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Workshop1: Modelling compound properties - new approaches and new explanations



Sabine Arndt-Lappe (Düsseldorf),

Melanie J. Bell (Cambridge, UK),

Martin Schäfer (Jena),

Barbara Schlücker (Berlin / Konstanz),


Topic description:

In the study of linguistic morphology, a great deal of interest has been directed towards the properties of compounds. The term 'properties' is taken here to have wide scope, including all aspects of a compound's form and meaning as well as factors that influence compound processing, production or acquisition. Recent evidence of this interest can be seen, for example, in the publication of The Oxford Handbook of Compounding (Lieber & Štekauer 2009) as well as several other collected volumes, e.g., Gaeta & Grossmann (2009), Scalise & Vogel (2010), Gaeta & Schlücker (2012).

Much of the contemporary research is characterised by data-rich empirical work which has managed to shed new light on compound properties that have hitherto defied adequate description. This is especially true for semi-systematic and gradient properties including, for example, the selection of linking elements (Krott et al. 2007) and their phonetic realisation (Kuperman et al. 2007), speakers’ choice of particular morphological forms (Ramscar & Dye 2011, Schlücker & Plag 2011) and spelling variants (Kuperman & Bertram 2013), semantic patterns (Maguire et al. 2010) and semantic transparency (Bell & Schäfer 2013), compound comprehension (Gagne & Spalding 2014), stress placement (Arndt-Lappe 2011, Bell & Plag 2012) and the boundary between morphological compounds and syntactic phrases (Baroni et al. 2009, Bell 2012).

In such work, we see a variety of approaches employing large scale data sources, a number of experimental methods and a diversity of computational modelling techniques. Crucially, such approaches have not only been used as tools to provide adequate formal or mathematical representations of the data, but have also led to the development of new explanations of compound properties. Such explanatory factors include, for example, analogical reasoning (e.g. Krott et al. 2007, Arndt-Lappe 2011, Arndt-Lappe & Bell submitted), syntagmatic and paradigmatic informativity (e.g. Kuperman et al. 2007, Bell & Plag 2012), patterns of distribution across texts (e.g. Maguire et al. 2010, Ramscar & Dye 2011), and competition amongst possible semantic relations during compound processing (e.g. Spalding et al. 2010).

The aim of the workshop is to take stock of the variety of methods currently in use, to promote discussion of the explanatory aspects of the models produced and to evaluate their compatibility with one another. In particular, questions such as the following will be addressed:

  • To what extent is the proposed model compatible with theoretical accounts of the property or properties in question?
  • To what extent is the proposed model predictive? What are the predictions, and how could they be tested?
  • To what extent is the model assumed to reflect human linguistic competence and/or behaviour? What is the justification for any such assumption?
  • Do different compound properties require different types of models?
  • Do different types of data (spoken corpora, written corpora, experiments) lead to different models? If so, how can these differences be accounted for? 
  • Does the use of more data and more sophisticated modelling facilitate the description and understanding of compound properties that would otherwise be elusive?
  • Are there any quantitative corpus studies on the diachronic development of either particular compounding patterns or properties of one particular pattern?

Are there approaches that model possible influences of language contact on the development of particular compound patterns or properties?

We invite original contributions that use empirical methods to investigate compound properties and focus on explanatory aspects of the resulting models.



Arndt-Lappe, Sabine. 2011. Towards an exemplar-based model of stress in English noun-noun compounds. Jounal of Linguistics 47(11). 549–585.

Arndt-Lappe, Sabine & Melanie J. Bell. 2013. Submitted. An analogical theory of word-formation – rules, exceptions, and variability.

Baroni, Marco, Emiliano Guevara & Roberto Zamparelli. 2009. The dual nature of deverbal nominal constructions: Evidence from acceptability ratings and corpus analysis. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 5(1). 27–60.

Bell, Melanie J. 2012.The English noun-noun construct: a morphological and syntactic object. In On-line Proceedings of the Eighth Mediterranean Morphology Meeting (MMM8) Cagliari, 14-17 September 2011.

Bell, Melanie J. & Ingo Plag. 2012. Informativeness is a determinant of compound stress in English. Jounal of Linguistics 48. 485–520.

Bell, Melanie J. & Martin Schäfer. 2013. Semantic transparency: challenges for distributional semantics. In Aurelie Herbelot, Roberto Zamparelli & Gemma Boleda (eds.), Proceedings of the IWCS 2013 workshop: Towards a formal distributional semantics, 1–10. Potsdam: Association for Computational Linguistics.

Gaeta, Livio & Barbara Schlücker (eds.). 2012. Das Deutsche als kompositionsfreudige Sprache. Strukturelle Eigenschaften und systembezogene Aspekte. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Gaeta, Livio & Marina Grossmann (eds.). 2009. Italian Journal of Linguistics 21(1). Special issue on compounding.

Gagné, Christina L. & Thomas L. Spalding. 2014. Conceptual composition: The role of relational competition in the comprehension of modifier-noun phrases and noun-noun compounds. In Brian H. Ross (ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, vol. 59, 97–130. New York: Elsevier.

Krott, Andrea, Robert Schreuder, R. Harald Baayen & Wolfgang U. Dressler. 2007. Analogical effects on linking elements in German compound words. Language and Cognitive Processes 22(1). 25–57.

Kuperman, Victor & Raymond Bertram. 2013. Moving spaces: Spelling alternation in English noun-noun compounds. Language and Cognitive Processes 28(7). 939–966.

Kuperman, Victor, Mark Pluymaekers & Mirjam Ernestus. 2007. Morphological predictability and acoustic duration of interfixes in Dutch compounds. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 121. 2261–2271.

Lieber, Rochelle & Pavol Štekauer (eds.). 2009. The Oxford handbook of compounding. Oxford: OUP.

Maguire, Phil, Edward J. Wisniewski & Gert Storms. 2010. A corpus study of semantic patterns in compounding. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 6(1). 49–73.

Ramscar, Michael & Melody Dye. 2011. Learning language from input: Why innate constraints can't explain noun compounding. Cognitive Psychology 62. 1–40.

Scalise, Sergio & Irene Vogel (eds.). 2010. Cross-disciplinary issues in compounding. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Schlücker, Barbara & Ingo Plag. 2011. Compound or phrase? Analogy in naming. Lingua 121. 1539–1551.

Spalding, Thomas L., Christina L. Gagné, Allison C. Mullaly & Hongbo Ji. 2010. Relation-based interpretations of noun–noun phrases: A new theoretical approach. In Susan Olsen (ed.), New impulses in word-formation (Linguistische Berichte Sonderheft 17), 283–315. Hamburg: Buske.