[Lingtyp] Analyzability and compositionality

Bohnemeyer, Juergen jb77 at buffalo.edu
Tue Dec 31 20:15:24 EST 2019

Bill, I wonder whether ‘analyzability’ could be defined in terms of the ability to reconstruct the cognitive processes involved in the meaning of an expression. In the case of _laptop_, that would be mereology plus metonymy. The expression is relatively unique with this particular combination and in this sense not compositional, yet it is still etymologically transparent. In contrast, the etymology of _red herring_ involves a metaphor, but the target domain of this metaphor cannot be reconstructed without reference to historical events and practices (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring#History_of_the_idiom). In that sense, it would be not entirely non-analyzable, but less analyzable than _laptop_, although both are idioms in the sense that their meanings aren’t fully derivable from their constituents and the constructional schema that licenses the combination. 

A related potentially useful distinction comes from the ethnobiological literature. Berlin (1992: 27-28) proposes the following classification of taxon labels: 

* 'Secondary’ terms are complex, with a head that names the superordinate taxon, such that the term forms a contrast set with its cohyponyms (e.g., _sugar maple_, _red oak_, _fox terrier_, _large-mouthed bass_, _Stellar’s jay_).

* ‘Productive complex primary terms’ involve a head that names the superordinate taxon, but in the absence of a contrast set with cohyponyms (e.g., _catfish_, _bullfrog_, _bluebird_).

* ‘Unproductive complex primary terms’ lack a headed structure such that the head lexicalizes the superordinate taxon (e.g., _prairie dog_, _silverfish_, _buckeye_).

* Finally, there are of course monomorphic terms. 

In the terms of the present thread, we then get something like this (with the boundaries understood to be fuzzy):

Compositional		   |								Non-compositional

Secondary		Productive 		Unproductive		Simplex

Analyzable							|			Unanalyzable

Berlin, B. (1992). Ethnobiological classification. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Best — Juergen (Happy New Year, everyone!)

> On Dec 31, 2019, at 12:10 PM, William Croft <wcroft at unm.edu> wrote:
> Sorry, I meant “semantically analyzable”, the sense of analyzability that is probably most common in cognitive linguistics. Of course we can talk about analyzability (and degrees of analyzability, à la Bybee) in morphology and syntax.
> Bill
>> On Dec 31, 2019, at 8:57 AM, Daniel Ross <djross3 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>   UNM-IT Warning: This message was sent from outside of the LoboMail system. Do not click on links or open attachments unless you are sure the content is safe. (2.3)
>> Dear Christian et al,
>> Why is "red herring" not in any way analyzable? As a native speaker, it feels like it has parts, although it is certainly not compositional. As speakers we know how to pluralize it, and for example in a language with noun-adjective agreement that would apply consistently, including when pluralized. It seems to me this would have the same status as idioms, which also have parts (e.g. "kick the bucket" has a past tense "kicked the bucket"). Of course my observation may just be that there is a very wide range of possible types of "analysis".
>> Daniel
>> On Tue, Dec 31, 2019 at 7:53 AM Christian Lehmann <christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de> wrote:
>> As more examples of forms that are analyzable but not compositional, consider such series as conceive, perceive, receive, deceive and compare them with compel, repel and many more of this kind. It appears that morphological analysis has to reckon with forms that are analyzable by methodological principles (of distribution, analogy etc.) without any requirement of "recurrent form-meaning pairings".
>> Best,
>> Christian
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Juergen Bohnemeyer (He/Him)
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University at Buffalo 

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