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date: 24 February 2020

Summary and Keywords

The term parasynthesis is mainly used in modern theoretical linguistics in the meaning introduced by Arsène Darmesteter (1874) to refer to denominal or deadjectival prefixed verbs of the Romance languages (Fr. embarquer ‘to load, to board’) in which the non-prefixed verb (barquer) is not an actual word, and the co-radical nominal form (embarqu-) is not well formed.

The Romance parasynthetic verb is characterized with reference to its nominal or adjectival base as the result of the co-occurrence of both a prefix and a suffix (typically of a conversion process, i.e., non-overt derivational marking). The co-occurrence or simultaneity of the two processes has been seen by some scholars as a circumfixation phenomenon, whereby two elements act in combination.

The peculiar relationship existing between base and parasynthetic verb is particularly problematic for an Item and Process theoretical perspective since this approach entails the application of one process at a time. Conversely, a Word and Paradigm framework deals more easily with parasynthetic patterns, as parasynthetic verbs are put in relation with prefixed verbs and verbs formed by conversion, without being undermined neither by gaps in derivational patterns nor by the possible concomitant addition of prefixes and suffixes.

Due to their peculiar structure, parasynthetic verbs have been matter of investigation even for non-specialists of Romance languages, especially from synchronic (or, better said, achronic) point of view. Attention has been also placed on their diachronic development in that, despite being characteristic of the Romance languages, parasynthetic verbs were already present, although to a lesser extent, in Latin.

The diachronic development of parasynthetic verbs is strictly connected with that of spatial verb prefixes from Latin to the Romance languages, with particular reference to their loss of productivity in the encoding of spatial meanings and their grammaticalization into actionality markers. Parasynthetic verbs have been in the Romance languages since their earliest stages and have shown constant productivity and diffusion in all the Romance varieties, thus differing from spatial prefixes, which underwent a strong reduction in productivity in combination with verbs.

The term parasynthetic is sometimes also used to refer to nouns and adjectives derived from compounds or in which both a prefix and a suffix are attached to a lexical base. In the case of nominal and adjectival formation, there is much less consensus among scholars on the need to use this term, as well as on which processes should fall under this label. The common denominator of such cases consists either in the non-attestation of presumed intermediate stages (Sp. corchotaponero ‘relative to the industry of cork plugs’) or in the non-correspondence between sense and structure of the morphologically complex word (Fr. surnaturel ‘supernatural’).

Keywords: parasynthesis, circumfixation, prefixation, word-formation, actual / possible words, verbs, Romance languages, Latin

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