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Chinese: A Language of Compound Words?
Giorgio Francesco Arcodia
79-90 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


In the literature about Chinese word formation, Mandarin has often been described as a "language of compounded words" (see Lin 2001, Dong 2004), with compounding as the main process in Chinese word formation. This paper proposes that the coinage of a great number of compounded words was caused by several factors: the morphology of the language, the near- absence of agglutinating or inflectional morphological markers (which can act as "word boundaries"), and the stability of the phonological (and orthographical) shape of Chinese morphemes, together with the scarcity of grammatical morphemes compared to lexical ones. The paper then provides a functional motivation for the development of different kinds of compounds. From the structural point of view, this is reflected in zero-marking in phrases which designate an easily identifiable and frequent referent, and zero-marking for coordination in syntax. Finally, the paper proposes that there may be a correlation between the synthetic character of word formation in a language and the abundance of compounds in it, whereas in languages with a tendency to analyticity in word formation, such as Romance languages, compounding is expected to be a less prominent phenomenon.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 5th Décembrettes: Morphology in Toulouse
edited by Fabio Montermini, Gilles Boyé, and Nabil Hathout
Table of contents
Printed edition: $180.00