Talk:Compound (linguistics)

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Merge proposal.[edit]

Why should Word formation be merged into this article? Compounding is just one kind of word formation. If the articles need to be merged — and I'm not convinced they do — then this article should be merged into that one, not the other way around. Ruakh 03:35, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps you are right, on both accounts. FilipeS 21:20, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Formation of compounds: German[edit]

"In German, for example, the compound Kapitänspatent consists of the lexemes Kapitän (sea captain) and Patent (license) joined by the genitive case marker -s."

Corresponding to Duden's grammar, the -s is a epenthesis, not a genitive case marker! ~ Koocachoo 09:48, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

Epenthesis is phonologically motivated, so I don't think its the right word. But it is not genitive either, there we agree. I am pretty sure that Duden calls it 'Fugen-S', which may be translated as 'joining s'. I'm sure there is a linguistic term for that. Anyways, it used to be genitive, but is not anymore. It is attached to lexemes that form the genetive differently, e.g. 'Verhandlungszimmer' (negotiation room): 'Verlandlung' is feminine and has no -s in genitive case. Yet in compounds, -s- in inserted to join the two lexemes. 22:44, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

In official German often the Fugen-S is not used, whereas the colloquial language uses it much more often. For example the official German Armed Forces term for cadet is "Offizieranwärter" (officer candidate), but most people would rather say "Offiziersanwärter". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:10, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

If unsure, just refer to the extra s as an interfix, although it's only a collective term and doesn't explain its real function. As Germanic languages write compound nouns as one word, I'd say it's not meant to grammatically distinguish the words, but to facilitate pronunciation. In Swedish, there are other interfixes than the s, such as in familjefar, from familj (family) and far (father). I think this reinforces, if needed, the notion that the interfix isn't a genitive marker. Andailus (talk) 20:16, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Problem with definition[edit]

The definition is problematic in that it refers "more than one free morpheme". The Spanish example (which is fine) of ferrocarríl does not have two free morphemes in it. I would think it would be better to refer to the presence of more than one root.

The discussion also seems to dodge the issue of what is a word --- "science fiction" is a compound "word" written (at least) as two words. What strings of "words" are really compounds? Stevemarlett 17:43, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I think I'd only consider ferrocarril (note the lack of an accent, BTW) to be a "compound word", in the sense I'm used to hearing that term, if we consider ferro to be simply the combining form of hierro. Opinions aside, though, we're better off using an actual definition of "compound word" from a reputable source. A Google search for "compound word" doesn't pull up any obviously-reputable sources as far as I can tell, though it does display a consensus for the vague "a word formed by combining two or more words". Make of it what you will. —RuakhTALK 22:45, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Defining word is not trivial. FilipeS 23:47, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree with Stevemarlett completely: a compound is a lexeme composed of more than one lexeme. Dont use google, use a morphology textbook or reference book, or a linguistics dictionary/glossary/encyclopedia. – ishwar  (speak) 04:43, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Defining word may not be trivial, but at least in ordinary usage, in English, two words that are written with a space between them are two words and not one word. Science fiction is a compound, but it is not a word. Based on Wikipedia and other sources, I understand that a lexeme is a word in the ordinary sense and can't consist of two ordinary words with a space between them. If that is correct, then the current lede sentence, "In linguistics, a compound is a lexeme (less precisely, a word) that consists of more than one stem," is not correct. Anomalocaris (talk) 07:10, 13 February 2009 (UTC)
Huddleston & Pullum (both eminent linguists) in their 2002 Cambridge Grammar of the English language, define compounding as the formation of a new base by combining two bases (p. 28). A lexical base for them is essentially the root or stem of a lexeme. They point out why word spaces are very inadequate for diagnostic tests for compounds (for which they give FIVE). They point out that daisy wheel, daisy-wheel and daisywheel are alternate spellings of the same thing. This problem is not isolated. And they also give the exmaple of "full stop" (British English for "period", of course) as a true compound that just happens to always be written with a space between the two parts. Stevemarlett (talk) 14 February 2009 —Preceding undated comment was added at 16:24, 14 February 2009 (UTC).
I have no problem with the fact that some compounds can be written in two or three ways — as one word, or as two words with a space, or as two words with a hyphen. I do have an issue with the lede sentence, because I understand that a lexeme is a word in the ordinary sense, that is, not two words with a space or hyphen between, and if that is correct, the lede sentence is incorrect. Contrariwise, if the lede sentence is correct, then I believe the lexeme article should be rewritten to clarify that a lexeme can be comprised of two or more words in the ordinary sense of the word word. Anomalocaris (talk) 09:04, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

Example has-been[edit]

Why is this an example of an endocentric compound rather than an exocentric one? Maybe I'm missing something. Stevemarlett 05:00, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

All you're missing is that I'm a total moron. Sorry about that … —RuakhTALK 18:28, 19 January 2007 (UTC)


I've just packed it away for a temporary move, otherwise I would pull out the quote right now, but Huddleston & Pullum's Cambridge Grammar of English is excellent in so many ways, and it has some good things (of course) to say about English compounds. They remind us of the standard tests for distinguishing compounds from what they call "composite nominals". And spaces between written words are not a reliable guide in either direction. An example I thought of today to illustrate the problem: "glovebox" and (my dialect) "glove compartment" --- you know, that place in the car where one puts anything except gloves these days. My bet is that these are both the same --- either compounds or composite nominals. But standard English writes them differently. Stevemarlett 05:06, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

Sequential or Compound?[edit]

Would the Japanese verbs 申し込む mōshikomu lit. "speak-CONJUNCTIVE-crowd/pack" which means 'to apply', and 引っ越す hikkosu lit. "pull-CONJUNCTIVE-cross over" which means 'to move (one's residence)' be considered sequential or compound? They don't seem especially sequential, compared to the Hindi examples given on the page, but they don't really fit the description of compound verbs either, since they have no one primary verb. LeeWilson 03:10, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

English disease?[edit]

Text says:

Moreover, the English way of compounding words is spreading to other languages: There is a trend in Scandinavian languages towards splitting compound words, known as word split error or English disease[citation needed].

Is an increasing error frequency a trend? My experience is that the level of protests from Swedish speakers was directly proportionate to the error frequency, so it cannot be a trend in the language. It is a phenomenon, allegedly connected to MicroSoft Word, that is so-so-common, but it has decreased considerably lately; probably something with some MicroSoft Word update... Said: Rursus () 20:04, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

And this "English disease" I never heard. Said: Rursus () 20:06, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Examples of common longer compounds in English[edit]

The business world seems to produce a lot of very long compounds, an example or two might enhance this good article. I'm thinking of things like:

  • a diskdrive failure recovery methods manual,
  • our board member relationship-building weekend retreat program will include..., or
  • the frontline management conference keynote speaker's address (the possessive clitic helping to identify the compound).

I suspect there would be reliable sources that discuss trends in technical or jargon English regarding such compounds. Alastair Haines (talk) 22:40, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

Syllabic abbreviation[edit]

Should this article link to Syllabic abbreviation or include content from it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:05, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Recent trends (?)[edit]

Is this a good chapter at all? Some of its content seems to belong to how the Germanic languages treat compound nouns (namely that it is considered erroneous in e.g. Swedish to split it into two or more words). The rest has to do with syllabic abbreviation, a totally different area. Some coherency, please! —Preceding

unsigned comment added by Andailus (talkcontribs) 20:25, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

What's the distinction between compounding and spelling?[edit]

In the entry for the Danish language we have this word kvindehåndboldlandsholdet translated as the female handball national team. Now if we were to write the femalehandballnationalteam (since English doesn't have the affixed article, this will have to be two words) what would be altered save the spaces? There are a few fun examples (or funexamples) floating about Wikipedia, and I must mention two, first the ever recurring (and meant as a joke) Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänsmütze from German and the less known, but every bit as jocular Vaðlaheiðarvegamannaverkfærageymsluhússlyklakippuhringurinn from Icelandic. But is it really not just a question of spelling, i.e. inserting spaces or not? Granted, the inflection of some languages demands one word, but is there any reason except for historical/traditional ones, that English could not produce such words. It is, after all, just like history, "just one damn thing after another". :-) Cheers (talk) 18:50, 14 April 2009 (UTC)


So what does the word 'lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas' mean? Invmog (talk) 16:40, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student, according to Compound (linguistics)#Formation of compoundsAnomalocaris (talk) 16:44, 19 September 2013 (UTC)


Dubiosity in Recent trends: the section tells that the trend to split words ("orddelingsfeil", word split errors) essentially is a new trend to create new compounds in Nordic languages, and then all logics is lost to me: since when is a new erroneous habit to split compounds erroneously a new way of word formation based on compounding? The contents of the section is kind of funny and enjoyable, the Swedish reknowned counterpart is "fryst kycklinglever" (frozen chicken liver) vs. "fryst kyckling lever" (frozen chicken is alive!), but these aren't word formations by compounding. The examples are grave semantic errors and very unintended. The content of the section doesn't belong to this article. ... said: Rursus (bork²) 21:51, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

I just changed it from "the English way of compounding words" to "the English way of spelling compound words". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:28, 6 September 2009 (UTC)


Also, compounds are pronounced continuously as one word in at least German and north Germanic languages, whereas English pronunciation may just reflect the way it is written.

I believe it's not that English pronounces compounds as separate words, nor even that German pronounces compounds as single words; it's that German pronounces non-compounds as separate words. Speech inside a prosodic unit isn't really broken into staccato, but a language may have particular phonological processes that work on the word level, and may distinguish single compound words from series of words. English uses only stress for this (and compounded words often retain secondary stress, making the distinction less salient), while German has final obstruent devoicing. You could make the case just as easily that English pronounces all words in a prosodic unit "continuously as one word". — ˈzɪzɨvə (talk) 00:27, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

Greek o, Latin i[edit]

I was looking for an article explaining Greek and Latin compounds, but this article does not mention them. I found the article Classical compound via Google after not finding it here: in the very least, it should be mentioned in the article that words of Greek and Latin origin are called as such and not just linked to in the "see also". --Squidonius (talk) 03:06, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Verb–noun compounds[edit]

I'm not sure who wrote that, in the Romance languages, the verb appears in the third person singular present indicative, but anyway that is not correct. It's very clear that, in the Romance languages, the verb is in the second person singular imperative (and the same is true for English, by the way). This becomes obvious whenever the second person singular imperative is different from the third person singular present indicative. In Spanish, this happens only in a few cases when the second person singular imperative is irregular; e.g. haz from the verb hacer (the third person singular present indicative is hace), thus: hazmerreir (from haz + me + reir) = 'laughingstock' (lit. "make me laugh"). But, in Italian, this happens with all the verbs in -ere, which have the third person singular present indicative ending in -e and the second person singular imperative regularly ending in -i, thus: reggipetto and reggiseno (from the verb reggere = 'to hold, support'), both meaning 'bra' (lit. "breast-holder" or "breast-supporter"), and countless other examples. Pasquale (talk) 18:00, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Verb-verb compounds in English and other Germanic languages[edit]

I'm surprised no mention is made of verbs like sleepwalk or playfight, which certainly seem like verb-verb compounds to me. Other Germanic languages have such compounds too, like Dutch slaapwandelen. CodeCat (talk) 22:55, 3 July 2014 (UTC)