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Auteur: Janet DECESARIS

Delimiting noun-noun compounds in Spanish

Abstract/Résumé: Noun-noun sequences in Spanish such as "hombre rana" 'frogman' and "problema clave" 'key problem' have long posed difficulties for researchers working on Spanish morphology and consequently have been analyzed in conflicting ways. Researchers are divided as to whether these constructions are morphological compounds (Rainer & Varela 1992), lexicalized phrases (Buenafuentes de la Mata 2007) or syntactic appositional phrases (García-Page 2011). These N+N sequences are the subject of extensive discussion in Spanish Royal Academy's 2009 grammar, which treats the forms as compounds and not as syntactic appositions. Although many claim that this compound structure is a relatively recent phenomenon in Spanish, Moyna (2011) convincingly shows that there have been compounds of this type in Spanish since the 13th century. These compounds would be classified as attributive in the Bisetto-Scalise (2005) classification, but other classifications have been applied to compounds in Spanish as well. Moyna (2011), in an extensive study of the historical development of compounding in Spanish, states that compounds are either hierarchical or concatenative; the compounds under consideration here are hierarchical and identificational in her classification. The great majority of N+N compounds are endocentric. In our paper, we will briefly review the different approaches to N+N compounds and will attempt to delimit the class of "syntagmatic compounds". An interesting question about these compounds that has received relatively little discussion in the literature is the nature of the semantic relationship between the two nouns. Lieber (2004, 2009, 2010) has proposed a framework to account for the semantic structure of English compounds, and we will explore applying her framework to Spanish. Finally, an interesting aspect of N+N compounds in Spanish is how they are represented in dictionaries. We show that current large-scale dictionaries treat these sequences in several different ways.