Re: [tied] Compounds

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 5386
Date: 2001-01-09

Of course in some languages (that's certaily the case of French) practically all compounds are lexicalised noun phrases which, unsurprisingly, preserve the phrasal order of elements. Such is the case of Tibetan, where N-N compounds have the modifier-head structure (they derive from genitive + noun phrases) but compound nouns involving an adjective have the head-modifier order N-Adj (again, this order is normal in phrases). But Germanic (and IE) N-N compounds (with exceptions like daisy or Wednesday) do not contain an etymological genitive and don't necessarily correspond, historically or synchronically, to Gen + N phrases: "toothbrush" is not equivalent to tooth's (or teeth's) brush. The modifier has a very general function here, "something to do with a tooth or teeth". The whole phenomenon is a matter of word-internal syntax rather than the grammar of English phrases.
Modifier-head is the unmarked order in endocentric N-N compounds in any language that adds inflections at the end of words, since with this order the compound doesn't differ from the head in isolation in matters of declension, grammatical gender, etc., and "split compounds" with inflections sandwitched between the constituents can be avoided at the same time. Needless to say, the marked order is not absolutely ruled out, but there must be some special reason for its occurrence.
Of course in Modern English any phrase can be converted into a compound, but such compounds are typically headless, i.e. exocentric: forget-me-not, go-between, might-have-been, etc. Problems of inflection (or whatever passes for noun inflection in English) are solved in a radically simple way: [forget-me-not]s, etc.
V-N exocentric compounds like spoilsport, lackland, cutthroat, sawbones, scarecrow or turnkey are most likely modelled on similar French formations; at any rate they were unknown before Middle English. Here again English speakers don't worry about fine points of logic and semantics as much as the French do and form plurals as if for simplex words: spoilsports = [[spoil][sport]]s, etc. I even think sawboneses = [[saw][[bone]s]]s is acceptable beside haplological sawbones (pl.). This is because the English plural ending behaves more like an enclitic than a real desinence.
----- Original Message -----
From: petegray
Sent: Sunday, January 07, 2001 5:09 PM
Subject: Re: [tied] People of the Rivers - Thought #3

>*k:al-axwa "female-in-law" consisting of *axwa
> "brother" and *k:al-, presumably "woman".

Isn't that the sort of "compounding" that you find in Semitic?  "word-God"
(accent producing a reduction in vocalism of the first element to what is
called a "construct" form) = "word of God".  So here, "woman-of brother".