Compound words in different languages

Discuss various aspects of natural language.

Moderators: Calilasseia, ADParker

Compound words in different languages

#1  Postby lpetrich » Apr 03, 2015 6:25 pm

German is legendary for having big compound words, though several other languages also have plenty of compound words, but some languages seem short of them, preferring phrases analyzed as separate words (Compound (linguistics) - Wikipedia).

English attributive phrases (noun as adjective) are interpreted as separate words, while in most other Germanic languages and in several others, they would be turned into noun-noun compounds. However, English also has many of that sort of compound, both as single words and as hyphenated ones. Their general format is

(modifying noun: uninflected) - (head noun: inflected)

English also has some adjective-noun compounds, though they are not as common. Compounds like "smartphone" from "smart phone". English also has noun-verb compounds. An older style is verb-object, head-modifier ones, like "pickpocket". More recent ones are modifier-head, object - (verb as agent noun or action noun), like "skyscraper" and "finger-pointing", though often phrases like "bolt cutter". English also has compound prepositions, like "into", and "onto", though it prefers verb phrases like "start reading" and "copy and paste" to compound verbs.

French prefers head-modifier phrases like "moulin à vent" (windmill: "mill with wind") and "train à grande vitesse" (high-speed train: "train with high speed"). German ones are Windmühle and Hochgeschwindigkeitszug. English has a few head-modifier compounds like "mother-in-law" and "sergeant-at-arms". Their plurals, "mothers-in-law" and "sergeants-at-arms", are atypical of English compound words: plurals on the heads as if they were phrases, instead of on the whole words: *"mother-in-laws" and *"sergeant-at-armses".

French, Spanish, and Italian have head-modifier verb-noun compounds, like these ones for "skyscraper": "gratte-ciel", "rascacielos", and "grattacielo", all "scrape-sky" or "scratch-sky".


Compound words are not an exclusive property of large-scale, high-tech societies. Consider New England place names like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Narragansett, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, ... and elsewhere in North America: Susquehanna, Rappahannock, Mississippi, Minnesota, ...


So are there any languages that don't have any compounds -- only phrases with separate words?
lpetrich
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 750
Age: 60
Male

United States (us)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Compound words in different languages

#2  Postby Evolving » Apr 03, 2015 6:50 pm

Some unsystematic comments:

- Comparing English and German, it's only a matter of convention whether, when you write down a compound word, you leave a space between its components (as English does) or not (German doesn't). I've always maintained that English and German are exactly the same with regard to their compound nouns, and that English speakers are on very shaky ground in poking fun at German's long words. What is the difference between Physiklehrer and physics teacher?

- Personally, I speak more than I write, and I listen more than I read. You can't hear the spaces between the components when people are talking.

- This I found rather striking:

However, English also has many of that sort of compound, both as single words and as hyphenated ones. Their general format is

(modifying noun: uninflected) - (head noun: inflected)


English nouns aren't inflected at all, if you're talking about case endings; so I wonder what you are referring to. Honest question.

- A tangential thought: UK English and (as far as I am aware) American English put the stress on the modifying noun: "vacuum cleaner" is pronounced VACuum cleaner. Caribbean English (Barbados, anyway) does the opposite: vacuum CLEANer, and this is one of the differences that has always struck me.

- Latin languages have no compound nouns because they link the component nouns with prepositions: usually "of". Notting Hill Gate would be Gate of the Hill of Notting, if English behaved as French does.

There is a square in Frankfurt called Platz der Republik, which was named as such as Frankfurt was being rebuilt after the world war, and naming it like that (as in "Place de la République") was evidently meant as an ingratiating sort of gesture in that climate of reconciliation. The natural German name would have been Republikplatz ("Republic Square").
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#3  Postby epepke » Apr 03, 2015 7:06 pm

I've always said that if you know the German term for a piece of equipment, the word itself tells you how to build one.
User avatar
epepke
 
Posts: 4080

Country: US
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#4  Postby scott1328 » Apr 03, 2015 7:15 pm

There is a simple test to determine if an English noun is a compound noun or a modifier plus noun. Consider "baseball bat"
It is a compound noun because you cannot insert an adjective between "baseball" and "bat"

"Wooden baseball bat" is correct but "baseball wooden bat" is not.

On the other hand, consider "red woolen mittens" and "woolen red mittens"
User avatar
scott1328
 
Name: Some call me... Tim
Posts: 8695
Male

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#5  Postby lpetrich » Apr 03, 2015 11:05 pm

Evolving wrote:
- Comparing English and German, it's only a matter of convention whether, when you write down a compound word, you leave a space between its components (as English does) or not (German doesn't). I've always maintained that English and German are exactly the same with regard to their compound nouns, and that English speakers are on very shaky ground in poking fun at German's long words. What is the difference between Physiklehrer and physics teacher?

It's a parsing hint, like punctuation and spaces between words. Such written-language conventions are useful because written language usually does not indicate the inflections of spoken language.

BTW, I note some hyphenated spellings from a few centuries ago of words that are now spelled un-hyphenated: Rattle-Snakes (Benjamin Franklin, 1751, about what to send to Britain in return for receiving criminals), Gerry-mander (Boston Gazette, 1812, about an oddly-shaped electoral district).


- This I found rather striking:

However, English also has many of that sort of compound, both as single words and as hyphenated ones. Their general format is

(modifying noun: uninflected) - (head noun: inflected)


English nouns aren't inflected at all, if you're talking about case endings; so I wonder what you are referring to. Honest question.

It's true that English has no noun cases, but I had in mind English's plurals and possessive suffix. Some languages have much more noun inflection than that, of course.
lpetrich
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 750
Age: 60
Male

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#6  Postby lpetrich » Apr 03, 2015 11:43 pm

Evolving wrote:
- Latin languages have no compound nouns because they link the component nouns with prepositions: usually "of". Notting Hill Gate would be Gate of the Hill of Notting, if English behaved as French does.

There is a square in Frankfurt called Platz der Republik, which was named as such as Frankfurt was being rebuilt after the world war, and naming it like that (as in "Place de la République") was evidently meant as an ingratiating sort of gesture in that climate of reconciliation. The natural German name would have been Republikplatz ("Republic Square").

However, I mentioned Romance-language verb-noun compounds in my OP. But you seem to be right about avoiding noun-noun compounds. As another example, I decided to look for words for rattlesnake in various languages, words that I found with Google Translate on "A rattlesnake bit me, but that snake warned me." I underlined the snake part.

English: rattlesnake, Dutch: ratelslang, German: Klapperschlange, Danish, Norwegian: klapperslange, Swedish: skallerorm (the Swedish word for snake looks like a cognate of English "worm")

French: serpent à sonnettes, Spanish: serpiente de cascabel, Catalan: serp de cascavell, Italian: serpente a sonagli, Romanian: șarpe cu clopoței

Bulgarian: гърмяща змия (gŭrmyashta zmiya), Russian: гремучая змея (gremuchaya zmeya), Latvian: klaburčūska

Finnish: kalkkarokäärme, Estonian: lõgismadu, Hungarian: csörgőkígyó

Turkish: çıngıraklı yılan, Mongolian: хоржигнуурт могой (khorjignuurt mogoi), Korean: 방울 (bang-ulbaem), Japanese: ガラガラヘビ (garagarahebi)

Chinese (Simplified): 响尾 (xiǎngwěishé)

Most of them are indeed compounds, but the Romance ones are essentially "snake with a rattle", and the Bulgarian and Russian ones turn the rattle part into an adjective, inflections and all.
lpetrich
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 750
Age: 60
Male

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#7  Postby igorfrankensteen » Apr 03, 2015 11:51 pm

It's all lots of fun, but I think at least one thing about the difference between English and German is overlooked so far. That is, that English doesn't have as much meaning attached to word positions as German does, or as French does for that matter.

When the words are placed in one order, they are simply two words, in German and French. But placing them in the opposite order will cause the words to inherently include additional words such as "of," or "from," or "in the," and so on.

Even though a lot of English was developed from German as well as French and a few other languages, the structurally implied additional words don't seem to have followed into the language all that often.

When you alter word order in French or German, you can entirely alter the meaning of what you say. If you do it in English, it usually just results in someone criticizing your grammar.
User avatar
igorfrankensteen
 
Name: michael e munson
Posts: 2114
Age: 67
Male

Country: United States
United States (us)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Compound words in different languages

#8  Postby epepke » Apr 04, 2015 12:36 am

igorfrankensteen wrote:It's all lots of fun, but I think at least one thing about the difference between English and German is overlooked so far. That is, that English doesn't have as much meaning attached to word positions as German does, or as French does for that matter.


That's true, sort of, because German has a surface case system, and English doesn't, except in pronouns.

On the other hand, you'd better put the least important verb after the first phrase and stack the other verbs at the end of the sentence using Reverse German Notation.
User avatar
epepke
 
Posts: 4080

Country: US
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#9  Postby epepke » Apr 04, 2015 12:39 am

scott1328 wrote:There is a simple test to determine if an English noun is a compound noun or a modifier plus noun. Consider "baseball bat"
It is a compound noun because you cannot insert an adjective between "baseball" and "bat"

"Wooden baseball bat" is correct but "baseball wooden bat" is not.

On the other hand, consider "red woolen mittens" and "woolen red mittens"


Fantastic. Thanks for that.

I like it because it's procedural and doesn't use obsolete concepts such as grammar and parsing. Of course, there would have to be a mechanism to determine which words satisfy the condition, but that can probably be done by testing the word "baseball" in isolation. Still, it makes a pretty good heuristic. I think I'll try it out after I get the cognitive layers in place.
User avatar
epepke
 
Posts: 4080

Country: US
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#10  Postby zoon » Apr 04, 2015 4:16 am

Googling the OP's question, someone seems to have asked the same one here in 2011, but as far as I can see nobody answered. Someone called Greenberg is quoted as having said in 1963: "There are a considerable number of languages without inflections, perhaps none without compounding and derivation".
User avatar
zoon
 
Posts: 3230

Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#11  Postby don't get me started » Apr 05, 2015 1:04 pm

scott1328 wrote:There is a simple test to determine if an English noun is a compound noun or a modifier plus noun. Consider "baseball bat"
It is a compound noun because you cannot insert an adjective between "baseball" and "bat"

"Wooden baseball bat" is correct but "baseball wooden bat" is not.

On the other hand, consider "red woolen mittens" and "woolen red mittens"


Like Epepke, I found this interesting and will be taking it on board when considering the issue at hand.

I do, however, have another quibble with your example sentence concerning the mittens.
English has a system for piling up adjectives, and that order is violated in 'woolen red mittens'.

The order is seen to run from purely subjective assessments to more objective ones, with superordinate categories of adjectives placed in a hierarchy:
Opinion>Size>Age>Colour>Material>Origin + Noun. (There are some others, but these seem to be the main ones in use)

Now, you don't clearly need to use a string of prior placed adjectives in order to get to the next category, but English speakers seem to have an unconscious desire to use multiple adjectives (it seems to be mainly two or three) in a certain order, and violations of the order seem somehow incorrect.

This schema is seen in some common collocational patterns in English:

Opinion + Age:
Dirty old man
Beautiful young woman
Funny old world

Opinion + Colour
Dark blue+ N
Bright white+ N
Dirty grey + N

Size+ Colour
Big black spot
Little black dress
Small white van
Big blue sky


Colour + Material
Black leather jacket
Red silk tie
Brown paper bag
White cotton shirt
Grey metal door

To reverse any of these pairs sounds odd to most native speakers. " An old little man who was wearing a leather black jacket."
Perhaps like the apocryphal French speaker of English who wanted 'an orange glass of juice.'
don't get me started
 
Posts: 1132

Country: Japan
Japan (jp)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#12  Postby Evolving » Apr 05, 2015 1:08 pm

If you reverse the order of the adjectives you emphasise one of them:

"a young, beautiful woman".

Only works because, as you say, there is a "normal" order.
How extremely stupid not to have thought of that - T.H. Huxley
User avatar
Evolving
 
Name: Serafina Pekkala
Posts: 11993
Female

Country: Luxembourg
Luxembourg (lu)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#13  Postby scott1328 » Apr 05, 2015 1:14 pm

Evolving wrote:If you reverse the order of the adjectives you emphasise one of them:

"a young, beautiful woman".

Only works because, as you say, there is a "normal" order.

Precisely.
User avatar
scott1328
 
Name: Some call me... Tim
Posts: 8695
Male

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#14  Postby don't get me started » Apr 05, 2015 1:20 pm

Evolving wrote:If you reverse the order of the adjectives you emphasise one of them:

"a young, beautiful woman".

Only works because, as you say, there is a "normal" order.


Yep, that's right. It's one of those things that even very proficient speakers of English as a second language sometimes get wrong, and even uneducated native speakers seldom do.
I'm always struck by the way that in movies and TV shows in English, the sometimes have a 'foreigner' speaking English with a strong accent, but really nuanced things things like adjective order are usually spot on.
Now, the ways in which 'foreigner talk is represented in English language media is a whole other topic.... DGMS
don't get me started
 
Posts: 1132

Country: Japan
Japan (jp)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#15  Postby Scot Dutchy » Apr 05, 2015 1:32 pm

This is the longest Dutch word:

aansprakelijkheidswaardevaststellingsveranderingen
50 letters.

Fixing the changes in levels of liabilty.

arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekeringsmaatschappij
48 letters.

Unemployment insurance company.

These are genuine words.

This one won a competition but is not considered a real word.

'kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamhedencomitéleden'.
60 letters

Members of the committee for the preparation of the children's carnival parade.
Myths in islam Women and islam Musilm opinion polls


"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
User avatar
Scot Dutchy
 
Posts: 43119
Age: 72
Male

Country: Nederland
European Union (eur)
 
Birthday
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: Compound words in different languages

#16  Postby lpetrich » Apr 11, 2015 7:17 pm

So Dutch can be as obnoxious as German.

The grammarians who codified Sanskrit also described compounds. Here are three basic types with their names:

Tatpurusha ("that person") or endocentric: modifier-head with the compound referring directly to the modified head. A rattlesnake is a snake with a rattle on the end of its tail.

Bahuvrihi ("much rice": rich person) or exocentric: modifier-head with the compound referring to something other than the modified head. "Moneybags" is an English counterpart of that name.

Dvandva ("two-two": pair) or coordinate: syntactically coequal parts. English ones often have a -and- in them: "open-and-shut", "copy-and-paste", though some don't, like "singer-songwriter".
lpetrich
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 750
Age: 60
Male

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#17  Postby epepke » Apr 11, 2015 7:49 pm

don't get me started wrote:I do, however, have another quibble with your example sentence concerning the mittens.
English has a system for piling up adjectives, and that order is violated in 'woolen red mittens'.


OK, this is true, and about 25 years ago, I figured out a bit of this. I wrote a linguist who said that I was doing some classical linguistics in a good way, but Cognitive Science hasn't caught up. Now it has.

Still, consider that "woolen red mittens" is still understandable. It's not as easy to understand as "red woolen mittens," but it's easier to understand than "baseball wooden bat." It might not be very noticeable; the time difference it takes for an English speaker to understand the utterances is at most in the tenths of seconds, but there are a lot of other things like this, such as where you put commas.

Now, if you acknowledge this and stop thinking in anal-retentive Honky Chomsky terms, it leads to some catastrophic qualitative decisions. The one it has led me to can be put simply: the very idea of parsing is completely fucked. All of it. Parts of speech, too. The ideas are just stupid.

Which one could intuit by noticing that people speak languages without even knowing what "parse" means, and traditionally, "parsing" is an arcane exercise in language classes. You can apply it and get a mapping, but what of it? That doesn't mean it describes how things work in a brain.

All these "rules" and shit can be expressed in, and much better interpreted as, fuzzy heuristics in an overall system that is hardly structured at all, except in the sense that nearby words in an utterance usually have a lot more connection than far-away words. Structures beyond this, which we stupid rationalistic people can reinterpret as phrase structure or whatever, are just what happens when blobs of close-together words are put close together.

That's how I'm approaching natural language understanding, and it's working so much better than the classical approaches that I am constantly amazed and surprised. Of course, it's going to be a while before I get everything, but so far, I haven't met a single idiom or weird structure that doesn't fit easily into the paradigm.
User avatar
epepke
 
Posts: 4080

Country: US
United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#18  Postby Scot Dutchy » Apr 12, 2015 7:16 am

lpetrich wrote:So Dutch can be as obnoxious as German.


Why do you say that? Do you know the language? Do you speak and write it.

I love Dutch prefer it in many ways to English as it has many more subtle words. Making up compound words is part of the sport of the language.
Myths in islam Women and islam Musilm opinion polls


"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
User avatar
Scot Dutchy
 
Posts: 43119
Age: 72
Male

Country: Nederland
European Union (eur)
 
Birthday
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#19  Postby lpetrich » Apr 12, 2015 8:54 am

Scot Dutchy wrote:
lpetrich wrote:So Dutch can be as obnoxious as German.

Why do you say that? Do you know the language? Do you speak and write it.

In having long compound words. Sorry :( I should have indicated that my tongue was (metaphorically) in my cheek; I should have added a :D

I must concede that if English speakers turned attributive phrases into compounds, we'd get plenty of long compounds, like unemploymentinsuranceoffice.

I love Dutch prefer it in many ways to English as it has many more subtle words. Making up compound words is part of the sport of the language.

I have no quarrel with that.
lpetrich
THREAD STARTER
 
Posts: 750
Age: 60
Male

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: Compound words in different languages

#20  Postby Scot Dutchy » Apr 12, 2015 12:40 pm

:thumbup: :)
Myths in islam Women and islam Musilm opinion polls


"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
User avatar
Scot Dutchy
 
Posts: 43119
Age: 72
Male

Country: Nederland
European Union (eur)
 
Birthday
Print view this post

Next

Return to Linguistics

Who is online

Users viewing this topic: No registered users and 1 guest