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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Pierre ARNAUD

A fine-grained semasiological classification of modification relations in French relational subordinative [NN]N compounds (timbre-poste)

Abstract/Résumé: French subordinative [NN] compounds, which are syntactically and semantically left-headed, are divided into attributive compounds, with the "is (like) a" relation, as in requin baleine, litt. 'shark whale = whale shark', and relational compounds like timbre poste 'stamp post = postage stamp'. Relational compounds incorporate a wide range of nonhead to head relations, which are the object of this presentation. Two tendencies exist in the classifications present in the literature on French compounds. The first is found in publications where only a sample of relations is listed. Other authors present a limited, but apparently exhaustive number of categories. The two extreme cases of exhaustive classifications are those of Unterhuber (1988), with 19 cases whose combination results in 88 categories, and Noailly (1990) with 4 highly abstract relations. A set of about 800 lexicalized relational units was collected and their semantic classification was undertaken. Given the discrepancies between the existing approaches, it was decided to apply a bottom-up approach, labelling the relation found in each unit and attempting to group together units with apparently similar relations. As was expected, categorizing the relation present in some units was a difficult task, particularly because in many cases two or more relations seemed to be present, and these were dealt with by attributing several relation labels to those units. Several passes were necessary to stabilize the classification until 54 categories emerged. In all, 671 units included one relation, 128 included 2 relations, and 10 necessitated 3 relations for their description. An attempt was then made to group these fine-grained categories within Noailly's 4 abstract ones and it appeared that, although these 4 categories covered most of the relations, the addition of 4 marginal abstract categories was necessary to account for the whole set. Here again, some units corresponded to more than one abstract category. The collection of relational [NN] units has now been extended by about 150 units, and the adequacy of the initial classification was verified on them. A comparison with a similar-sized random sample of equivalent English compounds will also be presented. A preliminary observation is that the "habitat" relation (as in sea otter) is missing from the French compounds, and possible explanations for the differences will be discussed. References Noailly, M. (1990). Le Substantif épithète. Paris: PUF. Unterhuber, J. (1988). Die Nominalkomposition im Französischen und Englischen mit einem Ausblick auf Suffixableitungen: Ein Vergleich. Doctoral dissertation, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, München.