Tuning morphosemantic transparency 
by shortening

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The central claim of this paper is that, besides phonological optimization, a major function of shortening words by different techniques such as clipping or acronymy is a controlled reduction of morphosemantic transparency in lexical domains, where partly or entirely opaque words are preferred to completely transparent ones. E.g., the functions of uniquely identifying and individualizing a referent by a proper name are better fulfilled by opaque labeling than by a transparent descriptive nomination. In fact, a study of shortening techniques used for official and commercial proper names contrasted with non-onymic words from the general lexicon and certain jargons in German, Farsi and Standard Chinese, three languages extremely different with respect to linguistic type and writing system, reveals a clear contrast between highly transparent shortenings preferred in the non-onymic lexicon versus less transparent or even opaque ones in the proper names, although the preferred shortening techniques themselves vary from language to language.


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