Academic journal article SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics

Compounds, Lexicalization Patterns and Parts-of-Speech: English and Bulgarian Compound Verbs in Comparison and Contrast

Academic journal article SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics

Compounds, Lexicalization Patterns and Parts-of-Speech: English and Bulgarian Compound Verbs in Comparison and Contrast

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Much ink has been spilled on compounds and compounding. But the impressive literature is biased towards the study of the notorious noun + noun (NN) compounds considered to be the canonical instance of compounds and the canonical output of compounding. Other types of compounds rarely attract the enviable attention NN compounds enjoy. The situation is not much different in typological studies of compounds and in attempts to uncover the universal properties (if there are any) of such lexemes. In this context the current paper aims to contribute towards the fulfilment of Guevara and Scalise's desideratum (2009: 125), stating that "[f]uture work on the typology and on the theory of compounding will necessarily have to shift the tendency shown until now by concentrating on the analysis of the many remaining compound-types." To this end the main focus of the paper is on compound verbs and is organized in the following way: part one is dedicated to a short discussion of the status and nature of compound verbs in the light of what has been defined as the canonical in compounds and compounding; part two is focused on the nature of the "input categories" and the role of part-of-speech classes in analyzing compound verbs; part three presents an alternative approach to compound verbs based on the central premises of construction morphology; part four discusses the polysemous concept of lexicalization and its relevance for the study of compound verbs and what it reveals about the outstanding similarities and differences in two distantly genetically related and typologically distinct languages--English and Bulgarian; in the last part some concluding remarks are made.

1. Nature and status of compound verbs

1.1. What is a compound verb?

Compound verbs do not make a favourite topic in the mainstream literature (be it word-formationist, compounding proper, cognitive linguistics, construction grammar, typology and universals, etc.). This can hardly be attributed to the scarcity of such compounds in languages. The incidence of compounds with the output category V in "Germanic languages is 17.01 %, and in Slavonic--11.63 %" in the Morbo/Comp sample (Guevara and Scalise 2009: 116). Furthermore, this neglect could not stem from any peculiar or deviant features which set these compounds apart from other compounds, as will hopefully be shown.

As is frequently the case, linguists coming from different schools and working with different languages do not see eye to eye as to even what constitutes a compound verb, let alone agree on the properties of such lexical items cross-linguistically. In order to avoid any confusion as to what kind of lexical object is discussed here a proper definition and clarification of where I stand on the relevant issues is in order. Verbal compounds in the context of word-formation discussions have been defined as root serialization objects, i.e. "sequences of verb roots which result in the creation of a single verb with shared arguments" (Aikhenvald 2007: 32). Such definitions have lead to conclusions considering the correlation between verbal compounds and head-marking typology of languages. It is claimed that while nominal compounds can freely occur in all types of languages, verbal compounds "are widespread in head-marking languages and in languages which are of neither head- nor dependent-marking type [...] and only rarely found in nonhead-marking languages. English stir-fry is among the few verbal compounds in this language" (Aikhenvald 2007: 32).

But compound verbs are not "few" in English. Dictionary data, comments by specialists in the field and corpus searches reveal that compound verbs have been steadily on the rise in English for the past fifty years (Ackema and Neeleman 2004; Bauer 1983; Erdmann 2000; Nagano 2007; etc.). Erdmann (2009: 47) reports the following about the lexicographic attestation of compound verbs: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th edition) lists 687 compound verbs; Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition)--681; Collins English Dictionary (5th edition)--488 and the Concise Oxford Dictionary (10th edition)--580. …

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