Morphology and its interfaces: Syntax, semantics and the lexicon
  • ISSN 0378-4169
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9927
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In this paper, we present a contrastive survey of a morpheme originally meaning ‘giant’ in German and Swedish. In both languages, this morpheme has developed into a prefixoid with simile or intensifying meaning. More recently, these prefixoids have been shown to occur as free morphemes as well, and it is the purpose of this paper to explore whether a quantitative analysis of synchronic corpus data can be used to determine whether the free forms are spelling variants, or whether they are truly new constructions that are the result of debonding. Drawing data from the COW corpus of contemporary web text, we compare bound and free forms on the levels of R1 collocations, semantic bleaching, and productivity. Our analysis suggests that the German prefixoid has undergone debonding, whereas the Swedish free forms are mere spelling variants.


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