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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 cohesion that make them function in a sentence as a separate lexical unit. E. g.: I'd rather read a time-table than nothing at all.

The structural cohesion of a compound may depend upon unity of stress, solid or hyphenated spelling, semantic unity, unity of morphological 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 manifest in its indivisibility, i.e. the impossibility of inserting another word or word-group between its elements. If, for example, speaking about a sunbeam, 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 here. (See p. 28.)

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.

Some compounds are made up of a determining and a determined part, which may be called the determinant and the determinatum.1 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, cf. sunbeams, brothers-in-law, passers-by.

There are non-idiomatic compounds with a perfectly clear motivation. Here the meanings of the constituents add up in creating the meaning of the whole and name the referent either directly or figuratively.




1 For a more complete treatment see: Marchand H. The Categories and Types of Present-day English Word-formation. Wiesbaden, 1960. P. 11. Useful ‘material on English compounds and their correlation with free phrases will be found in: Vesnik D. and Khidekel S. Exercises in Modern English Word-building, p.p. 95-100, 119, 120. Exhaustive tables are presented in: Quirk R. et al. A Grammar of Contemporary English, p.p. 1021-1030.


Thus, when the combination seaman 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, and also aircraft and airship to name the machines designed for air-travel, differentiating them from sea-going craft. Spaceman, spacecraft and spaceship, built on the model of airman, aircraft and 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 the 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 new combinations is supported by solid spelling and by the unity of stress. When the meaning is not only related to the meaning of the parts but can be inferred from it, the compound is said to be transparent or non-idiomatic. The non-idiomatic compounds can be easily transformed into free phrases: air mail → mail conveyed by air’, night flight > ‘flying at night’. Such compounds are like regularly derived words in that their meaning is readily understood, and so they need not be listed in dictionaries.

On the other hand, a compound may be very different in meaning from the corresponding free phrase. These compounds are called idiomatic. Thus, a blackboard is very different from a black board. Its essential feature is being a teaching aid: not every board of a black colour is a blackboard. A blackboard may be not a board at all but a piece of linoleum or some other suitable material. Its colour is not necessarily black: it may be brown or something else. Thus, blackboard ↔ ‘a board which is black’.

G. Leech calls this not idiomatic but petrified meaning; the expression in his opinion is suggestive of solidifying and shrinking of the denotation, i.e. of the word becoming more restricted in sense. His examples are: a trouser-suit which is not just a ‘suit with trousers’ but ‘suit with trousers for women’. He also compared wheel-chair and push-chair, i.e. ‘chair which has wheels’ and ‘chair which one pushes’. They look interchangeable since all push-chairs have wheels and almost all wheelchairs are pushed, and yet wheel chairs are for invalids and push-chairs — for infants.1

A compound may lose its motivation and become idiomatic because one of its elements is at present not used in the language in the same meaning. The word blackmail has nothing to do with mail ‘post’. Its second element, now obsolete except in Scottish, was used in the 16th century meaning ‘payment’ or ‘tax’. Blackmail was the payment exacted by freebooting chiefs in return for immunity from plunder. This motivation is now forgotten and the compound is idiomatic. We shall call idiomatic such compounds the meaning of which is not a simple sum of the meanings of the determinant and determinatum.




1See: Leech, Geoffrey. Semantics. Penguin books, 1974, p.p. 226-228.

The analysis of semantic relationships existing between the constituents of a compound present many difficulties. Some authors have attempted a purely logical interpretation. They distinguish copulative, existential, spatial and some other types of connection. Others, like H. Marchand, 1 think that the most important factor is that the under lying concept may be grammatical. He illustrates the verb/object relation by such compounds as skyscraper or housekeeping and subject/verb relation in rattlesnake and crybaby. The first element in well-being or shortcoming is equivalent to the predicate complement.

N.G. Guterman pointed out that syntactic ties are ties between words, whereas in dealing with a compound one studies relations within a word, the relations between its constituents, the morphemes. In the compound spacecraft space is not attribute, it is the determinant restricting the meaning of the determinatum by expressing the purpose for which craft is designed or the medium in which it will travel.

Phrases correlated with compounds by means of transformational analysis may show objective, subject/predicative, attributive and adverbial relations. E. g. house-keeping: : to keep house, well-being: : to be well. In the majority of cases compounds manifest some restrictive relationship between the constituents; the types of restrictions show great variety.

Some examples of determinative compound nouns with restrictive qualitative relations are given below. The list is not meant to be exhaustive and serves only to illustrate the manifold possibilities.

Purpose or functional relations underlie such compounds as bathrobe, raincoat, classroom, notice-board, suitcase, identity-card, textbook. Different place or local relations are expressed in dockland, garden-party, sea-front. Comparison is the basis of blockhead, butter-fingers, floodlight, goldfish. The material or elements the thing is made of is pointed out in silverware, tin-hat, waxwork, clay-pipe, gold-foil. Temporal relations underlie such compounds as night-club, night-duty, summer-house, day-train, season-ticket. Sex-denoting compounds are rather numerous: she-dog, he-goat, jack-ass, Jenny-ass, tom-cat, pea-hen. When characterising some process, the first element will point out the agent (cock-crowing), the instrument (pin-prick), etc.

Many compounds defy this kind of analysis or may be explained in different ways: thus spacecraft may be analysed as ‘a craft travelling in space’ (local) or ‘a craft designed for travelling in space’ (purpose). There are also some tautological compounds such as pathway, roadway and the French translation loan courtyard. They are especially numerous in uneducated speech which is generally given to producing redundant forms: tumbler-glass, trout-fish, engineerman.

Often different relations are expressed by the same determinant: ear-ache (local) ‘an ache in the ear’, earmark (comparison) ‘a mark like an ear’, ear-lobe (part) ‘a lobe of the ear’, eardrop (purpose) ‘a drop for the ear’, ear-ring (local or purpose). Compare also: lip-reading (instrumental


1 Marchand H. The Categories and Types.... P. 30. See also: Potter S. Modern Linguistics. p. 91.

relations) ‘interpretation of the motion of the lips’; lip-service (comparison) ‘superficial service from the lips only’; lipstick (purpose) ‘a stick of cosmetics for rouging lips’.

In the beginning of the present chapter it has been mentioned that in describing the structure of a compound one has to examine three types of relations. We have discussed the relations of the elements to each other, and the relations of the whole compound to its members. The third approach is comparing compounds with phrases containing the same morphemes, e.g. an ashtray → ‘a tray for ashes’.

The corresponding structural correlations take the following form:

ashtray __ hairbrush __ paperknife a tray for ashes a brush for hair a knife for paper

Such correlations are very helpful in showing similarity and difference of meaning in morphologically similar pairs. Consider, for example, the following:

bookselling _ bookbinding bookmaking sell books bind books make books

A bookmaker is not one who makes books but a person who makes a living by taking bets on horse-races. The method may be used to distinguish unmotivated compounds.

Compounds that conform to grammatical patterns current in present-day English are termed syntactic compounds, e. g. seashore. If they fail to do so, they may be called asyntactic, e. g. baby-sitting.

In the first type the functional meaning and distribution coincide with those of the elements of a free phrase, no matter how different their lexical meaning may be. This may be shown by substituting a corresponding compound for a free phrase.

Compare: A slow coach moves slowly. A slow-coach moves slowly.

Though different in meaning, both sentences are grammatically correct.

In these compounds the two constituent elements are clearly the determinant and the determinatum. Such compounds receive the name of endocentric compounds.

There are, however, other compounds where the determinatum is not expressed but implied. A killjoy ‘a person who throws gloom over social enjoyment’ is neither ‘joy’ nor ‘kill’ and the case is different from the slow-coach above, as in the corresponding free phrase ‘kill’ is a verb in the Imperative Mood and ‘joy’ is a noun on which the action of this verb is directed. A phrase of this type cannot be used predicatively, whereas the predicative function is typical of the compound killjoy. The essential part of the determinatum is obviously missing, it is implied and understood but not formally expressed. H. Marchand considers these words as having a zero determinatum stem and calls such compounds exocentric, e. g. cut-throat, dare-devil, scarecrow because their determinatum lies outside as opposed to the endocentric: sun-beam, blackboard, slow-coach, wall-flower.


The absence of formal determinatum results in the tendency to append the inflectional ending to the element that happens to be final. Thus, brothers-in-law, but in-laws. E. g.: Laws banning unofficial strikes, go-slows and slow-downs (" Morning Star" ).



As English compounds consist of free forms, it is difficult to distinguish them from phrases. The combination top dog ‘a person occupying foremost place’, for instance, though formally broken up, is neither more nor less analysable semantically than the combination underdog ‘a person who has the worst of an encounter’, and yet we count the first (top dog) as a phrase and the second (underdog) as a word. How far is this justified? In reality the problem is even more complex than this isolated example suggests. Separating compounds from phrases and also from derivatives is no easy task, and scholars are not agreed upon the question of relevant criteria. The following is a brief review of various solutions and various combinations of criteria that have been offered.

The problem is naturally reducible to the problem of defining word boundaries in the language. It seems appropriate to quote E. Nida who writes that “the criteria for determining the word-units in a language are of three types: (1) phonological, (2) morphological, (3) syntactic. No one type of criteria is normally sufficient for establishing the word-unit. Rather the combination of two or three types is essential." 1

E. Nida does not mention the graphic criterion of solid or hyphenated spelling. This underestimation of written language seems to be a mistake. For the present-day literary language, the written form is as important as the oral. If we accept the definition of a written word as the part of the text from blank to blank, we shall have to accept the graphic criterion as a logical consequence. It may be argued, however, that there is no consistency in English spelling in this respect. With different dictionaries and different authors and sometimes even with the same author the spelling varies, so that the same unit may exist in a solid spelling: headmaster, loudspeaker, with a hyphen: head-master, loud-speaker and with a break between the components: head master, loud speaker. Compare also: airline, air-line, air line’, matchbox, matchbox, match box’, break-up, breakup. Moreover, compounds that appear to be constructed on the same pattern and have similar semantic relations between the constituents may be spelt differently: textbook, phrase-book and reference book. Yet if we take into consideration the comparative frequency of solid or hyphenated spelling of the combinations in question, the criterion is fairly reliable. These three types of spelling need not indicate different degrees of semantic fusion. Sometimes hyphenation may serve aesthetic purposes, helping to avoid words that will look too long, or purposes of convenience, making syntactic components clearer to the eye: peace-loving nations, old-fashioned ideas.



1 Nida E. Morphology. P. 147; Quirk R. et al. A Grammar of Contemporary English. P. 1019.

This lack of uniformity in spelling is the chief reason why many authors consider this criterion insufficient. Some combine it with the phonic criterion of stress. There is a marked tendency in English to give compounds a heavy stress on the first element. Many scholars consider this unity of stress to be of primary importance. Thus L. Bloomfield writes: “Wherever we hear lesser or least stress upon a word which would always show a high stress in a phrase, we describe it as a compound member: ice-cream ['ajs-krijm] is a compound but ice cream ['ajs'krijm] is a phrase, although there is no denotative difference in meaning." 1

It is true that all compound nouns, with very few exceptions, are stressed on this pattern. Cf. ‘blackboard: : blackboard’, blackbird: : black'bird; bluebottle: : blue'bottle. In all these cases the determinant has a heavy stress, the determinatum has the middle stress. The only exception as far as compound nouns are concerned is found in nouns whose first elements are all- and self-, e. g. ‘All-'Fools-Day, self-con'trol. These show double even stress.

The rule does not hold with adjectives. Compound adjectives are double stressed like ‘gray-'green, easy-'going, new-'born. Only compound adjectives expressing emphatic comparison are heavily stressed on the first element: ‘snow-white, dog-cheap.

Moreover, stress can be of no help in solving this problem because word-stress may depend upon phrasal stress or upon the syntactic function of the compound. Thus, light-headed and similar adjectives have a single stress when used attributively, in other cases the stress is even. Very often the stress is structurally determined by opposition to other combinations with an identical second element, e. g. ‘dining table: : writing table. The forestress here is due to an implicit contrast that aims at distinguishing the given combination from all the other similar cases in the same series, as in ‘passenger train, freight train, ex'press train. Notwithstanding the unity stress, these are not words but phrases.

Besides, the stress may be phonological and help to differentiate the meaning of compounds:

'overwork ‘extra work'

'over'work ‘hard work injuring one’s health'

'bookcase ‘a piece of furniture with shelves for books'

'book'case ‘a paper cover for books'

'man'kind ‘the human race'

'mankind ‘men’ (contrasted with women)

'toy, factory ‘factory that produces toys'

'toy'factory ‘factory that is a toy’.

It thus follows that phonological criterion holds for certain types of words only.2


1 Bloomfield L. Language. P. 228. Transcription is given] as L. Bloomfield has it.

2 For details see: Quirk R. et al. A Grammar of Contemporary English. Appendix 2, p.p. 1039-1042.


8 И. B. Apнольд 113

H. Paul, O. Jespersen, E. Kruisinga1 and many others, each in his own way, advocate the semantic criterion, and define a compound as a combination forming a unit expressing a single idea which is not identical in meaning to the sum of the meanings of its components in a free phrase. From this point of view dirty work with the figurative meaning ‘dishonorable proceedings’ is a compound, while clean work or dry work are phrases. Сf. fusspot, slow-coach. The insufficiency of this criterion will be readily understood if one realises how difficult it is to decide whether the combination in question expresses a single integrated idea. Besides, between a clearly motivated compound and an idiomatic one there are a great number of intermediate cases. Finally, what is, perhaps, more important than all the rest, as the semantic features and properties of set expressions are similar to those of idiomatic compounds, we shall be forced to include all idiomatic phrases into the class of compounds. Idiomatic phrases are also susceptible to what H. Paul calls isolation, since the meaning of an idiomatic phrase cannot be inferred from the meaning of components. For instance, one must be specially explained the meaning of the expressions (to rain) cats and dogs, to pay through the nose, etc. It cannot be inferred from the meaning of the elements.

As to morphological criteria of compounds, they are manifold. Prof. A. I. Smirnitsky introduced the criterion of formal integrity.2 He compares the compound shipwreck and the phrase (the) wreck of (a) ship comprising the same morphemes, and points out that although they do not differ either in meaning or reference, they stand in very different relation to the grammatical system of the language. It follows from his example that a word is characterised by structural integrity non-existent in a phrase. Unfortunately, however, in the English language the number of cases when this criterion is relevant is limited due to the scarcity of morphological means.

“A Grammar of Contemporary English” lists a considerable number of patterns in which plural number present in the correlated phrase is neutralised in a compound. Taxpayer is one who pays taxes, cigar smoker is one who smokes cigars, window-cleaner is one who cleans windows, lip-read is to read the lips. The plural of still-life (a term of painting) is still-lifes and not still lives. But such examples are few. It cannot be overemphasised that giving a mere description of some lexicological phenomenon is not enough; one must state the position of the linguistic form discussed in the system of the language, i.e. the relative importance of the type. Therefore the criterion of structural integrity is also insufficient.

The same is true as regards connective elements which ensure the integrity. The presence of such an element leaves no doubt that the combination




1 Paul H. Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte. 3 Aufl., Halle, 1898. S. 302; Kruisinga E. A Handbook of Present-Day English. Grö ningen, 1932. Pt. II. P. 72; Jespersen O. A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. London, 1946. Pt. VI. P. 137.

2 See: Cмирницкий А.И. Лексикология английского языка. M., 1956. С. 33.

is a compound but the number of compounds containing connective elements is relatively insignificant. These elements are few even in languages morphologically richer than English. In our case they are -s- (craftsman), -o- (Anglo-Saxon), -i- (handiwork.)

Diachronically speaking, the type craftsman is due either to the old Genitive (guardsman, kinsman, kinswoman, sportsman, statesman, tradesman, tradeswoman, tradesfolk, tradespeople) or to the plural form.

The Genitive group is kept intact in the name of the butterfly death’s head and also in some metaphorical plant names: lion’s snout, bear’s ear, heart’s ease, etc.

The plural form as the origin of the connective -s- is rarer: beeswax, woodsman, salesman, saleswoman. This type should be distinguished from clothes-basket, goods-train or savings-bank, where the singular form of the word does not occur in the same meaning.

It has already been pointed out that the additive (copulative) compounds of the type Anglo-Saxon are rare, except in special political or technical literature.

Sometimes it is the structural formula of the combination that shows it to be a word and not a phrase. E. g. starlit cannot be a phrase because its second element is the stem of a participle and a participle cannot be syntactically modified by a noun. Besides the meaning of the first element implies plurality which should have been expressed in a phrase. Thus, the word starlit is equivalent to the phrase lit by stars.

It should be noted that lit sounds somewhat, if a very little, obsolete: the form lighted is more frequent in present-day English. This survival of obsolete forms in fixed contexts or under conditions of fixed distribution occurs both in phraseology and composition.

To some authors the syntactical criterion based on comparing the compound and the phrase comprising the same morphemes seems to, be the most promising. L. Bloomfield points out that “the word black in the phrase black birds can be modified by very (very black birds) but not so the compound-member black in blackbirds." 1 This argument, however, does not permit the distinguishing of compounds from set expressions any more than in the case of the semantic criterion: the first element of black market or black list (of persons under suspicion) cannot be modified by very either.2

This objection holds true for the argument of indivisibility advanced by B. Bloch and G. Trager who point out that we cannot insert any word between the elements of the compound blackbird.3 Thesame example black market serves H. Marchand to prove the insufficiency of this criterion.4 Black market is indivisible and yet the stress pattern shows it is a phrase.


1 Bloomfield L. Language. P. 232.

2 Prof. R. Lord in his letter to the author expressed the opinion that black market and black list could be modified by very in order to produce an ironically humorous effect, although admittedly this kind of thing would not occur in normal speech. The effect of the deviation therefore proves the existence of the norm.

3 Bloch B. and Trager G. Outline of Linguistic Analysis. P. 66.

4 Marchand H. The Categories and Types.... P. 14.

Some transformational procedures that have been offered may also prove helpful. The gist of these is as follows. A phrase like a stone wall can be transformed into the phrase a wall of stone, whereas a toothpick cannot be replaced by a pick for teeth. It is true that this impossibility of transformation proves the structural integrity of the word as compared with the phrase, yet the procedure works only for idiomatic compounds, whereas those that are distinctly motivated permit the transformation readily enough:

a toothpick ↔ a pick for teeth tooth-powder → powder for teeth a tooth-brush → a brush for teeth

In most cases, especially if the transformation is done within the frame of context, this test holds good and the transformation, even if it is permissible, brings about a change of meaning. For instance, ...the wall-papers and the upholstery recalled ... the refinements of another epoch (Huxley) cannot be transformed without ambiguity into the papers on the wall and the upholstery recalled the refinements of another epoch.

That is why we shall repeat with E. Nida that no one type of criteria is normally sufficient for establishing whether the unit is a compound or a phrase, and for ensuring isolation of word from phrase. In the majority of cases we have to depend on the combination of two or more types of criteria (phonological, morphological, syntactic or graphical). But even then the ground is not very safe and the path of investigation inevitably leads us to the intricate labyrinth of “the stone wall problem” that has received so much attention in linguistic literature. (See p. 118.)


Having discussed the difficulties of distinguishing compounds from phrases, we turn to the problem of telling compounds from derivatives.

The problem of distinguishing a compound from a derivative is actually equivalent to distinguishing a stem from an affix. In most cases the task is simple enough: the immediate constituents of a compound are free forms, likely to occur in the same phonic character as independent words, whereas a combination containing bound forms as its immediate constituents, is a derivative.

There are, however, some borderline cases that do not fit in, and so present difficulties. Some elements of the English vocabulary occurring as independent nouns, such as man, berry, land, have been very frequent as second elements of words for a long time. They seem to have acquired valency similar to that of affixes. They are unstressed, and the vowel sound has been reduced to [mэn], although the reduction is not quite regular: for instance, when the concept “man” is clearly present in the word, there is no reduction. As to land, the pronunciation [læ nd] occurs only in ethnic names Scotland, Finland and the like, but not in homeland or fatherland. As these elements seem to come somewhere in between the stems and affixes, the term semi-affix has been offered to designate them. Though not universally accepted, it can be kept for convenience’s sake.



As man is by far the most frequent of semi-affixes it seems worth while to dwell upon it at some length. Its combining activity is very great. In addition to seaman, airman and spaceman one might compile a very long list: chairman, clergyman, countryman, fireman, fisherman, gentleman, horseman, policeman, postman, workman, yes-man (one that agrees with everything that is said to him) and many others. It is interesting to note that seaman and workman go back to the Old English period, but the model is still as productive as ever, which is testified by the neologism spaceman.

The second element, -man is considerably generalised semantically and approaches in meaning a mere suffix of the doer like -er. The fading of the lexical meaning is especially evident when the words containing this element are used about women, as in the following: The chairman, Miss Ellen McGullough, a member of the TUC, said ... (" Daily Worker" ).

In cases when a woman chairs a sitting, the official form of addressing her is madam Chairman. Chairwoman is also sometimes found unofficially and also chairperson.

The evolution of the element -man in the 70s provides an interesting example of the extra-linguistic factors influencing the development of the language. Concern with eliminating discriminatory attitudes towards women in various professions led to many attempts to degender, i.e. to remove reference to gender in the names of professions. Thus, cameraman is substituted by camera operator, fireman by firefighter, policeman by police officer or police person. Person is increasingly used in replacing the semi-affix -man to avoid reference to gender: houseperson, businessperson. The fact that the generic sense of ‘human being’ is present only in the word man ‘adult male’ but not in the word woman which is only ‘adult female’, is felt as a symptom of implicitly favouring the male sex.1

A great combining capacity characterises the elements -like, -proof and -worthy, so that they may be also referred to semi-affixes, i.e. elements that stand midway between roots and affixes: godlike, gentlemanlike, ladylike, unladylike, manlike, childlike, unbusinesslike, suchlike. H. Marchand2 points out that -like as a semi-affix is isolated from the word like because we can form compounds of the type unmanlike which would be impossible for a free form entering into combination with another free form. The same argument holds good for the semi-affix -worthy and the word worthy. Cf. worthy of note and noteworthy, praiseworthy, seaworthy, trustworthy, and unseaworthy, untrustworthy, unpraiseworthy.

H. Marchand chooses to include among the semi-affixes also the element -wise traditionally referred to adverb-forming suffixes: otherwise, likewise, clockwise, crosswise, etc.




1 See: The Second Barnhart Dictionary of New English. N.Y., 1980.

2 Marchand H. The Categories and Types.... P. 290.

Alongside with these, he analyses combinations with -way and -way(s) representing the Genitive: anyway(s), otherways, always, likeways, side-way(s), crossways, etc. The analysis given by H. Marchand is very convincing. “Way and wise are full words, so it might be objected that combinations with them are compounds. But the combinations are never substantival compounds as their substantival basis would require. Moreover, wise is being used less and less as an independent word and may one day come to reach the state of French -meat (and its equivalents in other Romance languages), which went a somewhat similar way, being developed from the Latin mente, Ablative of mens (‘spirit’, ‘character’, later ‘manner’).”

Two elements, very productive in combinations, are completely dead as independent words. These are -monger and -wright.1 The existing combinations with the element -monger have a strongly disparaging character, e. g.: If any passages of the present tale should startle the reader’s faith, I must be content to bear the stigma of a fictionmonger (Waugh). Cf. fashionmonger, newsmonger, scandalmonger, warmonger. Only the words that existed in the language from before 1500 are emotionally neutral: fishmonger, ironmonger, -wright occurs in playwright, shipwright, wheelwright.

As -proof is also very uncommon in independent use except in the expression proof against, and extremely productive in combinations, it seems right to include it among the semi-affixes: damp-proof, fire-proof, bomb-proof, waterproof, shockproof, kissproof (said about a lipstick), foolproof (said about rules, mechanisms, etc., so simple as to be safe even when applied by fools).

Semi-affixes may be also used in preposition like prefixes. Thus, anything that is smaller or shorter than others of its kind may be preceded by mini-: mini-budget, mini-bus, mini-car, mini-crisis, mini-planet, mini-skirt, etc.

Other productive semi-affixes used in pre-position are midi-, maxi-, self- and others: midi-coat, maxi-coat, self-starter, self-help.

The factors conducing to transition of free forms into semi-affixes are high semantic productivity, adaptability, combinatorial capacity (high valency), and brevity.


The so-called stone wall problem concerns the status of the complexes like stone wall, cannon ball or rose garden. Noun premodifiers of other nouns often become so closely fused together with what they modify that it is difficult to say whether the result is a compound or a syntactical free phrase. Even if this difficulty is solved and we agree that these are phrases and not words, the status of the first element remains to be determined. Is it a noun used as an attribute or is it to be treated as an adjective?




1 -monger < OE mangere ‘a tradesman’, -wright < OE wyrhta ‘a worker’.


The first point to be noted is that lexicographers differ in their treatment. Thus, “The Heritage Dictionary of the English Language” combines in one entry the noun stone and the adjective stone pertaining to or made of stone’ and gives as an example this very combination stone wall. In his dictionary A.S. Hornby, on the other hand, when beginning the entry — stone as an uncountable noun, adds that it is often used attributively and illustrates this statement with the same example — stone wall.

R. Quirk and his colleagues in their fundamental work on the grammar of contemporary English when describing premodification of nouns by nouns emphasise the fact that they become so closely associated as to be regarded as compounds. The meaning of noun premodification may correspond to an of-phrase as in the following the story of his life his life story, or correlate with some other prepositional phrase as in a war story a story about war, an arm chair a chair with arms, a dish cloth a cloth for dishes.

There is no consistency in spelling, so that in the A.S. Hornby’s Dictionary both arm-chair and dish-cloth are hyphenated.

R. Quirk finds orthographic criteria unreliable, as there are no hard and fast rules according to which one may choose solid, hyphenated or open spelling. Some examples of complexes with open spelling that he treats as compound words are: book review, crime report, office management, steel production, language teacher. They are placed in different structural groups according to the grammatical process they reflect. Thus, book review, crime report and haircut are all compound count nouns formed on the model object+deverbal noun: X reviews books the reviewing of books book review. We could reasonably take all the above examples as free syntactic phrases, because the substitution of some equonym for the first element would leave the meaning of the second intact. We could speak about nickel production or a geography teacher. The first elements may be modified by an adjective — an English language teacher especially because the meaning of the whole can be inferred from the meaning of the parts.

H. Marchand also mentions the fact that 'stone 'wall is a two-stressed combination, and the two-stressed pattern never shows the intimate permanent semantic relationship between the two components that is characteristic of compound words. This stress pattern stands explained if we interpret the premodifying element as an adjective or at least emphasise its attributive function. The same explanation may be used to account for the singularisation that takes place, i.e. the compound is an arm-chair not *an arms-chair. Singularisation is observed even with otherwise invariable plural forms. Thus, the game is called billiards but a table for it is a billiard table and it stands in a billiard-room. A similar example is a scissor sharpener that is a sharpener for scissors. One further theoretical point may be emphasised, this is the necessity of taking into account the context in which these complexes are used. If the complex is used attributively before a third noun, this attributive function joins them more intimately. For example: I telephoned: no air-hostess trainees had been kept late (J. Fowles).


It is especially important in case a compound of this type is an author’s neologism. E. g.: The train was full of soldiers. I once again felt the great current of war, the European death-wish (J. Fowles).

It should, perhaps, be added that an increasing number of linguists are now agreed — and the evidence at present available seems to suggest they are right — that the majority of English nouns are regularly used to form nominal phrases that are semantically derivable from their components but in most cases develop some unity of referential meaning. This set of nominal phrases exists alongside the set of nominal compounds. The boundaries between the two sets are by no means rigid, they are correlated and many compounds originated as free phrases.


The lexicological aspects of the stone wall problem have been mentioned in connection with compound words. Phrasal verbs of the give up type deserve a more detailed study from the phraseological viewpoint.

An almost unlimited number of such units may be formed by the use of the simpler, generally monosyllabic verbs combined with elements that have been variously treated as “adverbs", “preposition-like adverbs", “postpositions of adverbial origin", “postpositives” or even “postpositive prefixes”.1

The verbs most frequent in these units are: bear, blow, break, bring, call, carry, cast, catch, come, cut, do, draw, drive, eat, fall, fly, get, give, go, hurry, hold, keep, lay, let, look, make, move, play, pull, put, ride, run, sell, set, shake, show, shut, sit, speak, stand, strike, take, throw, turn, walk, etc. To these the adverbs: about, across, along, around, away, back, by, down, forth, in, off, on, out, over, past, round, through, to, under, and the particularly frequent up are added.

The pattern is especially common with the verbs denoting motion. Some of the examples possible with the verb go are: go ahead ‘to proceed without hesitation’; go away ‘to leave’; go back ‘to return’; go by ‘to pass’; go down (a) ‘to sink’ (for a ship); (b) ‘to set’ (of the sun, moon, etc.); (c) ‘to be remembered’ (of people or events); (d) ‘to become quiet’ (of the sea, wind, etc.) and many other combinations. The list of meanings for go down could be increased. Units of this type are remarkable for their multiple meaning. Cf. bring up which may mean not only ‘to rear from childhood, educate’ but also ‘to cause to stop’, ‘to introduce to notice’, ‘to make prominent’, etc.

Only combinations forming integral wholes, the meaning of which is not readily derived from the meaning of the components, so that the lexical meaning of one of the components is strongly influenced by the presence of the other, are referred to set expressions or compounds. E. g. come off ‘to take place’, fall out ‘to quarrel’, give in ‘to surrender’, leave off ‘to cease’. Alongside with these combinations showing idiomatic



1 The problem on the whole is a very complex one and has attracted the attention of many scholars. See, for example: Berlizon S. English Verbal Collocations. M.; L., 1964, where a complete bibliography may be found. See also: Ilyish B. The Structure of Modern English. M.; L., 1965, p.p. 153-154.


character there are free combinations built on the same pattern and of the same elements. In these the second element may: (1) retain its adverbial properties of showing direction (come : : come back, go : : go in, turn : : turn away); (2) change the aspect of the verb (eat : : eat up, speak : : speak out, stand : : stand up; the second element then may mark the completeness or the beginning of the action); (3) intensify the meaning of the action (end : : end up, talk : : talk away).

The second elements with the exception of about and around may be modified by right, which acts as an intensifier suggesting the idea of extremity: He pushed it right down. Sometimes the second element serves to create an evaluative shade, so that a verb of motion + about means ‘move here and there’ with an implication of light-mindedness and waste of time: climb, drive, float, run, walk, etc. about.

There are also cases where the criteria of motivation serving to differentiate between compounds, free phrases and set expressions do not appear to yield definite results, because motivation is partially retained, as for instance in drop in, put on or shut up, so that the existence of boundary cases must of necessity be admitted.

The borderline between free phrases and set expressions is not always sharp and distinct. This is very natural, as set expressions originate as imaginative free phrases and only gradually become stereotyped. So this is one more instance where understanding of synchronic facts is incomplete without diachronistic additions.



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