Structural Meaning of the Pattern

The lexical meanings of the bases alone, important as they are, do not make the meaning of the compound word. The meaning of the compoundis derived not only from the combined lexical meanings of its components, but also from the meaning signalled by the patterns of the order and arrangement of its ICs.

A mere change in the order of bases with the same lexical meanings brings about a drastic change in the lexical meaning of the compound or destroys it altogether. As an illustration let us compare life-boat - a boat of special construction for saving lives from wrecks or along the coast with boat-life - life on board the ship; a fruit-market - market where fruit is sold with market-fruit - fruit designed for selling; board-schoolwith school-board,etc. Thus the structural or distributional pattern in compound words carries a certain meaning of its own which is largely independent of the actual lexical meaning of their ICs. It follows that the lexical meaning of a compound is derived from the combined lexical meanings of its components and the structural meaning of its distributional pattern.

The Meaning of Compounds. Motivation

It follows that the meaning of a compound is made up of the combined lexical meaning of the bases and the structural meaning of the pattern. The semantic centreof the compound is the lexical meaning of the second component modified and restricted by the meaning of the first. The semantic centres of compounds and the semantic relations embedded in the structural patterns refer compound words to certain lexico-semantic groups and semantic sets within them as, for example: 1) compound words denoting action described as to its agent, e.g. sunrise, earthquake, handshake,2) compounds denoting action described as to its time or place, e.g. day-flight,street-fight, 3) compounds denoting individual objects designed for some goal, e.g. bird-cage, table-cloth, diving-suit,4) compounds denoting objects that are parts of the whole, e.g. shirt-collar, eye-ball,5)compounds denoting active doers, e.g. book-reader, shoe-maker, globe-trotter.

The lexical meanings of both components are closely fused together to create a new semantic unit with a new meaning which is not merely additive but dominates the individual meanings of the bases and is characterised by some additional semantic component not found in any of the bases. For example, a hand-bagis essentially a bag, designed to be carried in the hand, but it is also a womans bag to keep money, papers, face-powder and the like; a time-bombis a bomb designed to explode at some time, but also after being dropped or placed in position.

Relations between the ICs of Compounds

From the point of view of degree of semantic independence there are two types of relationship between the ICs of compound words that are generally recognised in linguistic literature: the relations of coordination and subordination, and accordingly compound words fall into two classes: coordinative compounds(often termed copulative or additive) and subordinative(often termed determinative).

In coordinativecompounds the two ICs are semantically equally important as in fighter-bomber oak-tree, girl-friend, Anglo-American.The constituent bases belong to the same class and most often to the same semantic group. Coordinative compounds make up a comparatively small group of words. Coordinative compounds fall into three groups:

a) Reduplicativecompounds which are made up by the repetition of the same base as in goody-goody, fifty-fifty, hush-hush, pooh- pooh.They are all only partially motivated.

b) Compounds formed by joining the phonically variated rhythmic twin formswhich either alliterate with the same initial consonant but vary the vowels as in chit-chat, zig-zag, sing-song,or rhyme by varying the initial consonants as in clap-trap, a walkle-talkie, helter-skelter.

Coordinative compounds of both subgroups (a, b) are mostly restricted to the colloquial layer, are marked by a heavy emotive charge and possess a very small degree of productivity.

The bases of a d d i t i v ecompounds such as a queen-bee, an actor-manager,unlike the compound words of the first two subgroups, are built on stems of the independently functioning words of the same part of speech. These bases often semantically stand in the genus-species relations. They denote a person or an object that is two things at the same time. A secretary-stenographeris thus a person who is both a stenographerand a secretary, a bed-sitting-room (a bed-sitter)is both a bed-roomand a sitting-roomat the same time. Among additive compounds there is a specific subgroup of compound adjectives one of ICs of which is a bound root-morpheme. This group is limited to the names of nationalities such as Sino-Japanese, Anglo-Saxon, Afro-Asian,etc.

Different Parts of Speech

Functionallycompounds are viewed as words of different parts of speech. It is the head-member of the compound, i.e. its second IC that is indicative of the grammatical and lexical category the compound word belongs to.

Compound adverbs, pronouns and connectives are represented by an insignificant number of words, e.g. somewhere, somebody, inside, upright, otherwise, moreover, elsewhere, by means of,etc. No new compounds are coined on this pattern. Compound pronouns and adverbs built on the repeating first and second IC like body, ever, thingmake closed sets of words


some any every no } + } body thing one here


Verbs are of special interest. There is a small group of compound verbs made up of the combination of verbal and adverbial stems that language retains from earlier stages, e.g. to bypass, to inlay, to offset.This type according to some authors, is no longer productive and is rarely found in new compounds.

Means of Composition

From the point of view of the means by which the components are joined together compound words may be classified into:

1) Words formed by merely placing one constituent after anotherin a definite order which thus is indicative of both the semantic value and the morphological unity of the compound, e.g. rain-driven, house-dog, pot-pie (cf. dog-house, pie-pot).This means of linking the components is typical of the majority of Modern English compounds in all parts of speech.

As to the order of components, subordinative compounds are often classified as: a) asntticompound in which the order of bases runs counter to the order in which the motivating words can be brought together under the rules of syntax of the language. For example, in variable phrases adjectives cannot be modified by preceding adjectives and noun modifiers are not placed before participles or adjectives, yet this kind of asyntactic arrangement is typical of compounds, e.g. red-hot, bluish-black, pale-blue, rain-driven, oil-rich.The asyntactic order is typical of the majority of Modern English compound words; b) syntactic compoundswhose components are placed in the order that resembles the order of words in free phrases arranged according to the rules of syntax of Modern English. The order of the components in compounds like blue-bell, mad-doctor, blacklist(a+n) reminds one of the order and arrangement of the corresponding words in phrases a blue bell, a mad doctor, a black list(A+N), the order of compounds of the type door-handle, day-time, spring-lock(n+n) resembles the order of words in nominal phrases with attributive function of the first noun (N+N), e.g. spring time, stone steps, peace movement.

2) Compound words whose ICs are joined together with a special linking-element- the linking vowels [ou] and occasionally [i] and the linking consonant [s/z] - which is indicative of composition as in, e.g., speedometer, tragicomic, statesman.The additive compound adjectives linked with the help of the vowel [ou] are limited to the names of nationalities and represent a specific group with a bound root for the first component, e.g. Sino-Japanese, Afro-Asian, Anglo-Saxon.

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