Vol. 8:1 (2013) ► pp.53–74
Plurals as modifiers in Dutch and English noun-noun compounds express plurality in production
The present study investigates the relation between conceptual plurality and the occurrence of a plural morpheme in novel Dutch and English noun-noun compounds. Using a picture-naming task, we compared the naming responses of native Dutch speakers and native English speakers to pictures depicting either one or multiple instances of the same object serving as a possible modifier in a novel noun-noun compound. While the speakers of both languages most frequently produced novel compounds containing a singular modifier, they also used compounds containing a plural modifier and did this more often to describe a picture with several instances of an object than to describe a picture with one instance of the object. Speakers of English incorporated some regular plurals into the noun-noun compounds they produced. These results contradict the words-and-rules theory of Pinker (1999) and also the semantic constraints for compounding put forth by Alegre and Gordon (1996). Interestingly, it appears, however, that the acceptability constraints put forth by Haskell, MacDonald, and Seidenberg (2003) apply to the production of compounds.
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