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Phondi Meeting: Mike Opper presents

Friday, November 30, 2012
12:00 AM
Lorch 473

How are "scifi" and "sitcom" derived?

Mike Opper will present the results of his QRP research in Phondi Today. The title and abstract of his presentation is given below.

Understanding English Compound Truncation

Compound Truncation is a word-formation process in which both members of a compound word are truncated. Words formed by this process are called “truncated compounds” and an English example is sitcom > situational comedy. Compound Truncation is very productive in several languages and a substantial amount of research has investigated this process in Japanese through the lens of Prosodic Morphology (Ito & Mester 1992/2003, Nishihara, van de Weijer & Nanjo 2001). Unlike Japanese, however, this process is not used very often in English. Previous research on English word formation processes (specifically Marchand 1966, Aronoff 1976, Bauer 1982, Plag 2003, Lappe 2007) has not included an account for Compound Truncation. Due to the infrequent usage of this process, there are relatively few examples of truncated compounds in typical English dictionaries and lexical corpora. Therefore, we have conducted an experiment to produce a large database of English truncated compounds.

Our experiment recruited over 100 native speakers of English who were each asked to form several hundred truncated compounds out of [N N] compounds; these stimuli were generated by a semi-random process from the CELEX lexicon of English (Baayen et. al. 1995). The truncated compounds formed by our participants suggest that each of the two constituent parts of an English truncated compound is formed independently -- i.e. each is its own truncation. This entails that both constituents of these compounds are therefore subject to the prosodic requirements of English truncation; specifically, each constituent must end on a heavy syllable. Aside from satisfying this requirement, truncations in English are subject to variation in total number of syllables and truncation-final rhyme structure. This study addresses four questions regarding this variation. First, does stress (primary and/or secondary) of the base word play a role in determining the length of its truncation? Second, does the length of one constituent in truncated compounds influence the length of the other  constituent? Third, do English speakers prefer truncations to end on open syllables or closed syllables? Fourth, if a sequence of two  consonants is available to be included in the coda of a potential truncation, do English speakers prefer to maximize that coda by  including both consonants? Our database of English truncated compounds allow for quantitative analyses of these questions.