Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Recursive Compounds and Linking Morpheme

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Recursive Compounds and Linking Morpheme

Article excerpt


This paper shows that the existence of a linking morpheme is not related to recursion of compounds in the given language, but a linking morpheme does play a role in some ways or the other of recursion. Recursion of compounding is defined as embedding at the edge or in the center of an action or object of an instance of the same type. On the other hand, iteration, is simply unembedded repetition of an action or object (Bisetto 2010). Based on these definitions, it is argued that there are languages with a linking morpheme overtly realized in recursive languages. Second, there are also languages which have genitive compounds with a linking morpheme, although recursive compounds do not have a linking morpheme. On the other hand, there are languages with a genitive compounds and recursive compounds of coordinate VNN or nominal coordinate compounds. In these languages, recursive compounds are not so productive. Finally, Turkish and Greek show that the existence of a linking morpheme is not related to recursion of compounds. They have a linking morpheme in iterated compounds, but not in recursive compounds.

Keywords: recursive compounds, iterated compounds, linking morpheme, genitive compounds

1. Introduction

Recursion is said to be a fundamental property of human language that potentially differentiate language both from other human cognitive domains and known communication systems in animals (Hauser, Chomsky & Fitch 2002, Corballis 2011). The aim of this paper is to find out whether recursion of compounding is found in unrelated languages or not and whether the existence of a linking morpheme in compounds has anything to do with the recursion of compounding in the given language. Knowing about recursion of compounds will reveal some aspect of human language, different to those of other animals. Also, looking at compounds in unrelated languages will enable us to understand universality of compounding.

Before starting the discussion, let us define what recursion is. Summarizing the definitions by a number of linguists, such as Chomsky (1965), Ralli (2013), Bisetto (2010), Corballis (2011), and many others, recursion can be defined as follows: it is a phenomenon of embedding structures within structures in cyclic fashion to create sentences, as complex and long as we like. Here, complex means embedding of phrases within phrases of the same kind. In principle, it is possible to construct a limitless embedding structures in human language. At least, within the limitless of one's memory and processing capacity.

Although it is generally agreed that recursion is universal in human language, there is some counter-argument against this claim. Observing an Amazonian language, Pirahä, Everett (2009) argues that it lack the grammatical principle of recursion. When English or other languages allows embedding structures within structures, Pirahä does not. This criticism is supported by Nevins, Pesetsky, and Rodrigues (2009). As this paper focuses on recursion in compounding, whether recursion is observed in any human language or not will not be further discussed here.

Going back to recursion, Chomsky (1995) argues that units are merged to form larger entities and the merged entities can be themselves merged to form larger entities to describe the phenomenon of embedding of structures.

For example, Noun Phrases can be built from noun phrases in recursive fashion. Or sentences can be continued recursively, such as Jane loves John and Jane flies airplanes. Or a verb phrase, such as seem to expect to try to love Mary is a recursive phrase, because it has a complex structure that can be decomposed into two or more entities of the same type (Bisetto, 2010). In morphology, Katamba (1993, p. 53) argues that it is possible to form recursive prefixed structures involving the same prefix, such as re-re-make. Also, in compounding, recursion is often accepted in many languages by many linguists (Plag, 1993; Bisetto, 2010; Mukai, 2008, 2013; Tokizaki, 2008). …

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