Institut de Lingüística Aplicada

Third Mediterranean Meeting on Morphology (MMM3)


Laura Malena Kornfeld (CONICET - UBA - UNComa - Argentina), Andrés Leandro Saab (UBA - Argentina)
Morphology and syntax: the case of prepositional preffixes in Spanish

In this paper, we intend to explain the nature of what Varela Ortega & García (1999) call "prepositional preffixation" in Spanish.

The status of preffixation has been largely discussed in Spanish morphology. RAE 1931 views it as a particular type of compounding; Lang (1990) and Varela Ortega (1990) consider it a derivational process; Varela Ortega & García (1999) claim that it is a different morphological process, independent of the other two.

Varela Ortega & García (1999) -based on DiSciullo (1996)- distinguish between prepositional preffixes (antesala, enjaular) and adverbial preffixes (deshonesto, precocinar). Prepositional preffixes attach productively to nouns and verbs. In the first case, they bring about either endocentric (contraorden) or exocentric constructions ([crema] antiarrugas). In the second case, the product is always an endocentric construction (circunnavegar la isla). Varela Ortega & García remark that in those cases in which prepositional preffixes seem to be attached to adjectives, the adjective is always denominal, the preffix actually modifying the nominal base (intramuscular = 'in or into the muscle').

In this paper we will be concerned with prepositional preffixes, and more specifically with the preffix+noun (P+N) forms, such as sinvergüenza, sinrazón, sinsentido, interzonas, interfacultades, interescuelas, contrapiso, contrafrente, contraorden, contraargumento, contraejemplo, bajomesada, antebrazo, anteojos, antigas, antiarrugas, that are syntactically transparent (i.e., they present the internal structure of prepositional phrases). We will put aside the cases of preffix+verb (P+V), in which the internal structure does not follow any recognisable syntactic form.

The discussion will be based on the theoretical assumptions below:

From this general framework, one of the main theoretical purposes of our paper is to show that the traditional notions of derivation and compounding are derived or not primitive, because, as we have seen, the real basic distinction is between word formation in morphology (word syntax) and word formation in proper syntax (sentential syntax). In this sense, and since the internal structure of P+N's in Spanish is similar to the structure of prepositional phrases, we consider that P+N's are instances of compounding.

From the descriptive point of view, the aims of this paper are: a) to characterize the P+N forms in Spanish; b) to unify the syntactic (categorial and argumental) properties of preffixes and prepositions; c) to account for the difference between the prepositional preffixes of latin or greek origin and those corresponding to spanish prepositions; d) to propose an explanation for the cases of P+A, that are not so "natural" from the syntactic point of view and produce the so-called "bracketing paradoxes" (DiSciullo & Williams 1987, Rainer & Varela 1992, Piera & Varela 1999).