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Auteur: Rochelle LIEBER

Compounding and lexical semantics

Abstract/Résumé: In this talk I will first outline the mechanisms by which the semantic representations compounds of various types are constructed in the framework of Lieber (2004, 2009, 2010), including subordinative, coordinative, and attributive types. I will then concentrate on subordinative compounds in English whose second members are event or result nominalizations (for example, forms in ation, ment, and al), as opposed to personal nominalizations (for example forms in er), which tend to be more frequently discussed in the context of subordinate or synthetic compounds. I observed in Lieber (2010) that it is possible for such compounds to have either a subject-oriented (smallpox infection) or an object-oriented interpretation (fish inspection); although the latter is found more frequently, the former kind of interpretation is found in a significant number of cases, contrary to the claims of earlier literature (e.g. Selkirk 1982). In this talk, I will explore the conditions that make subject-oriented interpretations possible, but make them less likely to occur, and argue that the lexical semantic framework of Lieber (2004, 2009, 2010) provides the means for explaining the distribution of the forms. Using a corpus of compounds whose second elements are nominalizations in ation, ment, and –al, I will consider factors such as verbal diathesis and semantic type of base verb and initial noun that influence the interpretative possibilities of such compounds. The result is a far more nuanced picture of compound interpretation than is available in other frameworks.