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Prof.

dr Slavica Perovi

Morphology
COMPOUNDING

Based on L. Bauer, English Word-Formation and other sources


1. Introduction
Although compounding is the most productive type of word formation process in
English, it is perhaps also the most controversial one in terms of its linguistic analysis. It
is a field of study where intricate problems abound, numerous issues remain unresolved
and convincing solutions are generally not so easy to find.
In English, as in many other languages, a number of different compounding patterns are
attested. Not all words from all word classes can combine freely with other words to form
compounds. One possible way of establishing compound patterns is to classify
compounds according to the nature of their heads. Thus there are compounds involving
nominal heads, verbal heads and adjectival heads. Classifications based on syntactic
category are of course somewhat problematic because many words of English belong to
more than one category (e.g. walk can be a noun and a verb, blind can be an adjective, a
verb and a noun, green can be an adjective, a verb and a noun, etc.) but nevertheless this
type of classification will be used because it gives a clear set of form classes, whereas
other possible classifications based on, for example, semantics, appear to involve an even
greater degree of arbitrariness (Brekle sets up about one hundred different semantic
classes, while Hatcher has only four).
In the following, compounds with more than two members will be ignored, because more
complex compounds can be broken down into binary sub-structures, which means that
the properties of larger compounds can be predicted on the basis of their binary
constituents. Hence, larger compounds follow the same structural and semantic patterns
as two-member compounds.

2 Compound nouns
2.1 Analyzability (transparency)

In general the meaning of a compound noun is a specialization of the meaning of its


head. The modifier limits the meaning of the head: a laser printer is a kind of printer, a
book cover is a kind of cover, a letter head is a head of the letter, etc. We could say that
these compounds have their semantic head inside the compound, which is the reason why
they are called endocentric compounds (the neo-classical element endo -inside).
However, in another common type of compound, the exocentric or bahuvrihi
compounds, the semantic head is not explicitly expressed. A redhead, for example, is not
a kind of head, but is a person with a red head. Similarly, a blockhead is also not a head,
but a person with a head that is as hard and unreceptive as a block (e.g. stupid). And a
lionheart is not a type of heart, but a person with a heart like a lion (in its courage,
bravery, fearlessness, etc.).
Apart from endocentric and exocentric compounds there is another type of
compound labeled copulative compounds (or dvandva compounds in Sanskrit
grammarian terms).This type is characterized by the fact that none of the two members of
the compound is semantically prominent than the other, but both members equally
contribute to the meaning of the compound. They could be said to have two semantic
heads, none of them being subordinate to the other. A fighter-bomber is an aircraft that is
both a fighter and a bomber. A poet-translator is a person who is both a poet and a
translator. This type of copulative compound that refers to one entity that is characterized
by both members of the compound is called appositional compound. Dvandvas that
denote two entities that stand in a particular relationship with regard to the following
noun are called coordinative compounds. The doctor-patient gap is thus a gap between
doctor and patient, the nature-nurture debate is a debate on the relationship between
nature and nurture, and so on.
2.2 Types of compound nouns
2.2.1

Noun + noun

The majority of compounds in this class are endocentric. The most productive type is
made up of two common nouns.

e.g. bedroom, water tank, printer cartridge, tortoise-shell ,honey - bee, pine tree, safety
belt, deathbed, cable television, aversion therapy, latchkey child ,battered baby
syndrome, bang zone, credibility gap, language laboratory, bullet train, family planning,
town-planning, brain-washing, story-telling, cigar-smoker, song-writer, stock- holder,
computer designer, daybreak, frostbite, bee sting , headache, sound change etc.
The next group is that where the first element of the compound is a proper noun.
e.g. Hampstead Heath, Oxford Street, Park Lane, Brandon Hill, Piccadilly Circus,
Westminster Bridge, Kennedy Airport, Canterbury Cathedral, David Hume Tower, Mao
flu, Markov chain, Shakespearean sonnet, Moog synthesizer, Utah effect, etc.
Within this category, the next group consists of compounds made up of gerund + noun.
And although a gerund has both nominal and verbal characteristics, semantic
relationships between the to elements seem more like those which hold in noun + noun
compounds than those which hold in verb + noun compounds.
e.g. looking glass, hearing aid, frying pan, punching bag, diving board, dancing
girl, baking powder, carving knife, walking stick, running water, parking orbit, holding
pattern, queuing theory, etc.
The pattern of noun + noun exocentric compounds is very restricted in productivity but
there are few examples:
e.g. birdbrain, egghead, blockhead, hammerhead, butterfingers, featherbrain,
featherweight, hunchback, pot belly ,hatchback ,skinhead .
The second group is made up of appositional compound whose first element, in majority
of cases, marks the sex of a person.
e.g. girl friend, manservant, woman doctor, etc.
The pattern is still productive with pronominal sex markers used for animals.
e.g. she bear, she dog, he goat, etc.

Dvandvas, which make up the third group, are still occasionally coined, and a recent
example is panty hose.
2.2.2 Verb + noun
We can distinguish two different patterns. The first one is where the noun is the direct
object of the verb and these compounds are all exocentric.
e.g. cut throat, kill joy, pickpocket, spoil sport ,scatterbrain, telltale, tattletale,
breakfast, dreadnought, password, passport, push-bike, pushcart, ripcord, tugboat,
killdeer, etc.
The second pattern is where the noun is not the direct object of the verb. These
compounds are all endocentric and the pattern is productive.
e.g. crybaby, drift wood, drip coffee, flashlight, hangman, playboy, pin up girl,
watchdog, turntable, tugboat, stinkweed, mincemeat, glowworm, jump jet, play pit,
hovercraft, crashpad, giggle smoke, goggle box, dangle dolly, etc.
2.2.3 Noun +verb
This pattern is not productive probably due to the fact that often there is the problem of
knowing whether the second element is a noun or a verb.
e.g. nosebleed, sunshine, birth control, swallow dive, bedroll, bedspread, deathwatch,
daybreak, etc.
2.2.4

Verb + verb

This pattern is extremely rare and probably not productive. Established examples are
make believe, hearsay.
2.2.5

Adjective + noun

Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether a given adjective + noun collocation is a


compound or a noun phrase and the only distinguishing criterion is the stress pattern.

While phrases tend to be stressed phrase-finally, i.e. on the last word, compounds tend to
be stressed on the first element. This difference is captured in so-called nuclear stress
rule (phrasal stress is on the last word of the phrase), and the so called compound
stress rule (stress is on the left-hand member of the compound).
e.g. grenhouse a glass building for growing plants
a green huse a house that is green
blackberry, sweetheart, madman, common-sense, blue print, fast-food, hard-stuff,
bluebell, fathead, hardhat, paleface, redcap, highbrow, heavyweight, etc.
2.2.6

Particle + noun

This is quite a productive pattern.


e.g. overalls, by-way, downpour, afterheat, in-crowd, off-islander, etc.

2.2.7

Adverb + noun

This is a very restricted pattern, partly because only adverbs of time and place occur in
such compounds. This class is not so easily distinguishable from the previous since many
of the particles can be interpreted as adverbs showing time or place.
e.g. aftertaste, afterglow, afterthought, off-shoot, off-spring, income, outcome, outpost,
outbreak, outlaw, overcoat, overdose, overtime, undercurrent, under-secretary, new
generation, etc.
2.2.8

Verb + particle

It is argued that words of this form are not compounds at all but the result of the
conversion of a phrasal verb into a noun (accompanied by a stress shift).
e.g .backup, blowup, linkup, markup , smashup, pileup, call-up, catch-up ,flare-up, foulup, jam-up, mix-up sign-up, tie-up, toss-up, wrap-up, breakdown, closedown, countdown,
lowdown, meltdown, rubdown, rundown, showdown, shutdown, turndown, put-down, sit-

down, step-down, write-down, break-in, buy-in, cave-in, drive-in, fill-in, lead-in, listenin, blowout, burnout, dropout, knockout, printout, tryout, falling-out, shoot-out, add-on,
carrying-on, follow-on, slip-on, carryon, cutoff, liftoff, payoff, brush-off, rip-off, spinoff ,carryover, pushover ,rollover, strikeover, going-over, feedback, kickback, throwback,
getaway, hideaway, stowaway, knockabout, runabout, turnaround, standby, go-between,
follow-through, etc.
2.2.9

Phrase compounds

Sometimes an entire phrase seems to be involved in the formation of a new word and it
may be questionable whether such formations should be considered to be compounds or
lexicalizations of syntactic structures. Within this group we distinguish between
endocentric, exocentric and dvandva compounds.
Endocentric phrase compounds include small and non- productive class with an
initial head element (e.g. son-in- law, editor-in-chief, lady-in-waiting, writer-inresidence, man-of-war, dog-in-the-manger, etc.), and more common and much more
productive class where the head element is final and the first element is a phrase or
sentence:
e.g. upper-class manner, under-the-weather feeling, penny-in-the-slot machine, a fly-bynight scheme, a never-to-be-forgotten film, a life-and-death struggle, a hit-and-run
driver, a hard-to-please employer, a pain-in-the-stomach gesture, a dont-tell-mewhat-to-do look, an oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-makeit-better-and- nobler expression ,etc.
Exocentric phrase compounds: love-in-a-mist, love-lies-bleeding, forget-me-not, a
has-been, a dont-know, an also-run, etc.
Dvandvas differ from true dvandva compounds in including the word and:
e.g. bubble - and- squeak, milk-and-water, whisky-and-soda, pepper-and-salt, etc.
2.3. Interpreting compound nouns

As should be evident from all the examples discussed so far, these compounds show a
wide range of meanings, and there have been many attempts at classifying these
meanings (e.g. Hatcher 1960, Brekle 1970, Levi 1978, etc.). Given the proliferation and
arbitrariness of possible semantic categories (e.g. location, cause, manner, possessor,
material, content, source, etc.) such semantically based taxonomies appear somewhat
futile. What is more promising is to ask what kinds of interpretation are in principle
possible, given a certain compound.
In isolation, i.e. without preceding or following discourse, the compound is interpreted
chiefly by relating the two members of a compound to each other in terms of the typical
relationship between the entities referred to by the two nouns. What is construed as the
typical relationship depends partly on the semantics of the noun. It can be said that if the
right-hand member of a compound is a relational noun, the left-hand member will
normally be interpreted as the argument of the relational noun. For example, the left-hand
member of a compound with the relational noun surgery as head will be interpreted as an
argument of surgery, i.e. as the entity which is necessarily affected by the action of
surgery. Thus brain surgery is interpreted as surgery performed on the brain, finger
surgery is interpreted as surgery performed on fingers.
3 Compound adjectives
3.1
3.1.1

Types of compound adjectives


Noun +adjective

This is the most frequent type of compound adjectives.


e.g. capital-intensive, crashworthy, flightworthy, host-specific, lead-free, head-strong,
airtight, colour blind, carefree, seasick, threadbare, sky-blue, stone-cold, paper-thin, jetblack, steel-grey, bone-dry, sun-bright, fire-proof, water-proof, dog-tired, spell-bound,

shell-shocked, card-carrying, clotheared, space-borne, brimful, knee-deep, hip-deep,


waist-high, lifelong, worldwide, etc.
3.1.2

Verb + adjective

This type is rare and possibly new.


e.g fail safe
3.1.3 Adjective + adjective
Adjective + adjective compounds are normally endocentric. These compounds can be
categorized formally according to whether or not they contain participles.
e.g double-helical, blue-green, red-hot, large-statured, open-ended, ready-made, Britishmade, high-born, dead-tired, dead-beaten, wooden-headed, absent-minded, cleanshaven, hard-working, good-looking, etc.
3.1.4

Adverb + adjective

This type is not particularly common and seems to be more frequent with participial head
element.
e.g best-equipped, long-awaited, above-mentioned, well-preserved, thoroughly-tested,
etc.
Cross-modal, roughly-equivalent, sickly-sweet are some of the examples without a
participle. A more common type has a particle as the first element: over-qualified,
uptight, over-right, over-ripe, etc.
3.1.5

Noun + noun

In many cases these adjectives are converted nouns or verbs, and it often seems rather
misleading to term them adjectives at all: a noun compound functioning as a modifier to
another noun is probably not so much functioning as an adjective as forming a three-term

noun compound. The agreement against this position is that such modifying compounds
become institutionalized and lexicalized as units independent of their constituent parts,
and in some cases are only used attributively while in other cases they have very different
connotations from the same forms used as non-attributive compound nouns.
e.g back-street (abortionist)
coffee-table (book)
glassteel (sky-scraper)
year-end (exam)
world-class (polo player)
wood-block (floor)
thumbnail (sketch)
drum-head (court)
3.1.6

Verb + noun

e.g break-bulk (consignment)


roll-neck (sweater)
turn-key (contract)
push-button (door)
break neck (motorcycle)
key-note (speech)
3.1.7

Adjective + noun

Most of these compounds are not compounds unless they are used attributively, but noun
phrases. They change their stress pattern when they are used attributively and often
become hyphenated.
e.g broad-brush (estimate)
grey-collar (worker)

red-brick (university)
broadloom (carpet)
broad-spectrum (antibiotic)
dead-end (job)
fair-weather (friend)
free-hand (drawing)
free-range (eggs)
free-will (consent)
high-hat (behaviour)
red-carpet (treatment)
real-life (experience)
rare-book (store)
low-budget (films)
3.1.8

Particle + Noun

In these examples a preposition phrase is converted into a modifier.


e.g before-tax (profits)
in depth (study)
after-hours (drinking)
beforehand (contract)
in-flight (meals)
under cover (agent)
under-ground (films)
undersea (oil deposits)
up-market (factory)
up-tempo (melody)
on-line (equipment)
off-hand (excuses)
off-colour (story)

on-the-scene (witness)
off-the-record (remarks)
3.1.9

Noun+verb

This type doesnt exist, since the verb always turns up as a present or past participle, and
therefore becomes classified as an adjective.
3.1.10 Verb + verb
This type is new and possibly growing.
e.g go-go (dancer)
pass-fail (test)
stop-go (economies)
3.1.11 Adjective/adverb + verb
Their first element is an adjective in form but appears to function semantically as an
adverb.
e.g high-rise (tower)
quick-change (artiste)
broad-cast (pencils)
dead-beat (compass)
high-count (sheeting)
3.1.12 Verb + particle
This type is very productive.
e.g see-through (blouse)
tow-away (zone)
wrap-around (skirt)

stick-on (label)
stand-by (equipment)
walk-on (part)
break-away (party)
stand-off (missile)
stand-up (collar)
walk-up (building)
3.2 Solid compound adjectives
There are some well-established permanent compound adjectives that have become solid
over a longer period, especially in American usage: earsplitting, eyecatching, downtown.
However, in British usage, these, apart from downtown, are more likely written with a
hyphen: ear-splitting, eye-catching.
Other solid compound adjective are for example:

Numbers that are spelled out and have the suffix fold added: fifteenfold, sixfold.

Points of the compass: northwest, northwester, northwesterly, northwestwards,


but not North- West Frontier.

3.3 Hyphenated compound adjectives


A compound adjective is hyphenated if the hyphen helps the reader differentiate a
compound adjective from two adjacent adjective that each independently modify the
noun. Compare the following examples:

acetic acid solution a bitter solution producing vinegar or acetic acid

acetic-acid solution a solution of acetic acid

The hyphen is unneeded when capitalization or italicization makes grouping clear:

old English scholar an old person who is English and a scholar, or an old
scholar who studies English

Old English scholar a scholar of Old English

De facto proceedings

If, however, there is no risk of ambiguities, it may be written without a hyphen: Sunday
morning walk.
Hyphenated compound adjectives may have been formed originally by an adjective
preceding a noun:

Round table round-table discussion

Blue sky blue-sky law

Red light red-light district

Others may have originated with a verb preceding an adjective or adverb:

Feel good feel-good factor

Buy now, pay later buy-now pay-later purchase

Yet others are created with an original verb preceding a preposition:

Stick on stick-on label

Walk on walk-on part

Stand by stand-by fare

Roll on, roll off roll-on roll-off ferry

The following compound adjectives are always hyphenated when they are not written
as one word:

An adjective preceding a noun to which d or -ed has been added as a pastparticiple construction :

e.g. loud-mouthed hooligan


middle-aged lady
rose-tinted glasses

A noun, adjective, or adverb preceding a present participle:

e.g. an awe-inspiring personality


a long-lasting affair
a far-reaching decision

Numbers spelled out or as numerics:

e.g. seven-year itch


five-sided polygon
20th-century poem
30-piece band
tenth - story window

A numeric with the affix fold has a hyphen ( 15-fold), but when spelled out
takes a solid construction (fifteenfold).

Numbers, spelled out or numeric, with added odd : sixteen-odd, 70-odd.

Compound adjectives with high- or low- : high-level discussion, low-price


markup.

Colours in compounds : a dark-blue sweater, a reddish-orange dress

Fractions as modifiers are hyphenated : five-eights inches, but if numerator or


denominator are already hyphenated, the fraction itself does not take a hyphen :
a thirty-three thousandth part.

Fractions used as nouns have no hyphens : I ate only one third of the pie.

Comparatives and superlatives in compound adjectives also take hyphens : the


highest-placed competitor, a shorter-term loan.

Compounds including two geographical modifiers : Afro-Cuban, Anglo-Asian,


but not Central American.

The following compound adjectives are not normally hyphenated :

Where there is no risk of ambiguity : a Sunday morning walk

Left-hand components of a compound adjective that end in ly that modify


right-hand components that are past participles ending in ed :

e.g. a hotly disputed subject


a greatly improved scheme
a distantly related celebrity
Compound adjectives that include comparatives and superlatives with more, most,
less or least :
e.g. a more recent development
the most respected member

a less opportune moment


the least expected event
Ordinarily hyphenated compounds with intensive adverbs in front of adjectives :
e.g. very much admired classicist
really well accepted proposal
4. Compound verbs
4.1

Types of compound verbs

Compound verbs in English are rather rare and majority of them are formed by backformation or conversion from compound nouns.
4.1.1

Noun + verb

The vast majority of this group arise from back-formation.


e.g. blockbust, carbon-date, colour-code, head-hunt, sky-dive, carbon-copy, backbite,
boot-leg, bottle-wash, button-mend, caretake, boot-lick, fortune-hunt, lip-read, gatecrash, globe-trot, hand-shake, house-hunt, book-keep, sight-see, sunbathe, jerrybuild, etc.
4.1.2

Verb + noun

Bauer lists only one example of this type, and it is converted from a compound noun. The
verb is to shunpike. In the Longman Dictionary of the English Language I found another
example of this type of compound verb- to humbug.
4.1.3

Verb + verb

This type is exceedingly rare. Bauer lists only one recent example, trickle-irrigate,
pointing out that even that could be either noun + verb or a back-formation from trickleirrigation.

4.1.4

Adjective + verb

This pattern is relatively productive and generally arises through back-formation or,
occasionally, conversion.
e.g. double-book, fine-tune, free-associate, soft-land, whitewash, blacklist, foulmouth,
roughcast, rough-dry, rough-hew, hard-boil, deep-fry, shortcut, blindfold, broadcast, etc.
4.1.5

Particle + verb

Although some of this type may be back-formations, most of them seem to be genuine
verbal formations.
e.g. overachieve, overbook, overeducate, overmark, overcome, overestimate, outachieve,
outdo, outwit, outstrip, outsell, outsay, undermine, underbuy, undersell, undertake,
undergo, undercut, uphold, uplift, uproot, offset, etc.
4.1.6

Adjective + noun

Compound verbs on this pattern are not common.


e.g. brown-bag, bad-mouth, high-pressure, high-tail, etc.
4.1.7

Noun + noun

This type is not particularly common and generally arises from conversion of a
compound noun.

e.g. breath-test, data-bank, network, dovetail, wallpaper, warehouse, war-game,


snowball, snowplough, shoe-horn, sandbag, pigeonhole, mastermind, jackknife,
keyboard, etc.
4.2

Hyphenation

Compound verbs with single-syllable modifiers are solid, or unhyphenated. Those with
longer modifiers may originally be hyphenated, but as they became established, they
became solid.
e.g. overhang, counterattack.
There was a tendency in the 18th century to use hyphens excessively, that is, to hyphenate
all previously established solid compound verbs. American English, however, has
diminished the use of hyphens, while British English is more conservative.
5. Other form classes
Apart from the main parts of speech which can be compound we can also observe some
less important parts of speech in the role of compounds.
a) Compound pronouns : myself, whichever, whoever, somebody, anybody, something,
nothing, anything, etc.
b) compound adverbs: anywhere, somewhere, whenever, wherever, elsewhere, anyway,
etc.
The most common way of forming compound adverbs is by the suffixation of ly to a
compound adjective, but other patterns are also found:
e.g. double-quick,flat-out, flat-stick, off-hand, over- night, etc.
6. Rhyme-motivated compounds
The majority of this class are noun compounds made up of two nouns, but other types
also exist. In these compounds, the rhyme between the two elements is the major
motivating factor in the formation.

e.g. higgledy-piggledy, hobnob, hokey-pokey, hoity-toity, roly-poly, teeny-weeny, braindrain, culture-vulture, flower-power, gang-bang, nitty-gritty, stun-gun, humdrum, hoi
polloi, tee-hee, rag-tag, etc.

7. Ablaut motivated compounds


These compounds involve ablaut, i.e. vowel change or alternation between the two
elements. The most common patterns are / i / ~ /ae/ and / i /~/ o / .
e.g. flip-flop, riff-raff, shilly-shally, tick-tock, wishy-washy, zig-zag, etc.
8. Neo-classical compounds
Neoclassical compounds, are formations in which elements of Latin or Greek origin
are combined to form new combinations that are not attested in the original languages
(hence the term NEOclassical).
(1) a. biochemistry

b. photograph

c. geology

biorhythm

photoionize

biology

biowarfare

photoanalysis

neurology

biography

photovoltaic

philology

It is not obvious whether the italicized elements should be regarded as affixes or as


bound roots. If the data in (1a) are taken as evidence for the prefix status of bio-, and
the data in (1c) for the suffix status of logy, we are faced with the problem that
words such as biology would consist of a prefix and a suffix. This would go against
basic assumptions about the general structure of words. Alternatively, we could
assume that we are not dealing with affixes, but with bound roots, so that we are in

fact talking about cases of compounding and not of affixation. Speakers of English
that are familiar with such words or even know some Greek would readily say that
bio- has the meaning life, and this insight would lead to the conclusion that the
words in (1a) behave exactly like compounds on the basis of native words. For
example, a kitchen sink is a kind of sink, just as biochemistry is a kind of chemistry.
The only difference between the neo-classical forms and native compounds is that the
non-native elements are obligatory bound. This is also the reason why the neoclassical elements are often called combining forms.
Now we shall focus on two phenomena that deserve special attention. First, the
position and combinatorial properties of neoclassical elements, and second, the status
and behavior of final o- that often appears in such forms.
(2) a. form

meaning

example

astro-

space

astro-physics, astrology

bio-

life

biodegradable, biocracy

biblio-

book

bibliography, bibliotherapy

elctro-

electricity

electro-cardiograph, electrography

geo-

earth

geographic, geology

hrydro-

water

hiydro-electric, hydrology

morpho-

figure

morphology, morpho-genesis

philo-

love

philotheist, philo-gastric

retro-

backwards

retroflex, retro-design

tele-

distant

television, telepathy

theo-

god

theocratic, theology

b. -cide

murder

suicide, genocide

-cracy

rule

bureaucracy, democracy

-graphy

write

sonography, bibliography

-itis

disease

laryngitis, lazyitis

-logy

science of

astrology, neurololgy

-morph

figure

antropomorph, polymorph

-phile

love

anglophile, bibliophile

-phobe

fear

Anglophobe, bibliophobe

-scope

look at

laryngoscope, telescope

As indicated by hyphens, none of these forms can occur as a free form. With the
exception of morph-/-morph and phil-/-phile, which can occur both in initial or in final
position, the elements in (2a) and (2b) occur either initially or finally. Hence a
distinction is often made between initial combining forms (ICFs) and final combining
forms (FCFs). The difference between affixes and combining forms is that neither
affixes nor bound roots can combine with each other to form a new word :an affix can
combine with a bound root (e.g. bapt-ism, prob-able), but not whit another affix to form
a new word (re-ism, ism-able). And a root can take an affix but cannot combine with
another bound root (bapt-prob). Combining forms, however, can either combine with
bound roots (e.g. glaciology, scientology), with words (e.g. lazyitis, morpho-syntax), or
with another combining form (e.g. hydrology, morphology) to make up a new word.
In the vast majority of cases we find the linking element o- in all of the above
compounds, but there are some exceptions listed in (3) :

(3)

combining form

examples lacking o-

examples with o-

a. tele-

television

b. cide

suicide

genocide

-itis

laryngitis

-morph

polymorph

anhtropomorph

-scope

telescope

laryngoscope

bureaucracy

democracy

c. -cracy

Tele- is the only ICF that never allows the linking element, while there are four final
combining forms allowing vowels other than -o- preceding them. In (3c) we have
bureaucracy which may seem like an exception, but only in orthography.
Phonologically, the form has the same linking element as we find it in dem[]cracy.
This suggests that the phenomenon is not orthographic, but phonological in nature,
since orthography obviously tolerates the use of other letters as long as they represent a
required sound. Probing further in the phonological direction, we can make some
generalizations on the basis of the forms in (3) : if there is already a vowel in the final
position of the ICF or in the initial position of the FCF, -o- does not show up. Thus,
tele-scope has no -o- , but laryng-o-scope has it ; poly-morph has no -o-, but anthrop-omorph has it; sui-cide has no -o-, but gen-o-cide has it, and itis does not take -o- as a
linking element either, because it starts in a vowel.
If this account of the facts is correct , there should be ICFs ending in a consonant
that do not take -o- when combined with the vowel-initial FCFs, but that do take -owhen combined with consonant-initial FCFs. And indeed, such data exist : the ICF
gastr- alternates with the form gastro -, and the alternation depends on the following
sound (e.g. gastr-it is, gastr-o- graphy).Hence, we can conclude that the occurrence of
-o- is, at least with some formations, phonologically determined.
However, such an account doest not work for all combining forms
(4)

a.

b.

biology

bio- acoustic

biophysical

bio- energy

biotechnology

bio- implanted

geocentric

geoarchaeological

geology

geoeletric

geography

geoenvironmental

The data in (4) show that bio- and geo- do not have alternant forms (bi-/bio-, ge-/geo-),
which means that with these ICFs, -o- does not have status of a n thematic vowel, but is
part of the phonological representation of the ICF. From this we can conclude that the

status of-o- is not the same in all neoclassical formations, but should be decided on for
each combining form separately on the basis of distributional evidence.