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Morphology

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 109–131 | Cite as

Verb-noun compounds in Italian from the 16th century onwards: an increasing exploitation of an available word-formation pattern

  • Pavel ŠtichauerEmail author
Article
  • 233 Downloads

Abstract

Verb-noun compounds are typically considered to be one of the most important innovations in the domain of Romance word-formation (cf. Bauer 2011, among many others). This morphological innovation can also be seen as part of a general tendency in Romance languages to prefer head-initial structures across different levels of the language system (cf., e.g., Ledgeway 2012: 225). However, the question of the productivity of VN compounds arises immediately as there is evidence that the pattern has become extremely productive only recently. This paper investigates the question of the productivity of the VN compounds starting out with a distinction between availability of a word-formation pattern and its profitability (cf., e.g., Bauer 2001). This article shows that the structural presence—availability—of VN compounding seems to be diachronically constant, but that the quantitative exploitation of the pattern—its profitability—turns out to be a recent phenomenon. Following recent research on compounding in Spanish (Moyna 2011) and French (Rosenberg 2007, 2008, 2011), this paper takes one concrete example of the Italian VN compounds and proceeds to show its diachronic evolution from the 16th to the 19th century on the basis of data drawn from diachronic corpora as well as from major historical dictionaries. It demonstrates that the “dramatic increase” alluded to by Bauer (2011: 543) is not to be taken as a sign of a new structural innovation, but rather as a fortuitous exploitation of a well-settled word-formation pattern.

Keywords

Word-formation Italian Verb-noun compounds Productivity Diachrony 16th–19th centuries 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study is part of a larger project, Word-formation in Italian from the 16th to the 20th century, funded by GAČR (Czech Science Foundation), n. P406/12/0450. Versions of this paper were read at two conferences (9th Mediterranean Morphology Meeting in Dubrovnik, September 2013; 16th International Morphology Meeting in Budapest, May 2014) and presented as a seminar paper within the seminars organised by the Research Centre for Romance Linguistics at the University of Oxford, in October 2014. I am very grateful to Martin Maiden, J.C. Smith, Xavièr Bach, Davide Ricca, Antonietta Bisetto, Maria Rosenberg, Francesco Maria Ciconte, Jan Radimský and, last but not least, to the editors of this special issue for important comments and stylistic improvements they made, at different moments, on earlier versions of this paper. I also wish to express my gratitude to two anonymous reviewers for their critical, but very helpful and constructive comments on the first version of the paper. Any remaining errors and infelicities are my own responsibility.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts, Charles University in PragueInstitute of Romance StudiesPrague 1Czech Republic

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