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Synthetic compounds

Despite its name, synthetic compounding does not belong to the common type of compounding and it could even be questioned whether it belongs to compounding at all. Rather, it shows features of both composition and derivation; nevertheless it seems to be a process of its own in that compounding and derivation are applied simultaneously.

In contrast to ordinary compounding and derivation, the formations built up by synthetic compounding do not consist of two but mostly of three elements. Two are free morphemes, and one is a bound morpheme. In other words, two may exist as separate words and one is an affix, in Frisian a suffix. The order of the elements is therefore word-word-suffix.

At first sight, this does not have to be a problem. Take the three elements fracht freight, skip ship and the suffix -er, which together may form the word frachtskipper. Two solutions are possible here. Either this is a derivation of the compound frachtskip freight-ship cargo ship, to which the suffix -er is added. We then get the structure [[fracht](N)[skip](N)]er, semantically someone whose occupation is with a cargo ship. Or we first take the second and third element together, hence build the derivation skipper ship-SUFF, and as a follow-up we compound this noun with the noun fracht. We then get the structure [fracht](N)[[[skip](N)]er](N), in other words, a skipper whose occupation has to do with freight. Both structures are legitimate manifestations of the usual binary character of word formation.

However, synthetic compounding works differently. An example is tsientonner ten-ton-SUFF truck which can load ten tons. This set of three can not be split up. That is, a compound *tsienton ten-ton does not exist, nor does the derivation *tonner ton-SUFF. Hence, it would be reasonable to assume that we rather have a derivation of a phrase or even a semantic concept here. In the case of tsientonner a phrase is quite conceivable as the phrase tsien ton ten ton ten tons can readily be formed. However, such a solution is not always available. With respect to the synthetic compound readkleurich red-colour-SUFF red coloured, no direct derivation from a phrase *read kleur is possible, since the adjective read red has to be inflected, in this case to reade kleur red-INFL colour red colour. This example indicates that the real existence of a putative constituting word can not be the one and only criterion. Frisian does have a word kleurich colourful, but this has a different semantics from what is meant in readkleurich, as this combination does not mean 'colourful by being red' but rather 'having a red colour'. All in all, it must be concluded that for some complex words a ternary analysis is more appropriate than the common binary one, although there may also be cases for which a derivation from a phrasal base might be a good alternative.

It appears that synthetic compounding can generate nouns and, in particular, adjectives. It could certainly be argued that adverbial synthetic compounds exist as well. An example is binnenmûls inside-mouth-SUFF, as in binnenmûls prate to mumble. For expository reasons, such adverbial formations have been dealt with under adverbial suffixations with a phrase as base. Verbal synthetic compounds are lacking, which might be in accordance with the fact that in deriving verbs suffixation is also relatively marginal, at least when compared to the derivation of nouns and adjectives.

As is the case in the exposition in the other parts on Frisian morphology in Taalportaal, a first division is made according to the output category. Therefore, to obtain more information, the user should first make a choice between nominal synthetic compounds and adjectival synthetic compounds. To do justice to the analysis that synthetic compounding is a simultaneous process, the lower hierarchy is divided according to the pattern of the synthetic compound, i.e. it consists of a specification of the lexical categories of the two constituting free morphemes plus a mention of the suffix. In this way, we can come across a heading like Num+N+ich, which indicates a pattern consisting of a numeral, a noun and the suffix -ich, as for instance in the adjective twatalich two-language-SUFF bilingual.


More details on synthetic compounds can be found by following the corresponding links to

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