Created 10.09.2015 by Rhonda Boyer
Compound words are formed by joining two or more free morphemes to create a new word. Compounds occur in three different forms: two or more free morphemes “pushed” together to form the new word also referred to as solid form, two or more free morphemes hyphenated to form the new word also referred to as hyphenated form, or two or more free morphemes written as distinct words with meaning derived by consideration of both words within the context of their usage also referred to as open form (Curzan 110-111; McArthur).
Push 2 or more free morphemes together to form a new word.
Connect 2 or more free morphemes with a hyphen to form a new word.
Place 2 or more free morphemes next to each other with an understood meaning based on context to form a new word.
The Anglo-Saxon poet unlocked his poetic muse, or wordhord (word + hord) from Old English meaning word hoard to sing about the human condition. Old English also provided insight to their understanding of the physical body in the compound banhus (bone-house) and the spiritual body in the compound sawolhus (soul-house) (Curzan 111).
Shakespeare's Use of Solid Compound Words
They bore him barefaced on the bier,
Hey, non nonny, nonny, hey, nonny,
And in his grave rained many a tear.
Fare you well, my dove.
HOTSPUR: Three times they breathed and three times did they drink,
Upon agreement, of swift Severn’s flood;
Who, then, affrighted with their bloody looks,
Ran fearfully among the trembling reeds,
And his his crisp head in the hollow bank,
Bloodstained with these valiant combatants.
Compounds may also be created by two or more free morphemes written as separate side-by-side words with the meaning derived by consideration of both words within the context of their usage. Examples include bean bag (a piece of furniture as opposed to a bag used for beans) and photo bomb (a picture that is spoiled as opposed to an exploding photograph or photograph of a bomb).
INFLUENCES ON ENGLISH COMPOUNDS
Greek and Latin
Classical compounds are in solid form and joined by vowels. Examples include the -i- of Latin agricultura and the -o- of Greek biographia, which became the English words agriculture and biography.
Vernacular compounds are either solid, open, or hyphenated forms. Most English compounds follow one of these forms. Vernacular compounds are considered "the compound proper" (McArthur).
Less common are compounds joined by prepositions. Examples include pomme de terre ('apple of earth' or potato) and arc-en-ciel ('arch in sky' or rainbow). In English, examples include commander-in-chief and jack-o'-latern. Hyphenation is not a rule.
Greek and Latin
Dr. Seuss' Use of Multiple Compounds
Read the following passage from Dr. Seuss' Fox in Socks (1965), paying attention to where stress is emphasized:
What do you know about tweetle beetles? Well…
When tweetle beetles fight, it's called a tweetle beetle battle.
And when they battle in a puddle, it's a tweetle beetle puddle battle.
AND when tweetle beetles battle with paddles in a puddle, they call it a tweetle beetle puddle paddle battle.
AND when beetles battle beetles in a puddle paddle battle and the beetle battle puddle is a puddle in a bottle …
they call this a tweetle beetle bottle puddle paddle battle muddle.
BEYOND COMPOUNDS: BLENDS
Reminds me of Joan Jett’s musical rendition, “I love rock ‘n’ roll, so put another dime in the jukebox, baby” decades later (Merrill 1982).
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