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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Renáta PANOCOVÁ

In what sense are neoclassical compounds really compounds?

Abstract/Résumé: Neoclassical compounds represent a somewhat marginal, but interesting type of compounds. The commonly shared understanding of neoclassical compounds is that they are formed on the basis of material of Greek or Latin origin, but the combination of these elements often did not exist in classical languages, e.g. bronchodilator, laparoscopy. New neoclassical compounds appear predominantly in technical and scientific terminology. Scientific terms tend to have parallels in many languages and are often referred to as internationalisms. Here I will concentrate on English data. Determining the boundaries of neoclassical compounds as a distinct type is neither simple nor straightforward. Formations such as geology, geography may be analysed in line with general compounding rules. The status of constituent elements may perhaps be best described as bound stems and the meaning of geo- is ‘relating to the earth’, derived from Greek. However, this is not always the case. The morpheme geo- occurs in many new coinages such as geolocation, geocoder, geocloud, geodatabase where it also combines with English elements. According to Macmillan’s BuzzWord Dictionary geo- rather has a meaning of ‘containing information about location’ and may be classified as a prefix. Apart from difficulties to differentiate between compounding and affixation, there are examples of borderline cases between blending and compounding. This may be exemplified by the recent coinage of infomania, a blend of information and mania used to describe ‘an excessive enthusiasm for accumulating facts’. Alternatively, some neoclassical formations may be analysed as borrowings. They often have parallel equivalents in many other languages, and it is hardly possible to determine in which language the word appeared first. It also seems synchronically irrelevant. When speakers recognize neoclassical formations as complex and are aware of the constituent elements, a rule-based account is more attractive. However, apart from borrowing and blending, in some cases also formation by analogy can be thought of as a valid account. As these considerations show, there are many difficulties with distinguishing neoclassical compounds as a separate, uniform category. In most cases these can be described as perennial problems in theorizing. It will be argued that the onomasiological approach along the lines of Štekauer (1998, 2005) offers an attractive perspective independent of definitive solutions to the above mentioned questions. On the basis of an onomasiological analysis of 400 neoclassical medical terms it will be demonstrated how semantic relations between constituents of neoclassical formations can be systematized and grouped into patterns without the need to impose a precise definition of neoclassical compounding.