Niederländische Sprachwissenschaft Veranstaltungen am Arbeitsbereich Niederländische Sprachwissenschaft

Workshop on Naming Strategies

The Distinction between Morphology and Syntax

It is widely assumed in morphological theory that word formation is a device for creating names whereas the function of syntax is to describe entities. Compounds, being part of word formation, are often thought to have a classificatory meaning and therefore a naming function (e.g. Jespersen 1942, Zimmer 1971, Bauer 1988). However, it is by no means the case that all entities that we might like to name are denoted by a compound, because there are many syntactic constructions which obviously function as names. The focus of this workshop is on compounds and corresponding syntactic constructions with regard to the naming function.

The Typological Perspective

In Germanic languages like German and Dutch formal compounds may be identified through criteria such as word stress, typography, and, in the case of A+N-phrases, inflection of the adjective, so that compounds can be clearly distinguished from phrases. However, in the case of English these criteria do not yield a clear-cut difference between syntactic constructions and compounds (cf. Bauer 1998, Giegerich 2004). Moreover, English seems to have an affinity with Romance languages in a productive N-of-N lexical formation pattern, e.g. weapons of mass destruction as against the much rarer mass destruction weapons (see Klinge 2006). Another example is that of lexicalized A+N-phrases in Dutch and German which block regular A+N-compounding (e.g. wilde Ehe vs. *Wildehe, ‘concubinage’). With regard to Romance languages, the N-de-N construction constitutes by far the most productive naming strategy. However, it still remains an open question how it is possible to distinguish a category of morphological N-de-N constructions from a category of syntactic N-de-N constructions. So is there a universal way to distinguish between naming through compounds and describing through syntactic constructions?

The Issues

The aim of our workshop is to discuss these aspects in a contrastive perspective as we believe that comparing and contrasting languages can help to shed new light on the classification and explanation of the forms of different naming strategies in different languages. We therefore invite papers which address issues such as: What is the difference between naming and describing things? What factors determine realization patterns? How do naming strategies develop over time? And what are the factors that have a bearing on the development? Are new insights available from a contrastive perspective?


  • Bauer, Laurie (1988): Introducing Linguistic Morphology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Bauer, Laurie (1998): When is a sequence of two nouns a compound in English? English Language and Linguistics. CUP: 65-86.
  • Giegerich, Heinz J. (2004): „Compound or phrase? English noun-plus-noun constructions and the stress criterion.“ English Language and Linguistics 8/1: 1-24.
  • Jespersen, Otto (1942): A Modern English Grammar. Part VI, Morphology. Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard.
  • Klinge, Alex (2006): „The Origin of Weapons of Mass Destructions“. In: H. Nølke et al. (eds.), Grammatica. Festschrift in honour of Michael Herslund. Berlin etc., Peter Lang, 233-248.
  • Zimmer, Karl E. (1971): „Some general observations about nominal compounds“. Working Papers on Language Universals, Stanford University, 5, C1-C21.