Compound Words in English
What are Compound Words?
Compound Words are a special case in Morphology. In simplest terms, they can be defined as words that are composed of two roots or bases. The process of formation of compound words is called as compounding. Compounding is a highly productive word formation process in many languages. The semantic nature and grammatical category of words that make up a compound word are important in classification of compound words.
Compound words are markedly different from word phrases in many ways. Phonology is one of the important factors that can help us distinguish compound words from phrases. According to Bloomfield, “one-word accent subordination” is prominent in case of compound words. In compound words, the first word part is usually stressed during pronunciation. Compounds need not necessarily be composed of two words only. Compounding is a highly recursive process and we can have very long, complex compounds comprising of more than two words also. Compound words in English are generally created from free bases, but compounds with bound bases are also present.
Darkroom, schoolboy, paperwork, toyrack, superman, polestar, feedback, greenhouse, lipstick, joystick, facebook, cupboard, wishful, layman, jumpsuit, bookstore, hotdog, postman, ribcage, showcase, red tape, blackboard, homework, classroom, etc.
Classification of Compound Words
Compound Words can be classified in a number of ways in all languages, including English. They can be primary and synthetic as well as attributive, co-ordinate and synthetic.
In English, it is the word at the right side of the compound word that usually serves as the head of the compound word. We call such compounds as Right-Headed Compounds. In this way, they can be Left headed too in some languages.
Another way is to look at the “semantic” criteria for their classification. The notion of head of a compound is an important thing to study for such a classification. This is because it is the head of the compound that renders a compound some part of speech as well as semantic basis.
They are compounds containing a “head” that carries the semantic load of the whole compound, making them semantically transparent. A word like darkroom is an endocentric compound word, whose head is “room”.
They are compounds with no clear head inside them, giving rise to semantic arbitrariness and opaqueness. It is thought that the head and underlying semantics lies somewhere outside the compound or is generally absent. For this reason, Exocentric compounds are called as headless compounds. For example, lazy-bone is not a bone, but a person who is lazy. But from looking at the compound word itself, one cannot make assumptions about its semantic properties.
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