Latin synthetic compounding and Distributed Morphology

Renato Oniga (Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature, Comunicazione, Formazione e Società, Università degli Studi di Udine)


The theory of Distributed Morphology (DM) has been applied to English synthetic compounds by Harley (2009), who proposes an analysis as incorporation structures. After a short introduction on the passage from lexicalism to DM in Latin morphology (par. 1), I will try to extend Haley’s analysis to Latin synthetic compounds, suggesting some revisions (par. 2). In the first place, I will argue for the necessity to introduce verbal features in the structure of a compound like agricola, in order to explain the special meanings associated to the root √COL, that is the fact that the verbal head introduces a dynamic event, and that the nominalized root √AGR is interpreted as undergoing a change of state (par. 3). This suggestion is confirmed by comparing the structures of verb phrases, e.g. colere agrum, noun phrases with nominal derivatives, e.g. cultor agri, and synthetic compounds, e.g. agricola, where the crucial observation is that in Latin, unlike English, there is no overt agentive suffix in the compound, such as -er in taxi driver: in Latin synthetic compounds we do not find the typical agentive suffix -tor (par. 4). I will conclude with some general observations on the relationships between morphology and syntax (par. 5).

DOI: 10.4424/lam92020-9


Morphological theory; Word formation; Latin; Synthetic compounds; Distributed morphology.

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