Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

E-mail this page 1

We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Dissertation Information

Title: The typology and semantics of binominal lexemes: Noun-noun compounds and their functional equivalents Add Dissertation
Author: Steve Pepper Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Oslo, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2020
Linguistic Subfield(s): Semantics; Typology;
Director(s): Åshild Næss
Rolf Theil

Abstract: The dissertation establishes ‘binominal lexeme’ as a comparative concept and discusses its cross-linguistic typology and semantics. Informally, a binominal lexeme is a noun-noun compound or functional equivalent; more precisely, it is a lexical item that consists primarily of two thing-morphs between which there exists an unstated semantic relation.

Examples of binominals include Mandarin Chinese 铁路 (_tiělù_) [iron road], French _chemin de fer_ [way of iron] and Russian железная дорога (_železnaja doroga_) [iron:ADJZ road]. All of these combine a word denoting ‘iron’ and a word denoting ‘road’ or ‘way’ to denote the meaning RAILWAY. In each case, the unstated semantic relation is one of composition: a railway is conceptualized as a road that is composed (or made) of iron. However, three different morphosyntactic strategies are employed: compounding, prepositional phrase and relational adjective. This study explores the range of such strategies used by a worldwide sample of 106 languages to express a set of 100 meanings from various semantic domains, resulting in a classification consisting of nine different morphosyntactic types.

The semantic relations found in the data are also explored and a classification called the Hatcher-Bourque system is developed that operates at two levels of granularity, together with a tool for classifying binominals, the Bourquifier. The classification is extended to other subfields of language, including metonymy and lexical semantics, and beyond language to the domain of knowledge representation, resulting in a proposal for a general model of associative relations called the PHAB model.

The many findings of the research include universals concerning the recruitment of anchoring nominal modification strategies, a method for comparing non-binary typologies, the non-universality (despite its predominance) of compounding, and a scale of frequencies for semantic relations which may provide insights into the associative nature of human thought.