At the boundary of morphology and syntax

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A widely held view of noun noun constructions (NNs) in English is that some are compound nouns while others are noun phrases (e.g. Quirk et al. 1985: 1332, Biber et al. 1999: 589, Giegerich 2004). This chapter shows that a syntactic analysis of NNs necessitates the postulation of a cross linguistically exceptional phrase type, whereas a morphological analysis requires only the normal West Germanic processes of word formation. It therefore argues with Levi (1978: 66–74) and Olsen (2000), that these constructions are all compound words. The criteria of stress and lexical integrity, sometimes taken to indicate a dual origin, are shown to be unreliable. Furthermore, the analysis proposed here is in keeping with recent work by Plag et al. (2007, 2008) and Lappe & Plag (2007), who argue that stress is assigned to NNs on the basis of analogy with previously experienced forms.


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