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English Compounds

Autor:   •  October 4, 2017  •  10,786 Words (44 Pages)  •  282 Views

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In describing the structure of a compound one should examine three types of relations , namely the relations of the members to each other, the relation of the whole to its members and correlation with equivalent free phrases.

Compound words are words consisting of at least two stems which occur in the language as free forms. In a compound word the immediate constituents obtain integrity and structural fusion that make them function in a sentence as a separate lexical unit.

The structural fusion and integrity of a compound may depend upon unity of stress, solid or hyphenated spelling , semantic unity , unity of morphology and syntactic functioning or more often upon the combined effect of several of these or similar phonetic graphic, semantic morphological or syntactic factors.

The integrity of a compound is manifested in its indivisibility, i.e. the impossibility of inserting another word or word-group between its elements. If for example speaking about a sunbeam ( rază de soare) we can insert some other word between the article and the noun e. g. A bright sunbeam , a bright and unexpected sunbeam, because the article a is a separate word , no such insertion is possible between the stems sun and beam for they are not words but morphemes. The same refers to a greenhouse ( seră ) – a compound expressing a single idea i .e. a conservatory , a building with glass walls and roof in which plants are protected from cold where we can not insert anything between the morphemes green and house without destroying the meaning of the word and a syntactical free word – group a green house i. e. a house painted green where we can insert some other adjectives between the independent words green and house without destroying the meaning of the group e. g. a green wooden house.

Some compounds are made up of a determining and a determined part which may be called the determinant and the determinatum. The second stem in our case beam is the basic part the determinatum. The determinant sun serves to differentiate it from other beams.

The determinatum is the grammatically most important part which undergoes inflection : sunbeam , water - mill , brother-in-law, sea trip.

e.g. brother-in-law

I remember my brother-in-law going for a short sea trip once for the benefit of his health.

Î-mi amintesc de cumnatul meu care a plecat odată intr-o scurta excursie pe mare pentru a-si fortifica sănătatea.

(Jerome K.)

There are non-idiomatic compounds with a perfectly clear motivation. Here the meaning of the constituents add up in creating the meaning of the whole and name the referent either directly or figuratively . Thus when the combination seaman ‘marinar’ was first used it was not difficult to understand that it meant , a man professionally connected with the sea. The word differentiated in this way a sailor from the rest of mankind. When aviation came into being the same formula with the same kind of motivation was used to coin the compound airman ‘ aviator’ aircraft ‘aviatie ‘ and airship ‘ avion ‘ to name the machines designed for air-travel , differentiating them from sea-going craft. Spaceman ‘cosmonaut ‘ spacecraft and spaceship (nava cosmica )built on the model of and aircraft , airman airship are readily understood even when heard for the first time .The semantic unity of the compounds seaman, airman, spaceman, aircraft, spacecraft, airship and spaceship is based on the fact that as the conquest of sea, air and outer space advanced new notions were created, notions possessing enough relevant distinctive features to ensure their separate existence. The logical integrity of the combinations is supported by solid spelling and by the unity of stress. Such transparent compounds can be transformed into free phrases : air mail = mail conveyed by air.

e.g. air mail

The letter must be sent by the air mail.

Scrisoarea trebuie sa fie trimisa prin poşta aeriana.

The semantic integrity of a compound is on the other hand very often idiomatic in its character , so that the meaning of the whole is not a mere sum of its elements . A compound is often very different in meaning from a corresponding syntactic group.

blackboard - semantically it is a fusion between , black ' and , board ' resulting in anew notion - ,, tabla "( neagra ) - unlike the free combination , black board ' - ,, scindura neagra " -: which no longer allows the adjective ,, black " to form degrees of comparison ( as it has become an unchangeable part of the compound ) or to be preceded by an adverb of degree e. g. very , quite ... grammatically the two words are written together as one word and phonetically the pronunciation of ,blackboard, ['blϑkbo:d] differs from that of, black board, ['blϑk 'bo:d].

e. g. The pupil was asked to come up to the blackboard.

Elevul a fost chemat la tablă.

e. g. They put a big black board to cross the stream.

Ei au fixat o scîndură mare de culoare neagra ca sa treacă rîul.

A chatterbox (fig. moara sparta ) is not a box , it is a person who talks a great deal without saying anything important ; the combination is used only figuratively. The same metaphorical character is observed in the compound slowcoach ( fig. pierde vara, gura casca ). It is also idiomatic as it does not name a vehicle but a person who acts and thinks slowly. Thus far the original motivation of the idiomatic compound could be easily recreated. The following examples illustrate idiomatic compounds where it is not so obvious:

e.g. blackleg ,, spărgător de grevă" , strikebreaker.

e.g. blackmail ,,şantaj" ,getting money or some other profit from

a person by threats.

e.g. bluestocking ,,savanta" a woman affecting literary tastes

and learning .

The analysis of the semantic relationship existing between the constituents


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