already, itself, a compound word? > > It seems to me the answer would be "yes".
Indeed. For example, 'aircraft carrier', 'chalkboard eraser', 'greenhouse effect', etc. (English orthography is notoriously inconsistent in representing compounds.)
> What are some of those languages? > > It seems to me one of the answers would be "English".
> How common is that phenomenon? > > Is it common enough that several of these languages have fairly-well-worked- > out ways to disambiguate, if some such compounds could be ambiguous? > > I suspect the answer is "yes"; but I don't have a clue nor a guess about the > next question: > > What are some of those ways?
For a fair number of English compounds, the "Compound Stress Rule" applies. In essence, if the right element of a compound branches, it gets primary stress; otherwise, stress the left element. This distinguishes compounds from phrases ,which are stressed by the "Nuclear Stress Rule," which is roughly that the rightmost content word of a phrase gets primary stress. Take a simple compound like 'blackbird'. It can be analyzed as [[black][bird]]. The right element does not branch (i.e., it is not composed of more than one element itself), so primary stress falls on the left branch (i.e., 'black'). Hence, 'bláckbird'. Now take the NP 'black bird'. As a phrase, the rightmost content word gets primary stress. Hence, 'blàck bírd'. The compound stress rule doesn't always work, but it works often enough that it provides a useful cue for compound (as opposed to phrasal) status when the orthography lets you down.
> More questions I don't "know" the answers to (actually I didn't know the > answers to the preceding questions either; just for most of them I had a guess > or a feeling.): > > Are there, in natlangs, examples of compound words of which _both_ > constituents are already, themselves, compounds?
Sure. car maintenance training course = [[car maintenance][training course]] How do we know that it's a compound? Try out the Compound Stress Rule. For the purposes of the rule, the left element is [[car][maintenance]] and the right element is [training course] (this is also recoverable from the semantics; a 'car maintenance training course' is a training course for car maintenance). Since the right element branches, it will receive primary stress. But you're not done. Since the right element itself branches (training + course), you iterate the rule. The right element of [training course] (i.e., 'course') does not branch, so stress falls on the left element (training). You can do the same for [car maintenance]; its right element does not branch, so stress will fall on the left element. The result of the stress rule is thus 'càr maintenance tráining course', which accords with my own pronunciation.
> Are there any third-level compounds? That is, compound words, one of whose > constituents is a compound word, one of whose constituents is a compound > word?
Compounding is extremely productive in English and other Germanic languages, so examples shouldn't be hard to construct.
> I hazard that, if either of the above phenomena occur at all, they are probably > rare; rare enough, that, even in the languages in which they occur, there's no > well-worked-out system to disambiguate them; speakers just have to > memorize the disambiguation on a case-by-case basis.
The Compound Stress Rule should provide a way to disambiguate compounds. Try this one: 'Chinese art dealer'. If the intended reading is "a dealer of Chinese art", the constituency will be [[Chinese art] dealer] and one might expect main stress on 'Chinese'. If the intended reading is "an art dealer from China", the constituency is [Chinese [art dealer]], and the expected stress will be on 'art'. (My intuition is actually a bit different from what the Compound Stress Rule would predict. For the first reading, "a dealer of Chinese art," I find that compound stress is on 'art', but word stress for 'Chinese' is on the second syllable. For the second reading, I find that the "Rhythm Rule" has applied and, while compound stress is still on 'art', word stress for 'Chinese' is now on the first syllable. That is, 'Chinèse árt dealer' vs 'Chìnese árt dealer'. I just asked my wife, and it appears that the intuitions are rather subtle here. But I stand by mine.)
> Who on the list actually knows the answers? What are the answers?
(The "actually" seems needlessly provocative ... ) Dirk


And Rosta <and.rosta@...>[CONLANG] Compounded compounds.