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DERIVATIONAL COMPOUNDS




Derivational compounds or compound-derivatives like long-legged do not fit the definition of compounds as words consisting of more than one free stem, because their second element (-legged) is not a free stem. Derivational compounds are included in this


chapter for two reasons: because the number of root morphemes is more than one, and because they are nearest to compounds in patterns.

Derivational compounds or compound-derivatives are words in which the structural integrity of the two free stems is ensured by a suffix referring to the combination as a whole, not to one of its elements: kind-hearted, old-timer, schoolboyishness, teenager. In the coining of the derivational compounds two types of word-formation are at work. The essence of the derivational compounds will be clear if we compare them with derivatives and compounds proper that possess a similar structure. Take, for example, brainstraster, honeymooner and mill-owner. The ultimate constituents of all three are: noun stem+ nounstem+-er. Analysing into immediate constituents, we see that the immediate constituents (IC’s) of the compound mill-owner are two noun stems, the first simple, the second derived: mill+owner, of which the last, the determinatum, as well as the whole compound, names a person. For the word honeymooner no such division is possible, since *mooner does not exist as a free stem. The IC’s are honeymoon+-er, and the suffix -er signals that the whole denotes a person: the structure is (honey+moon)+-er.

The process of word-building in these seemingly similar words is different: mill-owner is coined by composition, honeymooner — by derivation from the compound honeymoon. Honeymoon being a compound, honeymooner is a derivative. Now brains trust ‘a group of experts’ is a phrase, so brainstruster is formed by two simultaneous processes — by composition and by derivation and may be called a derivational compound. Its IC’s are (brains+ trust)+-еr1.

The suffix -er is one of the productive suffixes in forming derivational compounds. Other examples of the same pattern are: backbencher ‘an M.P. occupying the back bench’, do-gooder (ironically used in AmE), eye-opener ‘enlightening circumstance’, first-nighter ‘habitual frequenter of the first performance of plays’, go-getter (colloq.) ‘a pushing person’, late-comer, left-hander ‘left-handed person or blow’.

Nonce-words show some variations on this type. The process of their formation is clearly seen in the following examples: “Have you ever thought of bringing them together?” “Oh, God forbid. As you may have noticed, I'm not much of a bringer-together at the best of times.” (Plomer) “The shops are very modern here,” he went on, speaking with all the rather touchy insistence on up-to-dateness which characterises the inhabitants of an under-bathroomed and over-monumented country (Huxley).

Another frequent type of derivational compounds are the possessive compounds of the type kind-hearted: adjective stem+noun stem+-ed. Its IC’s are a noun phrase kind heart and the suffix -ed that unites the elements of the phrase and turns them into the elements of a compound adjective. Similar examples are extremely numerous. Compounds of this type can be coined very freely to meet the requirements of different situations.

1 See on this point the article on compounds in “The Second Barnhart Dictionary of New English” (p. 115).


Very few go back to Old English, such as one-eyed and three-headed, most of the cases are coined in Modern English. Examples are practically unlimited, especially in words describing personal appearance or character: absent-minded, bare-legged, black-haired, blue-eyed, cruel-hearted, light-minded, ill-mannered, many-sided, narrow-minded, shortsighted, etc.

The first element may also be a noun stem: bow-legged, heart-shaped and very often a numeral: three-coloured.

The derivational compounds often become the basis of further derivation. Cf. war-minded : : war-mindedness; whole-hearted : : whole-heartedness : : whole-heartedly, schoolboyish : : schoolboyishness; do-it-yourselfer : : do-it-yourselfism.

The process is also called phrasal derivation: mini-skirt>mini-skirted, nothing but>nothingbutism, dress up>dressuppable, Romeo-and-Julietishness, or quotation derivation as when an unwillingness to do anything is characterised as let-George-do-it-ity. All these are nonce-words, with some ironic or jocular connotation.


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