[Lingtyp] Non-compositional words for “rock-paper-scissors"

Nate Sims nsims at ucsb.edu
Mon May 2 18:04:17 UTC 2022

Hi all,

The Chinese equivalent is 石头-剪刀-布, "rock-scissor-cloth". In Sichuanese
Mandarin, the playground name for this game is [sɨ21.tɕʰɚ45] the first
syllable is 'rock' but the second syllable is not otherwise meaningful (at
least not in my understanding).

So I guess the Sichuanese name for the game would be semi-compositional? I
take compositional here to mean etymologically transparent.


On Mon, May 2, 2022 at 8:03 PM Daniel Ross <djross3 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Yes, that's the definition I'm assuming. "Rock-paper-scissors" describes a
> game involving "rocks", "papers" and "scissors" (metaphorically speaking,
> as hand shapes).
> As we've discussed, this usage is semi-productive, and productivity
> requires some degree of compositionality: the parts somehow contribute to
> the meaning. It's a specific usage context, and it's metonymy as you noted,
> but there's still some degree of internal semantic structure (i.e.
> compositionality).
> I agree with you that there may be a better term for Ian to use to frame
> this, but I understood what he meant, and even in a technical sense there's
> some degree of compositionality that is relevant here, at least for the
> productive cases. (I don't know if that applies to other languages.)
> On Mon, May 2, 2022 at 10:54 AM David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de> wrote:
>> Daniel,
>> Sorry to nitpick (all with the best of intentions), but I still don't
>> understand your usage of the term "compositional" below:
>> On 02/05/2022 20:40, Daniel Ross wrote:
>> Haha, yes, that's a great example, David, thanks for reminding me of that
>> one.
>> Yes, I wonder also about the (possible) meanings of the components in the
>> other languages. It is interesting, though, that the terms in English have,
>> at least as far as I am aware, no other meaning at all. (It's interesting
>> that in Thai the third is "choop", and, not knowing Thai, I'm going to
>> guess that one might be scissors, assuming individual components can be
>> identified. I wonder if it's a general ideophone, in which case then it
>> would also arguably be compositional to some degree.)
>> Could you, or anybody else, explain what "compositional" means in the
>> above sentence.  For me, "compositionality" is when the meaning of a
>> construction is derived from the meaning of its constituent parts.  I'm
>> pretty sure that this is by far the most common meaning of the term in
>> semantics and related fields, as reflected in numerous definitions in
>> various chapters of the OUP handbook (below).  Are there other usages of
>> the term that I am ignorant of?
>> David
>> Werning, M., W. Hinzen and E. Machery eds., (2012) *The Oxford Handbook
>> of Compositionality*, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
>> --
>> David Gil
>> Senior Scientist (Associate)
>> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
>> Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
>> Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig, 04103, Germany
>> Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
>> Mobile Phone (Israel): +972-526117713
>> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81344082091
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