Tom Givon tgivon at
Sun Mar 20 23:31:05 UTC 2011

Maybe it would be useful to add that among all the pieces of quaint 
exemplars lie some general principles that have to do with both the 
semantic & phonological changes that affect compound expressions. Once 
the two parts co-vary in all (or most) contexts, and once the meaning of 
the compound drifts away from the original composite meaning of the two 
parts, there is a growing semantic incentive to cease interpreting it as 
a composite, given that the predictability of the compound meaning from 
its parts gets lower & lower over time. In parallel, once two 
phonological sequences becomes fused as a single word, assimilation & 
reduction make the similarity to the two original parts less & less 
obvious. This is a typical "iconic conspiracy" in compounding & 
co-lexicalization. Ther rest is, as usual, history.  TG


On 3/20/2011 4:53 PM, dharv at wrote:
> I can attest that even in the aircraft industry plenty of people don't 
> realize that helicopter means helical or twisting wing.
> At 3:45 PM -0600 20/3/11, Sherman Wilcox wrote:
>> On 20 Mar 2011, at 15:26, Pamela Munro wrote:
>>> The first time the observation about the analyzability of /rooster/ 
>>> was made here, I thought, sure, I know the ending -/ster/, but what 
>>> is /roo/?
>> I routinely ask my students to analyze helicopter. No one can. 
>> Everyone thinks the word has an -/er/ suffix. Some of them come up 
>> with /heli-/ having to do with the sun, but then they can't figure 
>> out what the sun has to do with helicopters, or what -/copt/- might 
>> mean. Something that chops the sun's rays?
>> -- 
>> Sherman Wilcox, Professor
>> Department of Linguistics
>> University of New Mexico
>> Albuquerque, NM 871131

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