1977 OnTheCreationAndUseOfEnglCompNouns

Jump to: navigation, search

Subject Headings: Compound Noun, N-N Compound Noun, Compound Noun Parsing.


  • It analyzes the properties of Compound Nouns, specifically N-N Compound Nouns.
  • It defines a N-N Compound Noun based on Li (1971:19)'s definition: “the simple concatenation of any two or more nouns functioning as a third nominal”.
  • It examines the more common relationships between the first and second noun in a nominal compound
  • It concludes that there are a large number of relationships and that can be unpredictable from the semantics of the two words.



  • A number of experimental tasks were conducted in which subjects were asked to interpret and create novel noun+noun compounds. The results indicate that the semantic relationships that hold between the members of these compounds cannot be characterized in terms of a finite list of 'appropriate compounding relationships'. Rather, the appropriateness of a given relationship depends on the use to which the compound will be put, the interpretability of the compound, and the extent to which it allows full exploitation of the informational resources of the compound form. These constraints derive in part from the fact that compounds, as lexical items, serve different linguistic functions than sentences do. This crucial distinction, and the existence of the constraints revealed by this study, are obscured by models which generate compounds from underlying clausal structures.


  • For the purposes of this study, I have adopted the definition of a N + N compound proposed by Li (1971:19): 'the simple concatenation of any two or more nouns functioning as a third nominal'. (Footnote: There has been much dispute as to the criteria that should be employed in distinguishing compound forms from 'nominal phrases'. The nature of the stress pattern has been choice as the distinguishing feature by some authors; thus Lees (1960:180) associates the primary-secondary stress pattern with compounds, and the tertiary-primary stress pattern with nominal phrase. But other authors have relied on semantic criteria, emphasizing the unitary meaning typically associated with compounds (as opposed to nominal phrases), or the fact that the meaning of the compound as a whole typically cannot be deduced from the meaning of its constituents - cf. Jespersen 1922).


  • Charles Li. (1971). “Semantics and the structure of compounds in Chinese. PhD thesis, University of California, Berkeley.,

 AuthorvolumeDate ValuetitletypejournaltitleUrldoinoteyear
1977 OnTheCreationAndUseOfEnglCompNounsPamela DowningOn the Creation and Use of English Compound NounsLanguagehttp://www.jstor.org/pss/4129131977