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Compounding and Linking Elements in Germanic  

Barbara Schlücker

Compounding is a frequent and productive word-formation pattern in all Germanic languages. It is a pattern that links an overtly simple grammatical form to a rich semantic-conceptual structure. Overall, there are rather few restrictions on the formation of compounds, and units of various word classes can serve as constituents in compounds. Both determinative and coordinative compounds exist across Germanic. Nominal compounding is the largest and most productive class in all Germanic languages, in particular noun–noun compounding, followed by adjectival compounding. Verbal compounding, on the other hand, is much more restrained, in particular in West Germanic, whereas it is more common in North Germanic. Linking elements are a typical but not necessary property of Germanic compounds. They occur mainly in noun–noun compounds. The inventory and use of linking elements show differences between the West Germanic languages, on one hand, and the North Germanic languages, on the other hand. Regarding the distribution and use of linking-s, however, there are many similarities between the Germanic languages. Notwithstanding the similarities described here, there are also many differences between the various Germanic compound patterns. These global and specific characteristics are the central subject of the article, taking into account data from German, Luxemburgish, Dutch, West Frisian, English, Afrikaans, and Yiddish (West Germanic) and from Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese (North Germanic).