Chapter published in:Compound Words in Spanish: Theory and history
María Irene Moyna
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 316] 2011
► pp. 197–218
Chapter 7. Exocentric patterns
Cuajaleche, mil leches
In all the patterns presented so far, one of the two compound constituents can be identified as the head, from which the compound inherits its syntactic properties and often also its semantic specifications. However, it is also true that in most compound classes seen so far, a subset of tokens ‘jump’ grammatical category, exhibiting distributional properties incompatible with those of the head constituent. In those cases, the resulting compound is said to be exocentric. In Spanish this conversion process can lead to the recategorization of any compound as a nominal (bienestar ‘welfare’, lit. ‘well-be’, subibaja ‘see-saw’, lit. ‘go up-go down’), or of nominal compounds as adjectives (muy cararrota ‘very cheeky’, lit. ‘very face-broken’). In addition to these sporadic examples of exocentricity, some productive and stable compound patterns of Spanish are always exocentric, i.e., neither of their constituents is ever the head of the compound. In all cases of exocentric patterns, the resulting compound is a noun. Consequently, rather than proposing ad hoc conversion for each compounded token, it is more theoretically sound to incorporate the process of conversion or ø-derivation into the pattern itself. In Chapter 2, Section 188.8.131.52, it was proposed that the first merge operation between constituents is followed by a second merge with an empty (unpronounced) head, which corresponds to the WCM and is responsible for the conversion of the compound. In Spanish the two most common exocentric compounding patterns are [V + N]N and, to a much lesser extent, [Q + N]N compounds (Table 7.1). Each one of them will be considered separately.