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María Irene Moyna

The definition of exocentricity hinges on the notion of head in morphology. Exocentricity and its opposite, endocentricity, describe the two possible relationships between compound constituents and the compound lexeme they make up. In endocentric compounds, one of the constituent lexemes is the head, that is, the lexical item with the semantico-syntactic features that are passed on to the whole compound. In exocentric compounds, the features of the whole are not attributable to the constituents and must be sought elsewhere. Exocentric compounds can be divided into two broad classes, namely, syntactic (or formal) and semantic exocentric compounds. Syntactic exocentric compounds exhibit a mismatch between the grammatical category of their constituents and that of the whole. Semantic exocentric compounds are exocentric by virtue of their meaning alone, their structure providing no clues of their nonliteral interpretation. Historically, most descriptive and theoretical analyses of exocentricity have focused on syntactic exocentric compounds. On the basis of large but non-exhaustive databases of the world languages, it has been shown that exocentric compounds are marked. With a few exceptions, exocentric compound patterns are both less frequent cross-linguistically and less likely to be used in those languages that can have them. However, some patterns recur with remarkable regularity in the world’s languages. These include possessive compounds (known by their Sanskrit name, bahuvrīhi), which combine a description of a part to denote the whole (e.g., Eng. sabretooth). Deverbal nominal compounds are also robust in many language families, such as Romance; these compounds combine a verb and its direct object to denote an agent or instrument (e.g., Fr. portefeuilles ‘briefcase,’ lit. ‘carry+papers’). A third highly frequent exocentric compounding pattern combines two constituents of the same grammatical category to create a lexeme of a different word class (e.g., Japanese daisho ‘size,’ lit. ‘small+large’). It should be noted that the basic distinction between syntactic and semantic exocentric compounds can become blurred because any lexicalized compound, regardless of its internal structure, is potentially susceptible to metaphoric meaning shifts and to formal recategorization through conversion. Although exocentricity is a syntactico-semantic feature typically attributed to compounds, other morphological structures may occasionally exhibit similar behavior, namely, phrasal chunks or “syntactic freezes.” Exocentric compounds create interesting challenges to rule-based accounts of morphology, including both lexicalist hypotheses and also those that subsume word formation operations to those of syntax. In both types of proposals, the features of all constructions are attributable to their head, so that accounting for the mismatch exhibited by exocentric compounds requires structural adjustments. Cognitive linguistics has also focused on exocentric compounds, and has sought to account for their meanings through a combination of metaphoric and metonymic shifts.


Anton Karl Ingason and Einar Freyr Sigurðsson

Attributive compounds are words that include two parts, a head and a non-head, both of which include lexical roots, and in which the non-head is interpreted as a modifier of the head. The nature of this modification is sometimes described in terms of a covert relationship R. The nature of R has been the subject of much discussion in the literature, including proposals that a finite and limited number of interpretive options are available for R, as well as analyses in which the interpretation of R is unrestricted and varies with context. The modification relationship between the parts of an attributive compound also contrasts with the interpretation of compounds in other ways because some non-heads in compounds saturate argument positions of the head, others are semantically conjoined with them, and some restrict their domain of interpretation.


Pius ten Hacken

Compounding is a word formation process based on the combination of lexical elements (words or stems). In the theoretical literature, compounding is discussed controversially, and the disagreement also concerns basic issues. In the study of compounding, the questions guiding research can be grouped into four main areas, labeled here as delimitation, classification, formation, and interpretation. Depending on the perspective taken in the research, some of these may be highlighted or backgrounded. In the delimitation of compounding, one question is how important it is to be able to determine for each expression unambiguously whether it is a compound or not. Compounding borders on syntax and on affixation. In some theoretical frameworks, it is not a problem to have more typical and less typical instances, without a precise boundary between them. However, if, for instance, word formation and syntax are strictly separated and compounding is in word formation, it is crucial to draw this borderline precisely. Another question is which types of criteria should be used to distinguish compounding from other phenomena. Criteria based on form, on syntactic properties, and on meaning have been used. In all cases, it is also controversial whether such criteria should be applied crosslinguistically. In the classification of compounds, the question of how important the distinction between the classes is for the theory in which they are used poses itself in much the same way as the corresponding question for the delimitation. A common classification uses headedness as a basis. Other criteria are based on the forms of the elements that are combined (e.g., stem vs. word) or on the semantic relationship between the components. Again, whether these criteria can and should be applied crosslinguistically is controversial. The issue of the formation rules for compounds is particularly prominent in frameworks that emphasize form-based properties of compounding. Rewrite rules for compounding have been proposed, generalizations over the selection of the input form (stem or word) and of linking elements, and rules for stress assignment. Compounds are generally thought of as consisting of two components, although these components may consist of more than one element themselves. For some types of compounds with three or more components, for example copulative compounds, a nonbinary structure has been proposed. The question of interpretation can be approached from two opposite perspectives. In a semasiological perspective, the meaning of a compound emerges from the interpretation of a given form. In an onomasiological perspective, the meaning precedes the formation in the sense that a form is selected to name a particular concept. The central question in the interpretation of compounds is how to determine the relationship between the two components. The range of possible interpretations can be constrained by the rules of compounding, by the semantics of the components, and by the context of use. A much-debated question concerns the relative importance of these factors.