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Revisiting exocentricity in compounding

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Abstract

In this paper, the authors challenge the widespread view that the distinction between endocentric and exocentric compounds is fundamentally semantic. On the basis of data from Greek and Cypriot they propose, instead, that this is a structural distinction and that semantics cannot be a safe criterion for classifying exocentric compounds into various categories. They show that morphological features, e.g. gender and inflection class, cannot define exocentricity, since both Greek and Cypriot have many endocentric compounds displaying different features from those of their head. It is suggested that exocentricity might be an epiphenomenon of the order of application of the word-formation processes, according to which, when compounding and derivation co-occur within the same morphologically complex item, compounding precedes derivation. In contrast, a structure is endocentric if it contains only compounding, or involves derivation and compounding, in this particular order. Finally, the authors provide evidence that exocentric compounds may belong to the productive word-formation mechanism.

References

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