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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Query Details


Query Subject:   Are there any languages without compound words?
Author:   Emiliano Guevara
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Morphology
Typology

Query:   Dear Linguist List,

My question is a very simple one, though I still have not been able to
find a clear answer to it.

Are there any languages without compound words or without any
productive compounding processes?

A bit of background on the problem: research in typology and linguistic
universals has dedicated little if any attention to compounding. It seems
that the commonplace is to assume that compounding is really
pervasive in the world's languages, although a great deal of variation in
preferred structural types and relative productivity. The extent of this
variation is enormous, as I have been able to prove in previous
exploratory research (Guevara and Scalise 2009, URL:
http://books.google.com/books?
id=c8E1gVrnQZkC&lpg=PR13&ots=TAYppZLQ1O&dq=SEARCHING%2
0FOR%20UNIVERSALS%20IN%20COMPOUNDING&lr&pg=PA101#v=
onepage&q&f=false).

One interesting quote by Greenberg might still subsume what we know
today:
There are a considerable number of languages without inflections,
perhaps none without compounding and derivation. (J. Greenberg
1963: 92)

Thank you very much in advance,

E.G.

University of Oslo
LL Issue: 22.2807
Date posted: 08-Jul-2011



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