Review of Spanish Word Formation and Lexical Creation
EDITORS: Cifuentes Honrubia, José Luis; Rodríguez Rosique, Susana
TITLE: Spanish Word Formation and Lexical Creation
SERIES: IVITRA Research in Linguistics and Literature 1
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Bruno O. Maroneze, Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados, MS, Brazil
“Spanish Word Formation and Lexical Creation”, as laid out in its Preface,
gathers 19 papers presented at the Conference on Word Formation and Lexical
Creation held in Alicante, in March 2010. All the contributors, with one
exception, are from Spanish institutions. The papers are organized in four parts.
The first part, entitled “Conflation”, contains six papers dealing with the
concept of conflation, which is, as explained in the Preface, “a verbalization
process which transforms a complete predicative schema into a new single verb”
(p. VII). One of the predicate-arguments is incorporated into the derived verb.
The first chapter, by Barrajón López, describes meteorological denominal verbs
in Spanish, comparing them to the same class of verbs in some other languages.
The author first discusses the impersonality of these verbs and their
morphological structure (pp. 3-9); then, the most important part of the article
is dedicated to the description of their argument structure. The verbs in
question are divided in two main groups: local meteorological verbs (pp. 9-13)
and causative meteorological verbs (pp. 13-17). The Spanish verbs are carefully
compared to the corresponding verbs in other languages (Slovak, Russian,
Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Portuguese and Creole -- on the last, see below).
The main conclusions (p. 17) are that these verbs may be categorized in several
semantic subclasses and present different degrees of syntactic impersonality;
furthermore, their syntactic and semantic behavior is not the same,
It is not clear from which Creole language the author takes the data; she writes
that “[b]oth languages [Portuguese and Creole] coexist in South Africa,
Portuguese being the official language” (pp. 12-13). However, there are eleven
official languages in South Africa, Portuguese not being one of them. Probably,
the author refers to other countries in Southern Africa, like Angola and
Mozambique. I also have no information on any Portuguese-based Creole spoken in
The second chapter, by Bolaños Navalón, is entitled “Instrumental verb
formation”. The chapter begins with a thorough theoretical discussion on
morphological, syntactic and semantic aspects of verb formation in Spanish (pp.
21-27). The author distinguishes synthetic and analytic structures, which differ
on the explicitness and independence of the argument of the verb; it is argued
that both share a common conceptual origin, but the synthetic structure must not
be considered as derived from the analytic in any sense, syntactic or semantic.
Nevertheless, they both conceptualize the same scene through different
constructions. Also important is the description of the concept of “conflation”
The author then describes the concept of “instrument” as understood in syntax
and presents two typologies of instruments (pp. 27-29). After arguing that these
typologies are not suited for the description of the synthetic (conflated)
constructions (pp. 29-31), Bolaños proposes his own classification, in three
main groups (each of them with subtypes): unergative instruments (“where the
instrument is conflated with the verb and requires no further complements”, p.
33 -- e.g. “trompetear”, “tamborilear”), localization instruments (“where the
instrument participates in the localization process, but from an external
position”, p. 35 -- e.g. “cacear”, “cincelar”) and contact instruments
(“formations that present a local conflation where the instrument does take part
in the localization process”, p. 38 -- e.g. “aporrear”, “atenazar”).
The third chapter, by José Antonio Candalija Reina, focuses on denominal verbs
which demand a prepositional object. The article begins with a theoretical
discussion on argument structure and the semantics of prepositions (pp. 43-46),
as well as the relation between the preposition and the prefix present in many
of these verbs (pp. 47-48) and the notions of incorporation and conflation (pp.
49-51). The last part (pp. 52-60) is dedicated to the description of 17
denominal verbs and their demanded prepositions; the author, supporting his
argument with etymological data, intends to show that the preposition reflects a
local, spatial sense (sometimes metaphorical) of the verb argument. An important
aspect that is pointed out (although not thoroughly developed) is that the
analytic and the synthetic constructions demand both the same preposition, and
this is explained not because one is derived from the other, but because both
constructions share a semantic component which requires the meaning of that
The next chapter, the longest, is entitled “Spanish deadjectival verbs and
argument structure”, by José Luis Cifuentes Honrubia. He begins with a
discussion on the concept of conflation (pp. 67-70) and on deadjectival verbs in
Latin and Spanish (pp. 70-76). In the fourth section (pp. 70-99), the author
presents a very thorough description of the semantic patterns involved in the
conflation of deadjectival verbs. He detects four main patterns (X cause Y to
become Adj; X be Adj; Y behaves as X; become X), each one with subtypes, as well
as other cases of more difficult classification. The author also brings large
lists of examples, with sentences extracted from diachronic and synchronic
corpora (CORDE and CREA). The author concludes that “all patterns share the same
type of argument conflation: attributive conflation” (p. 99). Also very
interesting is the diagram showing the relationship among all of the patterns
The chapter by Lavale Ortiz, entitled “Sensory-emotional denominal causative
verbs”, describes a group of denominal causative verbs which express “a physical
or psychological change of state” (p. 140) i.e., their meaning may be
paraphrased by “cause + incorporated noun”. They include the so-called
psychological verbs (like “angustiar”, “avergonzar”, “emocionar”), but also some
other ones that indicate physical change of state and behave syntactically and
semantically like psychological verbs (like “contusionar”, “infartar”,
“lesionar”, all examples taken from p. 120). The author describes the possible
kinds of arguments (±human, ±intentional etc.) which appear with these verbs, as
well as which of these verbs may participate in the causative/inchoative
alternation (pp. 133-137). The author also points that some of these verbs,
interestingly, may also express locative or possessive meanings.
The last chapter of the first part is “Morphology and pragmatics of affixal
negation”, by Susana Rodríguez Rosique. It is a very interesting semantic
analysis of the Spanish prefix des-, which means, basically, the negation of the
base verb. She shows that negative meaning is not a simple notion, describing
various subtleties and, particularly, the differences between the negation by
affixes and sentential negation. Perhaps the most interesting conclusion is that
pragmatics performs a very important role in the interpretation of this prefix.
The second part, “Formal processes”, contains papers on diverse morphological,
syntactic and semantic phenomena involved in word formation. The first chapter,
“Deverbal nouns with the suffix -dura”, by Josefa Martín García, describes
morphological, syntactic and semantic properties of deverbal nouns ending in
“-dura.” Initially, the author presents some etymological and morphological data
(pp. 166-171); the last part of the chapter classifies the deverbal nouns in
event nominals, result nominals (with subtypes) and non-resultative and
non-eventive nominals. Each group is thoroughly described and, in the final
remarks, the author concludes that this suffix “mainly selects telic verbal
bases with an internal argument” (p. 181), and forms especially “nominalizations
denoting entities, particularly, result-objects of an action” (p. 181). This
explains, according to Martín Garcia, some traits of this suffix, like its
limited productivity in contemporary Spanish.
The second article in this part is the only one which doesn’t deal directly with
word formation: “On protagonizar ‘an event’ and the scope of the concept of
‘light verb’”, by María Antonia Martínez Linares, discusses whether
“protagonizar” should be considered a “light verb”, and the very concept of
“light verb”. The author first presents the characteristics of “protagonizar”
which could be used to argue that it is a light verb (pp. 186-196); then, she
presents counterarguments which show that “protagonizar” has a heavy semantic
“weight” (pp. 196-201) and, in the last part of the chapter, brings extensive
semantic and syntactic data to show that the concept of “light verb” is vague
and must be extended or reformulated.
The short chapter by Jesús Pena, “The relationship between verb-noun in
derivational series”, examines pairs of verbs and their related nouns from the
point of view of diachronic morphology. Pena compares the verb-noun pairs in
Latin and Spanish, showing cases in which there is no simple continuity from
Latin to Spanish. In some situations, for example, the morphological
relationship is lost in Spanish; in some others, there has been a crossing of
two Latin derivational series; in yet others, the verb is a Spanish innovation;
amongst a few other cases. The author concludes that many irregularities in the
verb-noun pairs can only be understood from a historical point of view.
Diachronic morphology and the relation between verb and noun are also the main
subjects of the next chapter, “Nominalizations of transfer verbs”, by Antonio
Rifón Sánchez. The author analyses 62 verbs of transfer and their corresponding
nouns, formed by conversion and by suffixation (using “-miento” and “-ción”).
Rifón Sánchez classifies the verbs into three categories, depending on whether
the verb has one, two or three related nouns, and describes their etymological
and semantic differences. He concludes that “[t]he competition between nouns
leads to an attempt at differentiating nouns either semantically, diatopically
or through the disappearance of one of them, but we cannot go as far as saying
that stability is reached” (pp. 252-253).
David Serrano-Dolader, in “Base selection and prefixing”, discusses whether
base-affix compatibility is influenced by categorial as well as semantic
restrictions, using as data words formed by the Spanish prefix “des-”. After
reviewing previous studies on similar prefixes in Italian and French, the author
makes a proposal regarding what should be “the most appropriate way to approach
the study of the restrictions in base selection in derivational processes” (p.
264). He then exemplifies this method in the study of the prefix “des-” (pp.
265-280). As can be inferred from the argumentation, Serrano-Dolader believes
that categorial restrictions, and not only semantic ones, must be considered.
Part three is “Neologisms and lexical creation”, bringing contributions on
neologisms and lexical semantics. The first chapter, “Phonetic adaptation and
derivational morphological development of foreign words in Spanish in the DPD”,
by Celia Berná Sicilia, deals with the adaptation of foreign words by the
Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas. After a brief section on the notions of
neologism and borrowing, the author lists 69 “productive borrowings and foreign
words” registered in the DPD (p. 291), and analyses them as to their phonetic
(pp. 292-295) and morphological adaptation (pp. 295-304). Berná Sicilia
concludes that there is “relative chaos” in the adaptation of foreign words,
especially due to “the multiplicity of factors involved in this process” (p.
305) but, despite that, there is a concern with homogeneity and coherence.
“From Latin super- to Spanish sobre”, by José Luis Cifuentes Honrubia and Javier
Frenillo Núñez, describes the semantic changes involved in the passage from the
Latin prefix “super-” to the Spanish prefix “sobre-”, in the formation of verbs.
The authors make a very thorough description of the possible meanings of
“sobre-”, emphasizing semantic extensions and metaphorical and metonymic
motivations. The authors’ main conclusion is that the non-spatial meanings of
the prefix, most abundant in Spanish, are derived from spatial meanings, present
especially in Latin.
María Tadea Díaz Hormigo, in “Word formation processes and proposals for the
classification of formal neologisms”, analyses four important manuals of Spanish
word formation, in order to describe the differences in the classification of
word formation processes. After that, she presents the classification of the
OBNEO group, which is a classification proposal for neologisms, comparing it
with the previously described ones. Díaz Hormigo concludes that there is great
disagreement across all the described proposals, and suggests that a typology
for the classification of neologisms should perhaps follow a pre-existing
typology instead of creating a new one.
The next chapter is entitled “The concept of light in Spanish denominal verbs”,
by Jorge Fernández Jaén and Hilde Hanegreefs. The authors analyze the semantics
of five etymologically related verbs: “iluminar”, “alumbrar”, “deslumbrar”,
“vislumbrar” and “columbrar” (all from Latin “lumen”, “light”). After a detailed
review of the concept of “verbs of perception” (pp. 370-378), the authors
describe the semantics of each one of the verbs, using Cognitive Semantics as
theoretical support. The constructional behavior of the verbs is also described
in considerable detail. They show that the concept of light “is decisive in
human experience” (p. 405) and each one of these verbs conceptualizes different
aspects of this concept.
Montserrat Planelles Iváñez, in “Metaphors as a source of lexical creation in
the field of wine criticism”, describes French and Spanish expressions used to
refer to the characteristics of wine. With the support of Lakoff and Johnson’s
theory of metaphor (1980), the author shows how metaphor is a source of lexical
creation and polysemy, originating many neologisms in this domain.
The last chapter of this part is entitled “On deverbal word formation as
condensation of previous mental patterns”, by Estanislao Ramón Trives. He
approaches the problem of deverbal noun creation from a strictly theoretical
point of view, employing concepts and authors of the European structuralist
The last part of the book, “Applications”, has only two chapters. The first,
“Lexical collocations and the learning of Spanish as a foreign language”, by
Marta Higueras García, centers itself on the concept of collocation. Starting
with a very detailed description of the concept, the author establishes the main
differences between collocations and its close concepts of free combinations and
compounds. After a historical review, Higueras García then emphasizes the
importance of collocations for language learning and finishes the chapter by
presenting a series of projects and lines of investigation in the description of
The last chapter addresses what seems to be a completely new field of study: the
teaching of word formation in foreign language studies. “Denominal verbs in
ELE/EL2 classroom (a didactic approach)”, by Santiago Roca Martín, describes a
word formation test taken by North American students of Spanish. After briefly
describing the verbs that are the subject of the experiment (instrumental
denominal verbs) and asserting that the subject is almost never approached in
the foreign language teaching context; the author shows how the students managed
to create denominal verbs and what their main difficulties in doing so were. He
concludes that it is feasible and necessary to include this topic in foreign
The book covers many different aspects of the subject, as is expected in a
collection written by many authors. There are also many different theoretical
approaches to the studied phenomena, but it can be said that Cognitive
Among the various subjects related to word formation, we can observe that the
study of the semantics of word formation predominates. This is probably a
reflection of the growing importance of Semantics in Linguistics in general.
The book also brings some contributions on topics which some readers would
consider only indirectly related to word formation, like syntax (especially the
chapter by Martínez Linares on the verb “protagonizar”), lexical semantics
(especially the chapter by Fernández Jaén and Hanegreefs on the verbs related to
light) and lexicology (especially the chapter by Higueras García on
collocations). Nevertheless, this shows that the field of word formation must
not be restricted to morphology; these other topics greatly enrich our domain of
One of the most important contributions of the book is that it brings many very
important Spanish theorists unknown to the non-Spanish world to the attention of
English-speaking readers. Still, it is important to note that the authors make
extensive use of citations in Spanish (for both examples and scholarship), which
may pose a difficulty for non-Spanish speaking readers. That said, the book will
be of great interest to researchers in the field of word formation, especially
those working on Romance languages.
Lakoff, George & Johnson, Mark. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Bruno O. Maroneze completed his Ph.D. in the University of Sao Paulo in
2011. His Ph.D. thesis focuses on Brazilian Portuguese neologisms formed by
suffixation. His main research interests are on the semantics of word
formation and, especially, the study of neologisms. He is currently
teaching in the Faculty of Communication, Arts and Letters of the
Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados, MS, Brazil.