Real and pseudo synthetic compounds in Chinese
语言教学与研究 = Language Teaching and Linguistic Studies
汉语复合词, 汉语构词法, 生成语法, synthetic compounds in Chinese, Chinese morphology, generative grammar
It is a well-known observation across languages that the canonical word order in morphology mirrors that of syntax. This is also true in Chinese, as reflected in its genuine synthetic compounds. But Chinese also has a good portion of synthetic compounds that appear to have the syntactic word order, which applies to either the whole or part of a compound. Such syntactic word ordering in compounds has thus led to the belief that Chinese compounds would be constructed under syntactic rules. In this paper we have shown, first, the word order of genuine Chinese synthetic compounds mirrors exactly that of syntax; secondly, pseudo compounds superficially of the syntactic word order are either root words that have evolved from syntactic constructs, or lexico-syntactic hybrids in which the syntactic part is a VP. These findings thus collectively argue against the misperception that Chinese synthetic compounds are generated by syntactic rules. Further investigation in thematic structures of synthetic compounds also supports this conclusion. And we believe that the current findings are also in agreement with relevant predictions from language acquisition and neurolinguistic studies.