[Lingtyp] words, bound forms, welded forms

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Wed Jan 23 12:42:47 UTC 2019

Dear typologists,

In the discussion of words, affixes, and polysynthesis, the notion of 
forms being "bound" occurs again and again, and in the discussion of 
agglutination, people often talk about complex words being "fused" (or 
not fused). In order to make headway, I feel that we as linguists should 
make clear how we use terms like "attached", "bound", and "fused".

In my own work, I have been using the term "bound" in the 
well-established Bloomfield-Zwicky sense (= unable to occur in 
isolation), but some people have relied on a notion of "phonologically 
bound" in discussions of wordhood. I think it's better not to use 
"bound" in two different senses, so I would like to propose the new term 
"welded" for the phonological sense. In the short text below, I define 
(and discuss the relation between) the terms "bound" and "welded".

Since I don't know the literature on phonological wordhood (since 
Roussel 1922) as well as some others on this list evidently know it, my 
specific question is: Is there a prominent place in the literature where 
the notion "phonologically bound" has been introduced or defined? (If 
so, I may rethink my terminological proposals.)

The general question is: Are there better alternatives to what I am 

Many thanks,


*Bound forms and welded forms: Two basic concepts of grammar

*(possible future blogpost)*

Linguists often try to characterize affixes in terms of a notion of 
"*boundness*", as in this passage of the Wikipedia article "affix":

/Lexical affixes/are bound elements that appear as affixes, but function 
as incorporated nouns 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporated_noun>within verbs

But what exactly is meant by "bound"? Is it just a synonym of "attached" 
(as in Wikipedia's definition of affix: "an affix is a morpheme 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpheme>that is attached to a word stem 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_%28linguistics%29>to form a new word 
or word form"), and are both terms just informal ways of saying that an 
affix *occurs together* with a stem?

But if so, what is the difference between an affix occurring together 
with a stem, and *a verb occurring together with an object nominal*? 
Linguists don't normally say that objects are bound to their verbs, but 
in what sense is an affix bound but an object nominal is not bound?

This seems like a very basic question, but linguists do not have 
consistent answers to this question. The first answer they give often 
involves the notion of *"word"*, but linguists have not found a general 
way of identifying words across languages (as I noted in a 2011 
article). If at all, words can be characterized in terms of a more basic 
concept such as "bound", it seems, not the other way round.

So here I would like to make a proposal how to use the term *"bound",* 
which also involves the introduction of a new term *"welded"*. 
Basically, I propose that *a bound form is one that cannot occur in 
isolation, *while *a welded form is one that shows segmental 
phonological interaction *with its neighbour.

For example, the English preposition /from/, the possessive pronoun 
/my/, and the definite article /the/ are bound forms. Consider the 
following contrasts:

(1) a.The dog went through the fence.

b.The dog went through.

c.The cat jumped from the table.

d.*The cat jumped from.

(2)a.I saw Kim's bike.

b.I saw Kim's.

c.She found my umbrella.

d.*She found my.

(3)a.We like those caps.

b.We like those.

c.He bought the cap.

d.*He bought the. ('He bought it.')

Of course, most forms that are written as affixes are also bound, but as 
the examples (1)-(3) show, not all forms that are written separately are 
*free* in the sense that they can occur on their own.

This meaning of the term /bound/ goes back to Bloomfield (1933), and it 
has become particularly well-known through Arnold Zwicky's work on 
clitics. Zwicky's famous (1977) paper distinguishes three classes of 
elements: simple clitics, special clitics, and *bound words*. The most 
widely cited paper that proposes criteria for distinguishing between 
clitics and affxes, Zwicky & Pullum (1983), begins as follows:

"Two types of bound morphemes are found attached to (free) words in many 
languages: clitics and affixes"

Affixes are always thought of as parts of words, while clitics are 
generally thought of as words. Thus, the notion of boundness cross-cuts 
the distinction between words and parts of words.

In the discussions about wordhood that I often have with fellow 
grammarians, they often mention *phonological interaction*: Some 
elements interact phonologically with their neighbours, while others 
don't. Some contrasts are given in (4)-(6). I propose to say that the 
forms in (b) are *welded*, while those in (a) are not.

(4)a.my pear / my apple

b.a pear / an apple

(5)a.Germanfilm-te/ golf-te

b.Englishfilm-ed [-d] / golf-ed [-t]

(6)a.good / good-ness

b.mortal [-?l] / mortal-ity [-æl-iti]

In (4)-(5), we see that some (but not all) of the bound forms have 
different phonological variants depending on phonological properties of 
their host, and in (6b), we see that the host can have different 
phonological variants depending on whether it combines with a bound form 
or not. A bound form is *welded* to its host if it shows different 
variants depending on the shape of the host or if the host shows 
different variants depending on the shape of the bound form.

So clearly, *boundness* and *weldedness* are different properties of 
linguistic form: A form may be bound but not welded (e.g. English /my/, 
-/ness/, German -/te/), or a form may be both bound and welded (e.g. 
English /a/an/, -/ed/ [-t/-d]).

Can a form be *welded but not bound*? No, this is excluded by 
definition: If a form can be used both on its own and in combination 
with a bound form, and if it has a different shape when combined with 
the bound form, then we do not say that the form as such is welded. For 
example, the English verb /write/ can be used on its own (e.g. as an 
imperative), and when the agent noun suffix /-er/ is added, it may have 
a different shape (with flapped /r/): /wri/[?]-/er/. Thus, -/er/ is a 
welded form, but we would not want to say that /write/ is a welded form.

Some linguists use a different term for what I am calling "welded" here: 
"phonologically bound". This seems to occur fairly frequently, but 
unlike the use of "bound" in the sense "free-standing", it does not seem 
to have a clear pedigree.

Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10	
D-07745 Jena
Leipzig University
Institut fuer Anglistik
IPF 141199
D-04081 Leipzig

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