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Review of  Word-Formation across Languages

Reviewer: Alexandra Galani
Book Title: Word-Formation across Languages
Book Author: Lívia Körtvélyessy Pavol Štekauer Salvador Valera
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Issue Number: 28.3574

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“Word Formation across Languages”, edited by Lívia Körtvélyessy, Pavol Štekauer and Salvador Valera, is a collection of nineteen papers on universals and typology in word formation. The papers were presented at the Slovak word formation conference held in Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in 2015.

Chapter 1, entitled “On [N1N2] constructions and word-formation in Bulgarian” by Alexandra Bagasheva, discusses NN compounds in Bulgarian, which is a new compounding category that began as the result of MAT-borrowing and was later developed by PAT-borrowing. Constructional approaches to language are taken into account (ie. Booij 2009, 2010). The author claims that NN compounds in Bulgarian have been influenced by English. The chapter is well-referenced and a sufficient amount of data is presented. Nevertheless, the discussion of the theory and the supportive data can be confusing to someone who is not familiar with the language. Not all references are in alphabetical order (e.g. Booij (2007), Bencznes (2006), Booij (2010)).

In Chapter 2, “The patterns of complementary polysemy in Polish action nouns”, Maria Bloch-Trojnar presents an interesting and well-presented chapter, which offers an overview of the semantic patterns (polysemy) in Polish action nouns. The account is formulated within the lexeme-morpheme based morphology (Beard, 1995). Bloch-Trojnar shows that derivation is subject to the stems’ semantic properties. Nominal derivation may be the result of prefixation, suffixation or morphophonological modification. Aspect neutral deverbal nouns cannot be derived from perfective-only verbs. Two derivatives may be formed from imperfective-only verbs. Some inconsistencies in the references are noticed (e.g. Szober).

Chapter 3, “Identifying (Heads of) copulative appositional compounds in Polish and English” by Bożena Cetnarowska, sheds light on the issue of compound headedness. The author compares copulative appositional compounds (i.e. waiter-bartender) in the two languages. In Polish N+N appositional combinations, there are two patterns: two fully infected forms may be juxtaposed, i.e. barman-kelner “bartender-waiter”, or two stems may be linked with a vocalic interfix and the inflectional affixes may be attached to the right-hand constituent, i.e. barmanokelner, “a bartender-waiter”. Cetnarowska claims that there is a division between syntax and morphology and she argues in favour of a morphological status of N+N juxtapositions in Polish. The discussion is easy to follow, but there are some inconsistencies in the references (e.g. William, 1981; Willim, 2000).

Chapter 4, “The Arabic comparative and the nature of templatic mapping in Arabic” by Stuart Davis, is a well-presented and easy to follow paper. He first explains that there are two analyses in the literature; a stem-based versus a word-based. He argues in favour of a root-based account of the templatic morphological comparative in Egyptian Arabic and he suggests that Arabic word formation may be best analysed within Construction Morphology (Booij, 2010).

Chapter 5, entitled “On the polysemy of the Modern Greek prefix para-” by Angeliki Efthymiou, offers a semantic account of the prefix para- “close to” within Lieber’s (2004) framework. The properties and the meaning of the prefix are discussed (i.e. locational, non-locational: parallel, subsidiary, accessory, violation, divergence, excess, periphrastic reinforcement.). The different meanings are interpreted in terms of the features [+Loc] for the locational interpretation and [+IEPS] (for the non-evaluative one). She finally explains that Lieber’s framework provides the grounds for accounting for the grammaticalization process the prefix has undergone.

In Chapter 6, “How lexical is morphology? The construction and the quadripartite architecture of grammar”, Livio Gaeta offers a highly theoretical chapter which discusses the relation between the two senses of the lexicon (Aronoff, 1994) in the Bloomfieldian sense, i.e. a set containing entrenched or idiomatic expressions versus the set of lexemes in any language. He offers a brief literature sketch about whether morphology is lexical, focusing on the status of words, lexemes, Lex1 (the set of expressions larger than one word) and Lex2 (the set of all potential lexemes). The main idea is that morphology is a separate module than syntax, as it is defined by its own set of explicit properties. He claims that lexeme formation is based on Lex1 and Lex2 lexemes according to the Lexicality of the Input Principle (Gaeta, 2015).

Chapter 7, entitled “On the formation and semantics of new phrasal verbs in Danish and Swedish” by Hans Götzsche, offers a comparative analysis of the role verb particles play in phrasal verbs in the two languages. The author notes that phrasal verbs have undergone phonetic reduction and there is an ongoing process regarding the formation of verbal phrases. The presence or absence of the preposition is accounted for in terms of semantics: verb+preposition has an imperfective, whereas verb+no preposition has a perfective one.

Chapter 8, “Position class neutralization to inhibit conflicting aspect values in Cherokee” by Marcia Haag, discusses how aspect is morphologically marked in verbal forms in Cherokee. She shows that there are four position classes and aspectual features may be represented in several position classes attached to the root. For example, position 4 is inflectional. Position 2 is neutralized and its features are repeated in Position 3, if an affix is attached in Position 3. So, the features of the affix in Position 4 should be harmonized the affixes it attaches to. Moreover, Position 2 may also appear in longer constructions (i.e. when derivational suffixes are attached in Position 3) which suggests that this Position 2 is syntactically and semantically inert.

Chapter 9, “Compound genitives in Latvian” by Andra Kalnača and Ilze Lokmane, discusses genitives, have the following characteristics: firstly, they have one case form (singular/plural). Secondly, they have two syntactic functions: as a non-agreeing attribute and as a nominal predicate. Finally, they exhibit adjectival semantics. These forms may further participate in the derivation of adjectives (i.e. by suffixation of the morphemes – īg- and –ain-), retaining, nonetheless, their semantics. Nouns are derived by conversion and nominalisation in the language. She notes that compound genitives are productive in professional language and terminology (i.e. in construction and industry) in Latvian.

Chapter 10, “Non-spatial relations grounded in embodied experience: polysemy in English particle over and Polish verbal prefix nad-” by Ewa Konieczna, examines the properties of the particle over and its counterpart Polish prefix nad- within the Principled Polysemy Model (Tyler and Evans, 2003). She argues in favour of the view that spatial concepts may be universal cross-linguistically but their reconceptualisations and their reanalyses are language-specific. She shows that the proto-senses of over and nad- are the same in the two languages but their senses are different. The A-B-C trajectory cluster (Tyler and Evans, 2003) in English derives the meanings of Completion, Major, Change, Transfer, Effect, Focus of Attention, Repetition of Scene of the preposition “over”. This cluster does not exist in Polish, as it is expressed by the preposition “przez”. (e.g. change, transfer, effect, etc) and consequently these meanings do not exist in the preposition “nad”.

Chapter 11, entitled “How poor Japanese is in adjectivising derivational affixes and why” by Akiko Nagano and Masaharu Shimada offers a comparative account of deverbal and denominal adjectival forms in European languages (German, Portuguese, Norwegian) versus Japanese. Japanese allows polyfunctionality between aspect and V-to-Adj derivation, similarly to English, and between modality and V-to-Adj derivation, contrary to English. Moreover, there are no relational adjectives in Japanese where genitives and qualifiers are used instead.

Chapter 12, entitled “Part-of-speech and semantic-class preferences for certain word-formation processes: Wichi (Mataguayan)” by Verónica Nercesian, examines word formation processes in the language based on data analysis of two vocabularies. She looks at how processes, such as derivation, conversion, compounding, incorporation, lexically borrowing, phrases fossilization, are distributed across word-classes and semantic fields and what this distribution tells us about the lexical connections. Derivation is the most productive process and compounding comes next. Phrases fossilisation are preferred constructions for naming places, whereas derivation for naming people. Derived nouns are more frequent in Botany than Zoology, Ornithology, Vegetation and animals and apiculture. She also examines the most productive processes for inalienable nouns, events and states, and proper names. The author explains that verbs and adverbs are mostly formed only by derivation, whereas nouns are formed by both derivation and compounding. Specific morphological markers are selected for derivation.

Chapter 13, “Neoclassical word formation in English and Russian: a contrastive analysis” by Renáta Panocová and Pius Ten Hacken, investigates if there is a specific rule according to which word components of Ancient Greek and Latin origin are incorporated in word formation in various European languages. Evidence from English and Russian suggests that each language has its own rule. In English, there is a system of neoclassical word formations. Ancient Greek origin, i.e. metamorphosis, anthropomorfos “anthropomorphous”, were first borrowed. A reanalysis of the constituents then occurred, i.e. morpho (i.e. morphology, isomorphism), anthropo (anthropology, anthroponym). These morphemes became part of the system and were added to new elements in the language. On the other hand and based on evidence from translation and vocabulary entries, neoclassical word formations in Russian are borrowings.

Chapter 14, entitled “Windmills, Nizaa and the typology of binominal compounds” by Steve Pepper, first sketches nominal compounds in Nizaa, a Niger-Congo language. The author then discusses the position of the head in compounds prior to making a reference to their classification in line with Bisseto and Scalise (2005). Based on the statistical and semantic analysis of Theil’s Nizaa word list, Pepper provides further support for the division of determinative compounds into two subclasses: subordinative and attributive (Bisseto and Scalise, 2005). Finally, he challenges the Canonical Head Position Hypothesis based on the fact that compounds in Nizaa can be both left and right headed.

Chapter 15, “Innovative elements in newly formed Hebrew four-consonantal verbal roots” by Ora (Rodrigue) Schwarzwald, explains that the formation of such forms may result from two processes: in the first case, initial radicals (t, ?, š) may be added to roots of existing words. The affixation of these elements carry semantic weight. They attribute an agentive, active, causative, intensive, repetitive or continuous value to the forms. The second process by which newly formed four-consonantal roots are constructed is by duplicating root consonants. In this case, too, root duplication adds a semantic meaning to the forms; that is repetitive, weakened, derogatory or negative.

In Chapter 16, “Patterns of metonymical meaning construal in the Hungarian deverbal suffix –Ó. Interrelated dynamics of figurativity, entrenchment and productivity” by Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra, the author claims that the construals are influenced by the level of entrenchment; constructions on the lower level of entrenchment are located on the lower parts of the meaning extension cline versus constructions on higher level on higher ones. –ó nouns are instantiated by novel constructions contrary to –ó adjectives. Consequently, metonymical patterns play a role to the productivity of the suffix.

Chapter 17, entitled “Morphological construction for negotiating differences in cross-stratum word-formation” by Natsuko Tsujimura, discusses the morphological formation and the semantics of mimetic words in Japanese. Mimetic words are also referred to as “onomatopoeia” (the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent ( or “ideophones” (a sound or sounds symbolizing a complete idea or spoken word, esp. sound-symbolic words found in African languages, a single phone or phoneme that represents a concept ( in literature. Mimetic words in Japanese originate from prosaic words. Prosaic words are non-mimetic forms with fixed denotations. The semantic characterisation of mimetic words depends on the native speakers’ perception and experiences. The interpretations they receive are based on morphophonological mimetic templates.

Chapter 18, “On the structure of toponyms” by Franchesco-Alessio Ursini, offers an analysis of the morphological patterns of toponyms in English, Mandarin, Italian, and Finnish within the framework of Type Logical Syntax (c.f. Carpenter, 1992)). He concludes that the morphosyntactic properties of toponyms determine their semantic interpretation. The semantic analysis is sketched within the Type Logic Composition framework (Asher, 2011)).

In Chapter 19, entitled “Classifiers as derivational markers in Murui (Northwest Amazonia)” by Katarzyna I. Wojtylak, the author first offers background information on Murui and its speakers. Classifiers are bound suffixes attached to various words: adjectives, pronouns, demonstratives, numerals, nouns, verbs, interrogative words and anaphoric forms. The author shows that classifiers are divided into physical property, animate, unique, and repeaters. Finally, she explains that classifiers have the following functions: derivation, of nominal stems, formation of nominal modifiers and nominalisation.


The volume covers a wide range of word formation phenomena in various languages (i.e. Bulgarian, Polish, Egyptian-Arabic, Modern Greek, Danish, Cherokee, Swedish, Latvian, Murui, Mandarin, Italian, Finnish, Japanese, Hungarian). The chapters are well-referenced, and the analyses are well-supported by data and arguments. The book would have benefited if an introduction was given after the preface to see how each chapter is related to the overall volume. The chapters are arranged in alphabetical order, but they could have been organised in parts, e.g. those which refer to compounding, those which discuss affixes, etc. The book could have been enriched with a list of contributors, language, name, and subject indexes. The book will be of interest to researchers working in language-specific or word formation-specific phenomena.

Aronoff, M. 1994. Morphology by itself. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Asher, N. 2011. Lexical meaning in context: A web of words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bisseto, A. and S. Scalise. 2005. “The classification on compounds”. Lingue e linguaggio 4 (2): 319-332.

Booij, G. 2009. Lexical integrity as a morphological universal, a constructionist view. In Scalise, S., E. Magni and A. Bisetto (Eds.), Universals of language today. Berlin: Springer. pp.83-100.

Booij, G. 2010. Construction Morphology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Beard, R. 1995. Lexeme-morpheme based morphology. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Carpenter, K. 1992. The logic of typed feature structures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gaeta, L. 2015. “Lexeme formation in a conscious approach to the lexicon”. In Semantics of complex words, L. Bauer, L. Körtvélyessy and P. Štekauer. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 115-141.

Lieber, R. 2004. Morphology and Lexical Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tyler, A. and V. Evans, 2003. The Semantics of English Prepositions: Spatial Scenes, Embodied Meaning, and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Alexandra Galani is a Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Ioannina. Her main research interests are in morphology, its interfaces and language acquisition.

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ISBN-13: 9781443899628
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