Morphological variation: the case of productivity in German compound formation

Katrin Hein, Stefan Engelberg


The paper at hand discusses productivity in German compound formation – as a case of morphological variation – from a lexeme-based synchronic perspective. In particular, we focus on groups of compounds with semantically closely related head words, e.g., compounds denoting colors.
Our approach is characterized by a qualitative as well as a quantitative perspective on productivity. Taking the properties of the head lexeme as a starting point and applying corpus-based statistical methods, we try to gain new insights into compound formation, especially into potential factors which govern their productivity. In a first step, we determine the productivity of compounds on the basis of current productivity measures and data from a large corpus of German. In a second step, we try to systematically explain observable differences in productivity.
The approach presented here is one of the first attempts to apply the concept of productivity, which has been predominantly used in the domain of derivation, to compounding. Since compounding is a dominant factor for the expansion of the German lexicon, we assume that our investigation also sheds an important light on the dynamics of the lexicon.


compound formation; morphological productivity; productivity measures; corpus-based statistical methods

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