A Lexical Semantic Approach to Compounding

Rochelle Lieber

in The Oxford Handbook of Compounding

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695720
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

A Lexical Semantic Approach to Compounding

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Semantics



This chapter explores the interpretation of compounds in terms of the framework of lexical semantic analysis developed in Lieber (2004). That work offered an analysis of typical English root compounds such as dog bed, synthetic compounds such as truck driver, and coordinative compounds such as producer-director, all of which are arguably endocentric. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 5.1 gives a brief overview of the system of lexical semantic representation developed in Lieber (2004). Section 5.2 extends the treatment of the semantic body of lexical items beyond that given in Lieber (2004), considering the relationship between the skeleton and the body on a cross-linguistic basis. It shows that the nature of the semantic body is critical to the range of interpretation available to any given compound. Section 5.3 adopts the system of classification for compounds developed in Bisetto and Scalise (2005, and this volume), and shows how it can be applied in terms of the current system. Section 5.4 offers specific analyses of several different types of compounds, from which will emerge the conclusion in Section 5.5 that exocentricity cannot be treated as a single unified phenomenon. Section 5.6 focuses on a kind of compounding that is nearly unattested in English, but is quite productive in Chinese, Japanese, and a number of other languages, namely verb–verb compounds.

Keywords: lexical semantic analysis; English root compounds; synthetic compounds; coordinative compounds; exocentricity; verb–verb compounds

Article.  10369 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology ; Semantics

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