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Productivity and corpus languages
Productivity and corpus languages

Productivity in word-formation is a main question for the reconstruction of Indo-European. In most studies, productivity is measured in a more or less intuitive way (see some of the last reference works: Casaretto 2004: 27-31, Lühr 2008). In modern languages, however, productivity has been one of the most important topic in the last years, and a coherent theory has been developed. The systematicityof a framework can be a useful tool for a more accurate description of word-formation pattern in Ancient languages (and hence for the reconstruction of Indo-European).

Panagl 1982
Panagl 1982

  • Typologicalcriterion"d. h. die Extrapolierung (bzw. der Analogieschluß) aus einem repräsentativen Sample lebender Sprachen auf die entsprenchenden Verhältnisse in Corpus-sprachen" (Panagl 1982: 229)

  • Grammaticalcriterion: "ich meine damit den im Sprachwandel beobachten Übergang eines Derivationstyps in eine Flexionskategorie, der Rückschlüsse auf dessen vorausgegangene Produktivität zuläßt" (Panagl 1982: 229)

    Sanskrit agente noun suffix –TAR- > periphrastic future: dātāsmi, dātāsi, dātā, etc.

Productivity and corpus languages

  • Qualitativecriterion"Semantische Nähe der Ableitung zu ihrem Grundwort ohne Erscheinungen einer Lexikalisierung". (Panagl 1982: 228-229)

  • Ὁ τοίνυν Ξέρξης ἐπὶ μὲν τὴν Ἑλλάδα οὐδαμῶς πρόθυμος ἦν κατ' ἀρχὰς στρατεύεσθαι, ἐπὶ δὲ Αἴγυπτον ἐποιέετο στρατιῆς ἄγερσιν(Hdt. 7.5) “Now Xerxes was at first by no means eager to march against Hellas; it was against Egypt that he mustered his army” (translation by A. D. Godley, Harvard University Press)

  • ἂνταῦτ', ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, πορίσητε, τὰ χρήματα πρῶτον ἃ λέγω, [...] τῶν μὲν χρημάτων αὐτοὶ ταμίαι καὶ πορισταὶ γιγνόμενοι (Dem. 4.33)“If men of Athens, you first provide the funds which I name [...], and if you make yourselves the stewards and administrators of the funds” (translation by J. H. Vince, Harvard University Press)

  • Actionnouns in lat. -tiōn- vs. Not motivated inhereted nouns (vestis , sitis), in this case because of the inexistence of the base; other are adverbs (cessim'backwards', statim'Firmly, steadily')

Productivity in linguistics
Productivity in linguistics.

  • Productivity

  • Profitability /avaibility

  • Nonce-formation

  • Neologism

  • Productivity vs. lexicalization.

  • Transparency

Productivity as blocking
Productivity as blocking

Token blocking

  • Synonymy: Theaf vs. *stealer

  • Homonymy: *liver 'one who lives'; sp. *impertinente 'not pertinent'

    Type blocking (‘synonym pattern’).

  • -ITY vs. –NESS

    • -ITY: -IC, -AL, -ABLE/-IBLE

    • -NESS: -ED, -FULL, -LESS, -SOME, -ISH, -Y and -LY.

Productivity as pragmatic constraint
Productivity as pragmaticconstraint

  • ‘Hypostatization’ or ‘lexical innovation’

  • Contextual factors:

    "and whether your own conversation doesn't sound a little potty. It's the pottiness, you know, that's so awful" (Kastovsky 1986: 595)

  • Fashion or aesthetics: mega-, giga-, supra-

Constraints are rarely infaillible
Constraints are rarely infaillible.

  • Sillily. vs. *elderlily, *wordlily

  • -NESS: See incorruptibleness, reasonableness, incredibleness, curiousness

  • -ITY: productivity instead of the most common productiveness

Productivity and corpus languages
τρον/ –τρα and –θρον/–θρα

  • Contract verbs: κύκηθρονψίλωθρονἕλκηθρονκόρηθρον

  • Stemsending in a vowel: κρεμάθρα, βάθρον, but ἔλυτρονλύτρονμήνυτρον

  • Aspirate dissimilation: θέᾱτρον,φόβητρον, θήρᾱτρονθυμίᾱτρον, χύτρα?, θύρετρα?, etc

  • Verbs ending in a close, heavy syllabe: στέργηθρονμέλπηθρονθέλγητρον (but θέλκτρον)

Productivity and corpus languages
-στρονy –στρα

  • Dental verbs, specialy in –ζ-

  • Etymological –σ- / Present in the flexion or derivation: εὔστρα (εὐστόν), ὀρχήστρα (ὀρχηστής), etc.

  • Monosyllabic open stemsεὔστρα, βύστρα, ζῶστρον, ἐπίσπαστρον,ξύστρα, ποδόψηστρον, πίστρον, ἀμφίβληστρον etc. See nominaagentis in –στήρ: μνηστήρ, ῥαιστήρ, δρηστήρ.

  • Exceptions: δαιτρόνβλῆτρονῥήτρηλύτρονἐπίνητρον

Productivity and corpus languages

  • Ἄροτρον, τέρετρον, λόετρονφαρέτρα, θύρετρα, δέλετρονφόρετρον, φέρετρον, κελέτρα

  • Φέρτρον, ἄρθρον, φίλτρον, δέρτρον

Quantitative productivity in diachrony
Quantitativeproductivity in diachrony

  • Bauer 1988:61“[w]e can speak of productivity in synchronic terms, or of changes in productivity as such in diachronic terms”

Dictionary vs corpus
Dictionary vs. Corpus

  • Dictionary

    • It is not equally represented for every period of time.

    • Not every word is recorded

  • Corpus

    • Real linguistic sample

    • Electronic texts allow easy research

    • Relativization of the data

Productivity and corpus languages

Differences in a standard corpus

Other criteria to measure productivity

  • Hybrid formations

  • Hyperderivates

  • Lexical innovations

  • Loan words

  • Loan translations

  • Nonce formations

Hybrid formations borrowed base native suffix or vice versa
Hybrid formations: Borrowed base+ native suffix (or vice versa)

  • De Bernardo 1999: Nomina essendi in -as:

    • old irishcandadas 'white' (lat. candidus), mir. meirdrech-as 'prostitution' (meirdrech< lat. meretrix), bardas 'Aufsicht' (germ. barda 'vigilant')

  • Dalton-Pfuffer 1996, for Middle English: "mix elements from the Germanic part of the vocabulary with elements of the recently borrowed Romance part of the vocabulary must necessarily be Middle English neologisms"

    • spous-hede'state of a married person' or fals-ship, fals-hede and fals-dom

    • spekable,husbondrie

Hyperderivates de bernardo 1999
Hyperderivates (De Bernardo 1999)

  • mir. trebth-as 'Gutstof' (treb-ad 'Kultur, Siedlung'), treb-th-ach-as 'Haushalt' ( treb-th-ach 'haushälter'),

  • mir. cáemthach-as 'Gesellschaft', (cáemthach 'idem') and cáemnach-as 'Schutz' (cáemna 'idem', cáemna-ch 'schützend')

L exical innovation
Lexical innovation

  • A new word designates a new socio-cultural reality

    φροντιστήριον 'thinking-shop’ (Ar.) is comic term to name a new institution of the 5th in Athens

Loan words
Loan words

  • pulsābulum (Apul. Fl. 15, Ps. Fulg. Rusp. Serm. Patr. lat. 65c. 923c, Ps. Aug. Serm.120.5), instead of common plecten and plectrum= πλῆκτρον

Loan translations
Loan translations

  • rotābula (f.) (4 Macch. 8.13) = τροχαντήρ "a wheel for torture"

  • divinācula (pl.) = μαντεῖα "rewards of divination"

    • habentesdivinationispretiumimmanibus (Vulg.)

    • habentesdivinaculaimmanibus (ItalaNum. 22.27 Lugd.)

    • καὶ τα μαντεῖα ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτῶν

  • tentāculum (Itala, Gen. 49.19 (Ottob.)= πειρατήριον "temptation"

  • pl. lavābra "bath" (Lucr. 6. 799) = θερμὰλοετρά (Il. 22.444, et alii), special Greek sense of the suffix to denote the water used for V-ing (cf. πλύντρον, πεδάνιπτρον)

    denique si calidisetiamcuncterelavabris

    plenior et lueris, solio ferventisaquai

    quam facile in medio fit uti des saeperuinas!

    "Once more, if thou delayest in hot baths,When thou art over-full, how readilyFrom stool in middle of the steaming waterThou tumblest in a fit!" (translationby William Ellery Leonard, 1916)

Nonce formations

  • Nonce formations in patterns with middle-high type frequency are a solid confirmation of its profitability.

  • However, nonce formations are most often found in some concrete word-formations patterns (Diminutives or transpositional suffixes such as –NESS, -ERor –TION)

Examples with instrument suffixes

  • Εὖ δὲ καὶ τὸ τῶν ὀνύχων μεμηχάνηται· τὰ μὲν γὰρ ἄλλα ζῷα ἔχει καὶ πρὸς χρῆσιν αὐτούς, τοῖς δ' ἀνθρώποις ἐπικαλυπτήρια· σκέπασμα γὰρ τῶν ἀκρωτηρίων εἰσίν. (Arist. PA 687b 24)

  • 'Iumentum' quoque non id solumsignificat, quod nunc dicitur; sed uectabulumetiam, quodadiunctispecoribustrahebatur, ueteresnostri 'iumentum' a 'iungendo' dixerunt (Gell. 20, 1, 28)

  • venabulaautemob hoc dicta, quodsunt tela apta venatui, quasiexcipiabula. (Serv. Aen. 4. 131)


Bauer, Laurie. Morphological productivity. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1983.

De BernadoStempel, Patrizia. «ZurMethode der Wortbildungsanalyse von Korpussprachen (anhandkeltischenMaterials». In Studia Celtica et Indogermanica: Festschriftfür Wolfgang Meid zum 70. Geburtstag, editedbyPeter P. Anreiterand ErzsébetJerem, 61-77. Budapest: ArchaeolinguaAlapítvány, 1999.

Casaretto, Antje. Nominale Wortbildung der gotischen Sprache: die Derivation der Substantive. Heidelberg: Winter, 2004.

Dalton-Puffer, Christiane. The French influenceonMiddle English morphology : a corpus-basedstudy of derivation. Berlín; New York: Mouton De Gruyter, 1996.

Dalton-Puffer, Christiane, y Claire Cowie. «Diachronic Word-formation: theoretical and methodologicalconsiderations». In A ChangingWorld of Words: Studies in English HistoricalSemantics and Lexis, editedbyJavier E. Díaz Vera, 410-437. Amsterdam ; New York: Rodopi, 2000.

De BernadoStempel, Patrizia. «ZurMethode der Wortbildungsanalyse von Korpussprachen (anhandkeltischenMaterials». In Studia Celtica et Indogermanica: Festschriftfür Wolfgang Meid zum 70. Geburtstag, editedbyPeter P. Anreiter y ErzsébetJerem, 61-77. Budapest: ArchaeolinguaAlapítvány, 1999.

Kastovsky, Dieter. «The problem of productivity in word formation». Linguistics 24 (1986): 585-600.

Lühr, Rosemarie. «Introduction». En NominaleWortbildung des Indogermanischen in Grundzügen : die WortbildungsmusterausgewählterindogermanischerEinzelsprachen. Band 1, Latein, Altgriechisch, editado por RosemarieLühr. Hamburg: Dr. Kovač, 2008.

Panagl, Oswald. «Produktivität in der Wortbildung von Corpussprachen: Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Heuristik». Folia Linguistica 16 (1982): 225-239.

Serbat, Guy. Les dérivés nominaux latins a suffixe médiatif. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1975.