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Compounds vs. phrases

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Abstract

Nominal compounds and corresponding phrases provide a suitable test bed for inquiry into the interface and demarcations between syntax and morphology. In this article we show that the distinction between the two constructions is blurred from a theoretical perspective and investigate processing and cognitive aspects. After an examination of structural as well as semantic properties of the two types, we report on three studies (memorization, questionnaire, and reading time) that experimentally juxtapose German adjective-noun constructions of phrasal and morphological kinds. The results of these studies indicate cognitive differences between compounds and phrases. Considering alternative explanations, we argue that our data supports the view of two separated structural levels of grammar.

References

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