By Andries W. Coetzee
Nov 24, 2012
Mike Opper, a third year graduate student in our Department, will present some of the preliminary results of his QRP research in Phondi this Friday. For his QRP, Mike is investigating the formation of so-called "compound trunctions" in English ("sitcom" from "situational comedy", "scifi" from "science fiction"). This word formation process is very productive, and hence well-described in some languages such as Japanese and Chinese (our very own San Duanmu and Yan Dong have explored the intricacies of this process in Chinese). In English, however, this word formation process is relatively unproductive and remains virtually unstudied. Mike's QRP represents one of the first comprehensive descriptions of this phenomenon in English. More information about Mike's presentation, including a title and an abstract, follows below.
When: Friday, November 30, 1 pm
Where: Lorch Hall 473
Understanding English Compound Truncation
Compound Truncation is a word-formation process in which both members of a compound word are truncated. Words formed by this process are called “truncated compounds” and an English example is sitcom > situational comedy. Compound Truncation is very productive in several languages and a substantial amount of research has investigated this process in Japanese through the lens of Prosodic Morphology (Ito & Mester 1992/2003, Nishihara, van de Weijer & Nanjo 2001). Unlike Japanese, however, this process is not used very often in English. Previous research on English word-formation processes (specifically Marchand 1966, Aronoff 1976, Bauer 1982, Plag 2003, Lappe 2007) has not included an account for Compound Truncation. Due to the infrequent usage of this process, there are relatively few examples of truncated compounds in typical English dictionaries and lexical corpora. Therefore, we have conducted an experiment to produce a large database of English truncated compounds.
Our experiment recruited over 100 native speakers of English who were each asked to form several hundred truncated compounds out of [N N] compounds; these stimuli were generated by a semi-random process from the CELEX lexicon of English (Baayen et. al 1995). The truncated compounds formed by our participants suggest that each of the two constituent parts of an English truncated compound is formed independently -- i.e. each is its own truncation. This entails that both constituents of these compounds are therefore subject to the prosodic requirements of English truncation; specifically, each constituent must end on a heavy syllable. Aside from satisfying this requirement, truncations in English are subject to variation in total number of syllables and truncation-final rhyme structure. This study addresses four questions regarding this variation. First, does stress (primary and/or secondary) of the base word play a role in determining the length of its truncation? Second, does the length of one constituent in truncated compounds influence the length of the other constituent? Third, do English speakers prefer truncations to end on open syllables or closed syllables? Fourth, if a sequence of two consonants is available to be included in the coda of a potential truncation, do English speakers prefer to maximize that coda by including both consonants? Our database of English truncated compounds allow for quantitative analyses of these questions.