THE MORPHOSYNTAX OF NEOCLASSICAL AND STEM-BASED COMPOUNDS

1 Jul

Seguimos publicando los proyectos que se presentaron en el Encuentro de Morfólogos celebrado en la Universidad de Cádiz entre el 16 y el 18 de mayo de este año. Hoy le toca el turno a un proyecto desarrollado por nuestro colega Vitor Augusto Nóbrega, de la Universidad de São Paulo. Aprovechamos para animaros a enviarnos los datos de vuestros proyectos a quienes aún no nos los habéis hecho llegar.

THE MORPHOSYNTAX OF NEOCLASSICAL AND STEM-BASED COMPOUNDS

1. Título del proyecto: Neoclassical Compounds: characterization and combination in a syntactic approach to morphology.

2. Filiación y composición del equipo: Vitor Augusto Nóbrega, Universidade de São Paulo – USP – Brazil.

3. Duración y entidad financiadora: 07/2012–08/2014; Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – CNPq.

4. Objetivos: This research project aims at investigating a set of morphologically complex words built with at least one bound stem of classical origin (i.e., Ancient Greek or Latin, normally referred as neoclassical compounds), such as oftamologista ‘ophthalmologist’, neuropsicólogo ‘neuropsychologist’, agronegócio ‘agribusiness’ e hidroginástica ‘gym in water’, ascertaining how these formations could be explained in a non-lexicalist approach to morphology.  For this, we make use of Distributed Morphology framework (see Halle & Marantz 1993, 1994), which assumes the syntax is the only generative component of the grammar, responsible for deriving words as well as phrases, to examine to what extent a non-lexicalist model could reveal about non-native vs. native and bound vs. free elements, based on the knowledge the speakers show about them.

5. Resultados parciales o finales: To explore the morphosyntax of neoclassical compounds in Brazilian Portuguese, in order to suggest a morphosyntactic explanation to these formations, we associated them with languages that have stem-based compounds, such as Modern Greek (e.g., mavr-o-aspros ‘black and white’, domat-o-salata ‘tomato salad’) and Russian (e.g., nov-o-strojka ‘new building’, kof-e-varka ‘coffee machine’), to propose that it is the formal structure of this kind of compounding that allows the insertion of linking elements between the stems. Furthermore, we investigated the impossibility of attaching inflectional or derivational morphemes in these compound first constituents, and its influence in the compound structure, which lead us to assume that these compounds have just one category-defining head.

Our proposal was grounded on the initial hypothesis that neoclassical word formation process is integrated into Brazilian Portuguese morphological system, although its formants are loanwords from classical languages. This assumption found evidences in the great amount of new coined words attested in neologisms mapping databases, reflecting the fact they are productive and active for new formations (e.g., fotodepilação ‘photoepilation’, biodegradável ‘biodegradable’, autobiofotografia ‘#autobiophotography’, agroecologia ‘agroecology’, neurocomputador ‘#neurocomputer’, eletroacupuntura ‘electroacupunture’, ecosocialismo ‘ecosocialism’).

As a partial result, we could assume that neoclassical compounds and stem-based compounds can be seen as closely linked, due to their various structural similarities. The data explored shows that it is not obvious if there is a category-defining head in the compound first constituent, causing the whole structure to be categorized by a single categorial head.  The linking element present in this type of compounding does not have any semantic information in the languages under study (see Ralli 2009, for Modern Greek; Perkles 2008, for Russian), being strictly inserted in order to satisfy a phonological requirement.

Formally, our first analysis suggests that, in Distributed Morphology (DM), Roots (in DM terms) are combined by means of a functional head to give rise to a compound, that besides connecting the Roots also carries semantic information, such as SORT, AND, OR, IN or WITH, following Di Sciullo’s (2005, 2009) proposal. For neoclassical and stem-based compounds, this functional head is phonologically empty, and when the structure is linearized at PF, the pruning of the functional head triggers the linking element insertion between the roots, since they will be linear adjacent, receiving then a linking element inserted by language-specific rules.

THE MORPHOSYNTAX OF NEOCLASSICAL AND STEM-BASED COMPOUNDS

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