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CLASSIFICATION OF COMPOUNDS




The great variety of compound types brings about a great variety of classifications. Compound words may be classified according to the type of composition and the linking element; according to the part of

1 Bloomfield L. A Set of Postulates for the Science of Language. // Psycho-linguistics. A Book of Reading/Ed. by Sol Saporta. N.Y., 1961. Pt. IV. P. 28.


speech to which the compound belongs; and within each part of speech according to the structural pattern (see the next paragraph). It is also possible to subdivide compounds according to other characteristics, i.e. semantically, into motivated and idiomatic compounds (in the motivated ones the meaning of the constituents can be either direct or figurative). Structurally, compounds are distinguished as endocentric and exocentric, with the subgroup of bahuvrihi (see p. 125ff) and syntactic and asyntactic combinations. A classification according to the type of the syntactic phrase with which the compound is correlated has also been suggested. Even so there remain some miscellaneous types that defy classification, such as phrase compounds, reduplicative compounds, pseudo-compounds and quotation compounds.

The classification according to the type of composition permits us to establish the following groups:

1) The predominant type is a mere juxtaposition without connecting elements: heartache n, heart-beat n, heart-break n, heart-breaking a, heart-broken a, heart-felt a.

2) Composition with a vowel or a consonant as a linking element. The examples are very few: electromotive a, speedometer n, Afro-Asian a, handicraft n, statesman n.

3) Compounds with linking elements represented by preposition or conjunction stems: down-and-out n, matter-of-fact a, son-in-law n, pepper-and-salt a, wall-to-wall a, up-to-date a, on the up-and-up adv (continually improving), up-and-coming, as in the following example: No doubt he’d had the pick of some up-and-coming jazzmen in Paris (Wain). There are also a few other lexicalised phrases like devil-may-care a, forget-me-not n, pick-me-up n, stick-in-the-mud n, what’s-her name n.

The classification of compounds according to the structure of immediate constituents distinguishes:

1) compounds consisting of simple stems: film-star;

2) compounds where at least one of the constituents is a derived stem: chain-smoker;

3) compounds where at least one of the constituents is a clipped stem: maths-mistress (in British English) and math-mistress (in American English). The subgroup will contain abbreviations like H-bag (handbag) or Xmas (Christmas), whodunit n (for mystery novels) considered substandard;

4) compounds where at least one of the constituents is a compound stem: wastepaper-basket.

In what follows the main structural types of English compounds are described in greater detail. The list is by no means exhaustive but it may serve as a general guide.


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