This book presents new work on the psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics
of compound words. It shows the insights this work offers on natural
language processing and the relation between language, mind, and memory.
Compounding is an easy and effective way to create and transfer meanings.
By building new lexical items based on the meanings of existing items,
compounds can usually be understood on first presentation, though - as,
say, breadboard, cardboard, cupboard, and sandwich-board show - the rules
governing the relations between the components' meanings are not always
Compound words are segmentable into their constituent morphemes in much the
same way as sentences can be divided into their constituent words: children
and adults would not otherwise find them interpretable. But compound
sequences may also be independent lexical items that can be retrieved for
production as single entities and whose idiosyncratic meanings are stored
in the mind. Compound words reflect the properties both of linguistic
representation in the mind and of grammatical processing. They thus offer
opportunities for investigating key aspects of the mental operations
involved in language: for example, the interplay between storage and
computation; the manner in which morphological and semantic factors impact
on the nature of storage; and the way the mind's computational processes
serve on-line language comprehension and production. This book explores the
nature of these opportunities, assesses what is known, and considers what
may yet be discovered and how.