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Summary Details

Query:   Compounding in Creoles
Author:  Joseph T. Farquharson
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Morphology

Language Family:   New English

Summary:   Many months ago (Linguist 13.1329) I posted a question requesting
information on compounding in general and compounding in Creole
languages specifically, welcoming info on closely related
morphological issues and semantic transparency.

The responses I received were extremely helpful and the research is
taking new turns that I had not considered before. I would like to
thank profusely, the following persons who responded to my question:

M.C. van den Berg (MvdB)
Ulrich Detges (UD)
Miriam Meyerhoff (MM)
Stefano Molino (SM)
Ingo Plag (IP)
Geoff Smith (GS)
Puis ten Hacken (PtH)
Ghil'ad Zuckermann (GZ)


Question: There has been little research in the area of compounding
(as a word-formation process) in Creole languages. In fact, most of
the studies which exist focus on English (Selkirk, Matthews, etc.) I
am currently undertaking a study of compound words in Jamaican Creole
and I would like to know if anyone out there can lead me to useful
sources on compounding in general and with specific reference to
Creoles. I am also interested in 'calques', 'semantic transparency',
and 'synthetic compounds'.


GS: There has bee quite a bit done by Peter M?hlh?usler on word
structure in Tok Pisin. This is usually described as a pidgin, but it
is in fact spoken as a creole by an increasing number of people. You
could try:

M?hlh?usler, Peter. (1979). Growth and Structure of the Lexicon of
New Guinea Pidgin. Pacific Linguistics, C52. Canberra: Australian
National University.

M?hlh?usler, Peter. (1985j). The lexical system of Tok Pisin. In
Wurm & M?hlh?usler (Eds.), (pp. 423-440).

Wurm, Stephen A. & M?hlh?usler, P. (Eds.). (1985). Handbook of Tok
Pisin (New Guinea Pidgin). Pacific Linguistics, C70. Canberra:
Australian National University.

I also have a bit in the lexicon chapter in Growing up with Tok Pisin:
Contact, creolization and change in Papua New Guinea's national
language. London: Battlebridge.


SM: I read your message in the linguist list, and I was very
interested in your topic. For my phd thesis I'm studying compounds in
French - which of course is not a creole - but I read a lot on
compunding in general. As we both study compounds, we may keep in
touch to exchange general information, and if we ever meet in our
readings interesting things we could indicate them to each other. I
said I was interested in your topic because once I wanted to work on
French Guadelupean's Creole, but then I turned to compounding in
French. Nevertheless my interest for creoles - even though I don't
know almost anything about them - is stile there, and if I could have
a view of them from the perspective of comounding it'll be great.


MM: Both Peter M?hlh?usler and Terry Crowley have written about
compounding in Tok Pisin and Bislama (respectively). M?hlh?usler's
stuff is in various Pacific Linguistics publications, sometimes under
titles that suggest the article is only about syntax (though lots are
clearly to do with the lexicon). You'll find them on an LLBA
search. Crowley's stuff is in his 1990 book From Beach-la-Mar to


MvdB: You're right that there has been little research in the area of
Compounding in creoles. However, the times they are a-changing. Look
for example at The work of Lefebvre and Brousseau and others (the book
on relexification, published in 1998, chapter 11, check also the
references in that chapter) for compounding in Haitian Creole. See
also Michel Degraff's recent work (from Language Creation, Language
Change 1999 onwards). Last year a great workshop on Creole Morphology
and Creole Phonology organized by Prof. Ingo Plag took place in
Siegen, Germany (BTW - he is also working on Morphology in
creoles). With a bit of luck the proceedings of this workshop will be
available at the end of this year. A couple of articles in these
proceeding deal with morphology, in particular compounding (so if you
have time, and you want to know about the state of the art check them
out). Currently I am working on derivational morphology and
compounding in 18th century Sranan, a creole language spoken in
Surinam. The result of this study will be presented at the SCL
conference in Trinidad in August this year - when the time comes I can
email you the handout, if you like.

I hope this helps, at least you know got some names to search the
library databases. If you have any questions, comments etc. please
don't hesitate to contact me. I look forward to reading the results of
your study!


GZ: I have conducted some research on MULTISOURCED NEOLOGIZATION in
creoles. A very simple example is Jamaican Creole dati ''dirty'' from
both English DIRTY and Twi DOTI ''mud, dirty''. Would you please let me
know if you are interested in a related article - on PHONO-SEMANTIC
MATCHING. Otherwise, you can look at my D.Phil. (in the
Bodleian/British Library). For more details on the D.Phil., please see


PtH: Though not specifically on Creole, the following publications may
be of interest because they claim to give a general view of what
compounding is. ten Hacken, Pius (1999), 'Motivated Tests for
Compounding', Acta Linguistica Hafniensia 31:27-58.

ten Hacken, Pius (2000), 'Derivation and Compounding', in Booij,
Geert; Lehmann, Christian & Mugdan, Joachim (eds.), Morphologie -
Morphology: Ein Handbuch zur Flexion und Wortbildung - A Handbook on
Inflection and Word Formation, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, p. 349-360.


IP: The safest thing to do is to download the paper from my homepage
(address see below).

JTF: How are you? Sorry I took so long to respond to your reply to
the question I posted on the LINGUISTLIST. I had exams so I had to
focus my attention in that direction. I am willing to share
information on compounds and other morphological features in creoles.

However, I need to let you know right away that I am not a
professional. I have just ended my undergraduate study in Linguistics
and Spanish, but I have a great interest in Linguistics.

I have come across one hurdle in my research on compounds in Jamaican
Creole though. First and foremost it is hard deciding whether we have
any synthetic compounds in JC. Yes there are verbal compounds, but
for many we do not see the same relation (argument structure) between
the two members as we see for example in English compounds

[considering that JC is an English-lexifier Creole].


bata-bruuz ''to batter'' (leaving marks)

''batter'' + ''bruise''


man-angl ''mistreat''

''man'' + ''handle''

In the first example neither bata nor bruuz is fulfilling the internal
or external argument requirement of either of the two verbs. In the
second example, it is doubtful as to whether MAN is fulfilling any
requirement of the verb ANGL.

Also do you have any information on the status of Adverbs and
Prepositions in compounds and how you tell them separately from
Adjectives and Nouns. In JC there are quite a few compounds which
have the word BAK from English ''back''. The trouble is that in English
back can be both a Noun and an Adjective. My instructor said since NN
compounds are productive then it would be safe to assume that BAK is
functioning as a Noun in these compounds. Have you come upon this
situation and how did you solve it? If you haven't, is there anyway
around just assuming?


SM: As for our topics, I realize that I didn't still faced the type of
problems you talked me about. First, because so far I haven't looked
too much at the data, but rather at the theoretical reflexions on
compounding; and second because I'm considering only nominal
compounds, so I cannot tell you too much about verbs. And finally
because I'm workin on French compounds, which are, perhaps, a bit
different... However I may try to give you some readings from my
bibliography that could be interesting for your purposes: I haven't
read all of them, and you probably have already heard about some of

Moreover, many have a computational perspective which may not be
interesting for you; but I send them to you anyway and you can pick up
what you need.

Beard R. 1996. Head Operations and Head-modifier ordering in nominal
compounds. Presentation at 1996 Linguistic Saociety of America Meeting
San Diego, California.

Bosredon B., Tamba-Mecz 1997, Les pr?positions abstraites en fran?ais,
A. Colin, Paris

Bouillon, P., K. Bosefeldt and G. Russel 1992. Compounds nouns in a
unification based MT system. In the proceedings of the Third
conference on applied natural language Processing,
pp. 209-215. Trento, Italy

Busa F. 1996 Compositionality and semantics of Nominals. Phd
Thesis. Bradeis University.

Busa F. and M. Johnston 1996. Cross-linguistic semantics for complex
nominals in the generative lexicon. In the proceedings of the AISB
workshop on multinlinguality in the Lexicon. University of Sussex,
Brighton, England, April 1996

Di Sciullo, A.-M. et A. Ralli 1995. ''Argument Structure and
Compounds. Some

Differences Between English, Italian and Greek''. In Aspects
multilingues de la composition nominale. Universit? de
Gen?ve. Pp. 75-87. (En collaboration avec Angela Ralli)

Downing P. 1977. On the creation and Use of English compound
nouns. Language 53, pp.810-842

Downing P. A., 1970, Pragmatic constraints on nominal compounding in
English, Berkeley

Finin T.W. 1980 The semantic interpretation of Coumound Nominals. Phd
Thesis University of Illinois at Urrbana-Champain

Gross G, 1996, Les Expressions fig?es en fran?ais: noms composes et
autres locutions, Paris.

Isabelle p. 1984, Another Look at nominal compounds. In the
proceedings of the 10ths international conference on Computational
linguistics and the 22nd meeting of the ACL, 509-516

Johnston M., B. Bougraev and J. Pustejovsky 1995. The acquisition and
interpretation of complex nominal

Jones B. 1995 Nominal compounds and lexical rules. Working notes of
the Acquilex Workshop on Lexical Rules. Cambridge , England, August

Lees R. 1970. Problems in the grammatical analysis of English nominal
compounds. In Bierwisch and Heidolph (eds) Progress in
linguistics. The Ague, Mouton.

Levi J., (1978), The syntax and semantics of complex nominals,
Academic Press, New York.

Warren B. (1978), Semantic patterns of Noun- Noun compounds,
Gothenburg Studies in English, n?41, Goteborg

CHOUL (Jean-Claude), 1990 : ''T?l?scopage syntagmatique : ?conomie de
la composition nominale'', dans Revue qu?b?coise de linguistique


Joseph T. Farquharson, BA Hon. (UWI)
Graduate Student
Sidney Sussex College
University of Cambridge
Cambridge CB2 3HU
United Kingdom

Subject Language(s): Jamaican Creole English (Language Code: JAM)

LL Issue: 14.958
Date Posted: 25-Mar-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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