The cohesiveness of English and German compounds
This paper compares the cohesiveness of English and German compounds. Cohesiveness is understood as the extent to which two given elements are integrated into a larger structural unit. The null hypothesis according to which the compounds in the two languages are equicohesive is rejected on the strength of an extended quantitative analysis. The results of ten empirical tests are consistent with the hypothesis that English compounds are less cohesive than their German counterparts. As the degree of cohesion is inversely related to the position of a given unit in the linguistic hierarchy, English compounds are argued to be more phrase-like, whereas German compounds are more word-like. German imposes more rigorous constraints on compounding than English. Thus, the prototypical categories of English and German compounds differ in terms of their formal content. Since compounds are essentially words, two somewhat disparate definitions of word prevail in the two languages. Following up on an idea put forward by Klinge (2009), the cross-linguistic difference emanates from the varying importance of inflectional morphology in the two languages. Cohesiveness is supposedly a level-specific rather than a language-wide factor.
Keywords: prototypes, cohesiveness, definition of word, morphology/syntax interface, content of categories, contrastive linguistics
Published online: 08 June 2012
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