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  • Word Formation in South American Languages ed. by Swintha Danielsen, Katja Hannss, and Fernando Zúñiga
  • Hein van der Voort
Word Formation in South American Languages. Edited by Swintha Danielsen, Katja Hannss, and Fernando Zúñiga. Studies in Language Companion Series 163. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2014. Pp. vi + 228. $149.00 (hardcover).

This new volume in the companion series to the journal Studies in Language has come out of a workshop on Word Formation in South American Languages organized in June 2011 in Leipzig, Germany, by Femmy Admiraal, Swintha Danielsen and Katja Hannss. The main focus of the call for papers was on compounding, which has not received as much attention in South American language studies as other morphological processes. Only a few of the talks at the workshop made it to the volume in the form of an article. Nevertheless, the majority of the nine articles deal with compounding and related phenomena, two articles deal with reduplication, and the last article focuses on nominalization. As a consequence, the volume is tilted towards compounding and does not cover much of what can be considered canonical derivational morphology.

The introduction to the volume is very useful. It presents the topic of the volume and definitions with ample reference to literature, it gives a brief overview of each article in the volume, and it has a useful map locating the languages discussed. The editors define “word formation” in the sense of Bauer (2006), excluding inflection. Strange as it may seem, there are few cross-linguistic studies of word formation as a topic including compounding, reduplication, and derivation. The editors refer to Štekauer and Lieber (2005), noting the sparsity of studies on word formation in “smaller” languages and hoping to contribute to filling this gap for a selection of understudied South American languages. Below, I discuss the chapters one by one.

Fernando Zúñiga’s carefully written chapter, “Nominal Compounds in Mapudungun,” is an important contribution to the field of Mapudungun studies. As a polysynthetic agglutinating language, the focus has traditionally been on its rich verb morphology rather than on nominal compounding–what Zúñiga calls “multi-stem nominal expressions.” Zúñiga evaluates and compares the way such nominal expressions have been analyzed in previous studies, showing specific gaps in the analyses. He proposes a more typologically meaningful classification (and subclassification) of nominal compounds that takes into account the systematic correlation between syntactic headedness and the kind of semantic relationship that obtains between head and dependent. For example, when the semantic relationship between head and dependent is intimate, as in the case of a body part, the compound is head-initial. When the relationship is nonintimate, the concomitant parts of the compound have relative phonological independence. When the relationship is unspecified, the compound is head-final.

Temis L. Tacconi’s chapter, “Towards a Characterization of Compounding in Maká,” on a Mataco-Mataguayan language of the Paraguayan Chaco region, is the weakest of the volume. The chapter seeks to discuss criteria for regarding lexemes as compounds and whether their behavior is distinctive to the Mataco-Mataguayan family or reflects universal principles. The data on Maká are rich and fascinating, but both the presentation and the analysis are somewhat confusing. The inconsistent use of zero third person morphemes further complicates the analyses. What is said in the text sometimes does not seem to match the examples. Contrasts and criteria are sometimes lacking when the author claims to demonstrate properties or categories. (For instance, how do we see that a certain combination of words is “frozen”? Why is ‘hard’ a noun?) The text contains [End Page 340] unusual terminology such as “derivative morphemes.” This chapter should have been edited more carefully.

Paola Cúneo’s chapter “Augmentative Form in Toba (Guaycuruan): Form and Function,” is an interesting contribution to the study of compounds. It discusses derivational and lexical expressions of evaluative notions such as big size, abundance, intensity, excess, and mockery. After a useful discussion of the notion of evaluative morphology in general (see also Cúneo 2015), the author elaborates on the different augmentative expressions in Toba and how these can grammaticalize via compounding. Plant and animal names...


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