Lexical Compound

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A Lexical Compound is a compound word whose meaning can't be understood from the rules of grammar alone.



  • (Wikipedia, 2013) ⇒ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compound_%28linguistics%29
    • In linguistics, a compound is a lexeme (less precisely, a word) that consists of more than one stem. Compounding or composition is the process of word formation that creates compound lexemes (the other word-formation process being derivation). That is, in familiar terms, compounding occurs when two or more words are joined together to make them one word. The meaning of the compound may be very different from the meanings of its components in isolation.


  • (Stockwell & Minkova, 2001) ⇒ Robert P. Stockwell, Donka Minkova. (2001). “English Words, 1st ed." Cambridge University Press
    • NOTES: It divides Compound Words into Syntactic Compounds and Lexical Compounds.
    • NOTES: It defines a Syntactic Compound as a compound that can be parsed into its constituents. E.g. playgoer (someone who goes to plays regularly)
    • NOTES: It defines a Lexical Compound as a compound whose meaning you'd have to lookup in a dictionary. E.g. ice cream, crybaby, and sweetheart.
    • QUOTE: One can always figure out what a syntactic compound' means. Such compounds are formed by regular rules of grammar, like sentences, and they are not, therefore, listed in dictionary. So if someone were to say,

      “Playing quartets is fun.”

      We know, just from the rules of grammar, that they could also say.

      “Quartet playing is fun.”

      Quartet playing is therefore syntactic compound. Other transparent syntactic compounds are shoemaker (someone who makes shoes), bookkeeper (someone who keeps the books in order), washing machine (we wash things with the machine), candielight (light provided by candles), birdcage (a cage for birds), playgoer (someone who goes to plays regularly).(...).

      On the other hand, we cannot figure out what ice cream or iced cream means just from the rules of grammar. We cannot compute the sense of ice cream from something like,

      "They iced the cream"

      Therefore ice cream is a lexical compound which (if we don't know the meaning already) has to be looked up in a dictionary like totally novel word. Crybaby must also be treated as a lexical compound, because it refers not to babies that cry but to people who act like babies that cry. i.e., who complain when anything makes them unhappy. Similarly, girl friend is not just a girl who is a friend, nor is boy friend just a boy who is a friend. Both of these compounds actually can mean what they appear to mean on the surface, but usually they mean more than that.


  • (Spark Jones, 1983) ⇒ Karen Spärck Jones. (1983). “Compound Noun Interpretation Problems.” In: Fallside, F. and Woods, W.A., editors, Computer Speech Processing.” Prentice-Hall.
    • It is not in fact possible to maintain a principled distinction between lexicalised and non-lexicalised compounds, even within specialised universes of discourse. Some compounds are clearly lexicalised, as may be shown in their becoming single words ("tearoom"), developing meaning extension having no reference to their underlying structure, etc. However, even those compounds canonised by entries in lexicons differ in the extend to which they are established, and are properly regarded only as representing one end of a spectrum from the firmly established to the totally novel. It may be convenient for the purposes of linguistic discussion to group compounds, and at the same time more satisfactory, to label compounds as established, non-established, or novel (as Warren 1978 does) rather than as simply lexicalised or non-lexicalised. However from both the formal and the programming points of view, a compound is either supplied with an explicitly characterisation, as a unit, in a lexicon, or it is not.