Institut de Lingüística Aplicada

Third Mediterranean Meeting on Morphology (MMM3)


Laura Kornfeld (CONICET - University of Buenos Aires)
Compounds N+N as formally lexicalized appositions in Spanish

It is the purpose of this paper to discuss the nature of compounds of the type noun+noun (N+N), such as hogar escuela, salón comedor, pollera pantalón, perro policía, turismo aventura, hombre lobo, and to establish their origin as formally lexicalized appositions.

The status of compounding is controversial; compare DiSciullo & Williams 1987, who consider compounding in English as a morphological process, with Lieber 1992 or Baker 1995 who defend its syntactic nature. However, even those who assert that English compounds are morphological, recognize the syntactic form of the internal structure of compounds in Romance languages (cf. DiSciullo & Williams about French compounds such as gagne-petit, essuie-glace, trompe-l'oeil). This hypothesis has not been yet developed for Spanish (cf., in this respect, most specific articles about compounding, such as Rainer & Varela 1992, Piera & Varela 1999 or Val Alvaro 1999). In the particular case of compounds N+N, Spanish literature has often remarked their similarities with restrictive appositions (cf. RAE 1973, Hernanz & Brucart 1987, Rainer & Varela 1992, Di Tullio 1997, Val Alvaro 1999, Piera & Varela 1999, among others). These similarities have been explained in different ways: compounds are derived from appositions (for example, RAE 1973, Di Tullio 1987); appositions are actually compounds, that is to say, morphological constructions (for example, Hernanz & Brucart 1987); there are two different constructions, one generated by the morphological component (compounds) and the other by the syntactic component (appositions) (for example, Rainer & Varela 1992, Piera & Varela 1999, Val Alvaro 1999). Rainer & Varela (1992: 117-120), while implicitely recognizing a sort of continuum between the two phenomena, study some criteria that would differenciate compounds N+N from appositions. The most useful of these criteria seems to be the one that considers compounds as "syntatic islands", referring with this label to the "inseparability of compounds" and the "inaccessibility of their constituents for syntactic rules". This view would also imply that units whose internal structure obeys the Spanish phrase rules are not compounds (on slightly different terms, the reasoning is reproduced in Piera & Varela 1999: 4380-4386 and Val Alvaro: 4778-4779). In a previous paper (Kornfeld 2000), we have noted in this respect that the opacity to syntactic rules of the compounds N+N actually derives from their syntactic atomicity; indeed, this type of atomicity also appears in sequences that have been clearly generated in syntax and that are, in fact, explicitely excluded by Rainer & Varela from morphological compounds set (i.e. cases of "lexicalized phrases" or "improper compounds", such as ojo de buey or media luna).

In this paper, we try to demonstrate that formal similarities between the internal structure of compounds N+N and of appositions support the claim that compounds are simple instances of appositions listed in the lexicon and having syntactic atomicity (in the title and the beginning of the abstract, we have referred to the conjunction of this properties as "formally lexicalized"). With this purpose, first we analyze in some detail the phenomenon of apposition from a syntactic point of view, suggesting a solution to the problems in case assignment to appositions exposed by Hernanz & Brucart (1987). Then, we unify the properties of appositions and compounds and propose a reduction of all the types of compounds N+N proposed by Rainer & Varela (1992) or Val Alvaro (1999), for example, to the types of appositions signaled in Val Alvaro (1999). Finally, we explain these phenomena by means of a "syntactist" model about the relations between morphology, lexicon and syntax.

The discussion is based on the following theoretical assumptions: