Compound (linguistics)

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In linguistics, a compound is a lexeme (less precisely, a word or sign) that consists of more than one stem. Compounding, composition or nominal composition is the process of word formation that creates compound lexemes. That is, in familiar terms, compounding occurs when two or more words or signs are joined to make a longer word or sign, often however written in separate parts in English but not most other languages, e.g. press conference.

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The meaning of the compound may be similar to or different from the meaning of its components in isolation. The component stems of a compound may be of the same part of speech—as in the case of the English word footpath, composed of the two nouns foot and path—or they may belong to different parts of speech, as in the case of the English word blackbird, composed of the adjective black and the noun bird. With very few exceptions, English compound words are stressed on their first component stem.

As a member of the Germanic family of languages, English is unusual in that even simple compounds made since the 18th century tend to be written in separate parts. This would be an error in other Germanic languages such as Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, German and Dutch. However, this is merely an orthographic convention: As in other Germanic languages, arbitrary noun phrases, for example "girl scout troop", "city council member", and "cellar door", can be made up on the spot and used as compound nouns in English too.

The process occurs readily in all Germanic languages for different reasons. Words can be concatenated both to mean the same as the sum of two words (e.g. Pressekonferenz—German for press conference) or where an adjective and noun are compounded (e.g. hvidvinsglas—Danish for white wine glass). This can create a plethora of ridiculously large, but valid words in these languages, by compounding compound words with several more.

The addition of affix morphemes to words (such as suffixes or prefixes, as in employemployment) should not be confused with nominal composition, as this is actually morphological derivation.

Some languages easily form compounds from what in other languages would be a multi-word expression. This can result in unusually long words, a phenomenon known in German (which is one such language) as Bandwurmwörter or tapeworm words.

Sign languages also have compounds. They are created by combining two or more sign stems.

So-called "classical compounds" are compounds derived from classical Latin or ancient Greek roots.

Formation of compounds

Compound formation rules vary widely across language types.

In a synthetic language, the relationship between the elements of a compound may be marked with a case or other morpheme. For example, the German compound Kapitänspatent consists of the lexemes Kapitän (sea captain) and Patent (license) joined by an -s- (originally a genitive case suffix); and similarly, the Latin lexeme paterfamilias contains the archaic genitive form familias of the lexeme familia (family). Conversely, in the Hebrew language compound, the word בֵּית סֵפֶר bet sefer (school), it is the head that is modified: the compound literally means "house-of book", with בַּיִת bayit (house) having entered the construct state to become בֵּית bet (house-of). This latter pattern is common throughout the Semitic languages, though in some it is combined with an explicit genitive case, so that both parts of the compound are marked (e.g. Arabic عبد الله ʕabdu ʔal-lāhi "servant-of-God").

Agglutinative languages tend to create very long words with derivational morphemes. Compounds may or may not require the use of derivational morphemes also. In German, extremely extendable compound words can be found in the language of chemical compounds, where, in the cases of biochemistry and polymers, they can be practically unlimited in length, mostly because the German rule suggests combining all noun adjuncts with the noun as the last stem. German examples include Farb­fernsehgerät (color television set), Funk­fernbedienung (radio remote control), and the often quoted jocular word Donau­dampfschifffahrts­gesellschafts­kapitänsmütze (originally only two Fs, Danube-Steamboat-Shipping Company captain['s] hat), which can of course be made even longer and even more absurd, e.g. Donau­dampfschifffahrts­gesellschafts­kapitänsmützen­reinigungs­ausschreibungs­verordnungs­diskussionsanfang ("beginning of the discussion of a regulation on tendering of Danube steamboat shipping company captain hats") etc. According to several editions of the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest published German word has 79 letters and is Donau­dampfschiffahrts­elektrizitäten­hauptbetriebswerkbau­unterbeamten­gesellschaft ("Association for Subordinate Officials of the Main Electric[ity] Maintenance Building of the Danube Steam Shipping"), but there is no evidence that this association ever actually existed.

In Finnish, although there is theoretically no limit to the length of compound words, words consisting of more than three components are rare. Even those with fewer than three components can look mysterious[ clarification needed ] to non-Finnish speakers, such as hätäuloskäynti (emergency exit). Internet folklore sometimes suggests that lentokone­suihkuturbiinimoottori­apumekaanikko­aliupseerioppilas (Airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student) is the longest word in Finnish, but evidence of it actually being used is scant and anecdotal at best. [1]

Compounds can be rather long when translating technical documents from English to some other language, since the lengths of the words are theoretically unlimited, especially in chemical terminology. For example, when translating an English technical document to Swedish, the term "Motion estimation search range settings" can be directly translated to rörelse­uppskattnings­sökintervalls­inställningar, though in reality, the word would most likely be divided in two: sökintervalls­inställningar för rörelse­uppskattning – "search range settings for motion estimation".

Subclasses

Semantic classification

A common semantic classification of compounds yields four types:

An endocentric compound consists of a head , i.e. the categorical part that contains the basic meaning of the whole compound, and modifiers, which restrict this meaning. For example, the English compound doghouse, where house is the head and dog is the modifier, is understood as a house intended for a dog. Endocentric compounds tend to be of the same part of speech (word class) as their head, as in the case of doghouse. (Such compounds were called tatpuruṣa in the Sanskrit tradition.)

An exocentric compound (called a bahuvrihi compound in the Sanskrit tradition) is a hyponym of some unexpressed semantic category (such as a person, plant, or animal): none (neither) of its components can be perceived as a formal head, and its meaning often cannot be transparently guessed from its constituent parts. For example, the English compound white-collar is neither a kind of collar nor a white thing. In an exocentric compound, the word class is determined lexically, disregarding the class of the constituents. For example, a must-have is not a verb but a noun. The meaning of this type of compound can be glossed as "(one) whose B is A", where B is the second element of the compound and A the first. A bahuvrihi compound is one whose nature is expressed by neither of the words: thus a white-collar person is neither white nor a collar (the collar's colour is a metonym for socioeconomic status). Other English examples include barefoot.

Copulative compounds are compounds with two semantic heads.

Appositional compounds are lexemes that have two (contrary) attributes that classify the compound.

TypeDescriptionExamples
endocentricA+B denotes a special kind of Bdarkroom, smalltalk
exocentricA+B denotes a special kind of an unexpressed semantic headredhead, scarecrow
copulativeA+B denotes 'the sum' of what A and B denotebittersweet, sleepwalk
appositionalA and B provide different descriptions for the same referenthunter-gatherer, maidservant

Syntactic classification

Noun–noun compounds

All natural languages have compound nouns. The positioning of the words (i.e. the most common order of constituents in phrases where nouns are modified by adjectives, by possessors, by other nouns, etc.) varies according to the language. While Germanic languages, for example, are left-branching when it comes to noun phrases (the modifiers come before the head), the Romance languages are usually right-branching.

In French, compound nouns are often formed by left-hand heads with prepositional components inserted before the modifier, as in chemin-de-fer 'railway', lit. 'road of iron', and moulin à vent 'windmill', lit. 'mill (that works)-by-means-of wind'.

In Turkish, one way of forming compound nouns is as follows: yeldeğirmeni 'windmill' (yel: wind, değirmen-i: mill-possessive); demiryolu 'railway' (demir: iron, yol-u: road-possessive).

Occasionally, two synonymous nouns can form a compound noun, resulting in a tautology. One example is the English word pathway .

Verb–noun compounds

A type of compound that is fairly common in the Indo-European languages is formed of a verb and its object, and in effect transforms a simple verbal clause into a noun.

In Spanish, for example, such compounds consist of a verb conjugated for the second person singular imperative followed by a noun (singular or plural): e.g., rascacielos (modelled on "skyscraper", lit. 'scratch skies'), sacacorchos 'corkscrew' (lit. 'pull corks'), guardarropa 'wardrobe' (lit. 'store clothes'). These compounds are formally invariable in the plural (but in many cases they have been reanalyzed as plural forms, and a singular form has appeared). French and Italian have these same compounds with the noun in the singular form: Italian grattacielo 'skyscraper', French grille-pain 'toaster' (lit. 'toast bread').

This construction exists in English, generally with the verb and noun both in uninflected form: examples are spoilsport, killjoy, breakfast, cutthroat, pickpocket, dreadnought, and know-nothing.

Also common in English is another type of verb–noun (or noun–verb) compound, in which an argument of the verb is incorporated into the verb, which is then usually turned into a gerund, such as breastfeeding, finger-pointing, etc. The noun is often an instrumental complement. From these gerunds new verbs can be made: (a mother) breastfeeds (a child) and from them new compounds mother-child breastfeeding, etc.

Verb-noun compounds derived from classical languages tend to be nouns; rarely, a verb-noun classical compound can be a verb. One example is miscegenate , a word that literally falls into disuse nowadays, which is derived from a Latin verb and a Latin noun. In the Australian Aboriginal language Jingulu, a Pama–Nyungan language, it is claimed that all verbs are V+N compounds, such as "do a sleep", or "run a dive", and the language has only three basic verbs: do, make, and run. [2]

A special kind of compounding is incorporation, of which noun incorporation into a verbal root (as in English backstabbing, breastfeed, etc.) is most prevalent (see below).

Verb–verb compounds

Verb–verb compounds are sequences of more than one verb acting together to determine clause structure. They have two types:

  • In a serial verb , two actions, often sequential, are expressed in a single clause. For example, Ewe trɔ dzo, lit. "turn leave", means "turn and leave", and Hindi जाकर देखोjā-kar dekh-o, lit. "go-CONJUNCTIVE PARTICIPLE see-IMPERATIVE", means "go and see". In Tamil, a Dravidian language, van̪t̪u paːr, lit. "come see". In each case, the two verbs together determine the semantics and argument structure.

Serial verb expressions in English may include What did you go and do that for?, or He just upped and left; this is however not quite a true compound since they are connected by a conjunction and the second missing arguments may be taken as a case of ellipsis.

  • In a compound verb (or complex predicate), one of the verbs is the primary, and determines the primary semantics and also the argument structure. The secondary verb, often called a vector verb or explicator, provides fine distinctions, usually in temporality or aspect, and also carries the inflection (tense and/or agreement markers). The main verb usually appears in conjunctive participial (sometimes zero) form. For examples, Hindi निकल गयाnikal gayā, lit. "exit went", means 'went out', while निकल पड़ा nikal paRā, lit. "exit fell", means 'departed' or 'was blurted out'. In these examples निकल nikal is the primary verb, and गया gayā and पड़ा paRā are the vector verbs. Similarly, in both English start reading and Japanese 読み始める yomihajimeru "read-CONJUNCTIVE-start" "start reading," the vector verbs start and 始める hajimeru "start" change according to tense, negation, and the like, while the main verbs reading and 読み yomi "reading" usually remain the same. An exception to this is the passive voice, in which both English and Japanese modify the main verb, i.e. start to be read and 読まれ始める yomarehajimeru lit. "read-PASSIVE-(CONJUNCTIVE)-start" start to be read. With a few exceptions all compound verbs alternate with their simple counterparts. That is, removing the vector does not affect grammaticality at all nor the meaning very much: निकला nikalā '(He) went out.' In a few languages both components of the compound verb can be finite forms: Kurukh kecc-ar ker-ar lit. "died-3pl went-3pl" '(They) died.'
  • Compound verbs are very common in some languages, such as the northern Indo-Aryan languages Hindustani and Punjabi, and Dravidian languages like Tamil, where as many as 20% of verb forms in running text are compound. They exist but are less common in other Indo-Aryan languages like Marathi and Nepali, in Tibeto-Burman languages like Limbu and Newari, in Turkic languages like Turkish and Kyrgyz, in Korean and Japanese, and in northeast Caucasian languages like Tsez and Avar.
  • Under the influence of a Quichua substrate speakers living in the Ecuadorian altiplano have innovated compound verbs in Spanish:
De rabia puso rompiendo la olla, 'In anger (he/she) smashed the pot.' (Lit. from anger put breaking the pot)
Botaremos matándote 'We will kill you.' (Cf. Quichua huañuchi-shpa shitashun, lit. kill-CP throw.1plFut.
Likewise in Hindi: तेरे को मार डालेंगे tere ko mār DāleNge, lit. "we will kill-throw you").
  • Compound verb equivalents in English (examples from the internet):
What did you go and do that for?
If you are not giving away free information on your web site then a huge proportion of your business is just upping and leaving.
Big Pig, she took and built herself a house out of brush.
  • Caution: In descriptions of Persian and other Iranian languages the term 'compound verb' refers to noun-plus-verb compounds, not to the verb–verb compounds discussed here.

Parasynthetic compounds

Parasynthetic compounds are formed by a combination of compounding and derivation, with multiple lexical stems and a derivational affix. For example, English black-eyed is composed of black, eye, and -ed 'having', with the meaning 'having a black eye'; [3] Italian imbustare is composed of in- 'in', busta 'envelope', -are (verbal suffix), with the meaning 'to put into an envelope'. [4]

Compound adpositions

Compound prepositions formed by prepositions and nouns are common in English and the Romance languages (consider English on top of, Spanish encima de, etc.). Hindi has a small number of simple (i.e., one-word) postpositions and a large number of compound postpositions, mostly consisting of simple postposition ke followed by a specific postposition (e.g., ke pas, "near"; ke nīche, "underneath").

Examples from different languages

Chinese (traditional/simplified Chinese; Standard Chinese Pinyin/Cantonese Jyutping):

Dutch:

Finnish:

Sewage-treatment-facility - The German language has many compounds Abwasserbehandlungsanlage.jpg
Sewage-treatment-facility - The German language has many compounds

German:

Ancient Greek:

Icelandic:

Italian:

Japanese:

Korean:

Ojibwe/Anishinaabemowin:

Spanish:

Tamil: In Cemmozhi (Classical Tamil), rules for compounding are laid down in grammars such as Tolkappiyam and Nannūl, in various forms, under the name punarcci. Examples of compounds include kopuram from 'kō' (king) + 'puram' (exterior). Sometimes phonemes may be inserted during the blending process such as in kovil from 'kō' (king) + 'il' (home). Other types are like vennai (butter) from 'veḷḷai' (white) + 'nei' (ghee); note how 'veḷḷai' becomes 'ven'.

In koṭuntamizh (Non-standard Tamil), parts of words from other languages may be morphed into Tamil. Common examples include 'ratta-azhuttam' (blood pressure) from the Sanskrit rakta (blood) and Cemmozhi 'azhuttam' (pressure); note how rakta becomes ratta in Tamil order to remove the consonant-cluster. This also happens with English, for examples kāpi-kaṭai (coffee shop) is from English coffee, which becomes kāpi in Tamil, and the Tamil kaṭai meaning shop.

Tłįchǫ Yatiì/Dogrib:

Germanic languages

In Germanic languages (including English), compounds are formed by prepending what is effectively a namespace (disambiguation context) to the main word. For example, "football" would be a "ball" in the "foot" context. In itself, this does not alter the meaning of the main word. The added context only makes it more precise. As such, a "football" must be understood as a "ball". However, as is the case with "football", a well established compound word may have gained a special meaning in the language's vocabulary. Only this defines "football" as a particular type of ball (unambiguously the round object, not the dance party, at that), and also the game involving such a ball. Another example of special and altered meaning is "starfish" – a starfish is in fact not a fish in modern biology. Also syntactically, the compound word behaves like the main word – the whole compound word (or phrase) inherits the word class and inflection rules of the main word. That is to say, since "fish" and "shape" are nouns, "starfish" and "star shape" must also be nouns, and they must take plural forms as "starfish" and "star shapes", definite singular forms as "the starfish" and "the star shape", and so on. This principle also holds for languages that express definiteness by inflection (as in North Germanic).

Because a compound is understood as a word in its own right, it may in turn be used in new compounds, so forming an arbitrarily long word is trivial. This contrasts to Romance languages, where prepositions are more used to specify word relationships instead of concatenating the words. As a member of the Germanic family of languages, English is unusual in that compounds are normally written in separate parts. This would be an error in other Germanic languages such as Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, German and Dutch. However, this is merely an orthographic convention: As in other Germanic languages, arbitrary noun phrases, for example "girl scout troop", "city council member", and "cellar door", can be made up on the spot and used as compound nouns in English too.

Russian language

In the Russian language compounding is a common type of word formation, and several types of compounds exist, both in terms of compounded parts of speech and of the way of the formation of a compound. [6]

Compound nouns may be agglutinative compounds, hyphenated compounds (стол-книга 'folding table', lit. 'table-book', "book-like table"), or abbreviated compounds (acronyms: колхоз 'kolkhoz'). Some compounds look like acronym, while in fact they are an agglutinations of type stem + word: Академгородок 'Akademgorodok' (from akademichesky gorodok 'academic village'). In agglutinative compound nouns, an agglutinating infix is typically used: пароход 'steamship': пар + о + ход. Compound nouns may be created as noun+noun, adjective + noun, noun + adjective (rare), noun + verb (or, rather, noun + verbal noun).

Compound adjectives may be formed either per se (бело-розовый 'white-pink') or as a result of compounding during the derivation of an adjective from a multi-word term: Каменноостровский проспект ([kəmʲɪnnʌʌˈstrovskʲɪj prʌˈspʲɛkt]) 'Stone Island Avenue', a street in St.Petersburg.

Reduplication in Russian is also a source of compounds.

Quite a few Russian words are borrowed from other languages in an already-compounded form, including numerous "classical compounds" or internationalisms: автомобиль 'automobile'.

Sanskrit language

Sanskrit is very rich in compound formation with seven major compound types and as many as 55 sub-types. [7] The compound formation process is productive, so it is not possible to list all Sanskrit compounds in a dictionary. Compounds of two or three words are more frequent, but longer compounds with some running through pages are not rare in Sanskrit literature. [7] Some examples are below (hyphens below show individual word boundaries for ease of reading but are not required in original Sanskrit).

Sign languages

Also in sign languages, compounding is a productive word formation process. Both endocentric and exocentric compounds have been described for a variety of sign languages. [11] Copulative compounds or dvandva, which are composed of two or more nouns from the same semantic category to denote that semantic category, also occur regularly in many sign languages. The sign for parents in Italian Sign Language, for instance, is a combination of the nouns ‘father’ and ‘mother’. This is an example of a sequential compound; in sign languages, it is also possible to form simultaneous compounds, where one hand represents one lexeme while the other simultaneously represents another lexeme. An example is the sign for weekend in Sign Language of the Netherlands, which is produced by simultaneously signing a one-handed version of the sign for Saturday and a one-handed version of the sign for Sunday. [11]

Although there is no universally agreed-upon guideline regarding the use of compound words in the English language, in recent decades written English has displayed a noticeable trend towards increased use of compounds. [12] Recently, many words have been made by taking syllables of words and compounding them, such as pixel (picture element) and bit (binary digit). This is called a syllabic abbreviation.

In Dutch and the Scandinavian languages there is an unofficial trend toward splitting compound words, known in Norwegian as særskriving, in Swedish as särskrivning (literally "separate writing"), and in Dutch as Engelse ziekte (the "English disease"). Because the Scandinavian languages rely heavily on the distinction between the compound word and the sequence of the separate words it consists of, this has serious implications. For example, the adjective røykfritt (literally "smokefree", meaning no smoking allowed) if separated into its composite parts, would mean røyk fritt ("smoke freely"). In Dutch, compounds written with spaces may also be confused, but can also be interpreted as a sequence of a noun and a genitive (which is unmarked in Dutch) in formal abbreviated writing. This may lead to, for example, commissie vergadering ("commission meeting") being read as "commission of the meeting" rather than "meeting of the commission" (normally spelled commissievergadering).

The German spelling reform of 1996 introduced the option of hyphenating compound nouns when it enhances comprehensibility and readability. This is done mostly with very long compound words by separating them into two or more smaller compounds, like Eisenbahn-Unterführung (railway underpass) or Kraftfahrzeugs-Betriebsanleitung (car manual). Such practice is also permitted in other Germanic languages, e.g. Danish and Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk alike), and is even encouraged between parts of the word that have very different pronunciation, such as when one part is a loan word or an acronym.

Compounding by language

See also

Notes

  1. "Seattle FinnFest '09".
  2. R. Pensalfini, Jingulu Grammar, Dictionary and Texts, PhD thesis (MIT, 1992), 138–9.
  3. Oxford English Dictionary , Third Edition, June 2005 s.v.
  4. Chiara Melloni, Antonietta Bisetto, "Parasynthetic compounds: data and theory", in Sergio Scalies, Irene Vogel, eds., Cross-Disciplinary Issues in Compounding, ISBN   9789027248275, 2010, p. 199-218
  5. "Diccionario De La Lengua Española : limpiaparabrisas". Real Academia Española. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  6. Student Dictionary of Compound Words of the Russian Language(1978) ISBN   0-8285-5190-1
  7. 1 2 3 Kumar, Anil; Mittal, Vipul; Kulkarni, Amba (2010). "Sanskrit Compound Processor". In Jha, Girish Nath (ed.). Sanskrit Computational Linguistics: 4th International Symposium, New Delhi, India, December 10–12, 2010: Proceedings (Volume 6465 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science / Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence Series). Springer. pp. 57–69. ISBN   978-3-642-17527-5.
  8. Harper, Douglas. "Himalaya". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved 2011-07-17.
  9. Kumar, Animesh (May 23, 2007). "Sruti Krta Rama Stuti". Stutimandal.com. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
  10. "Virudavali – Jagadguru Rambhadracharya". Shri Tulsi Peeth Seva Nyas. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  11. 1 2 Quer, Josep; Cecchetto, Carlo; Donati, Caterina; Geraci, Carlo, eds. (2017-11-20). "Part 4: Morphology". Sign Gram Blueprint. SignGram Blueprint. De Gruyter. pp. 163–270. doi:10.1515/9781501511806-009. ISBN   9781501511806 . Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  12. Sedivy, Julie (2017-11-16). "The Rise and Fall of the English Sentence". Nautilus. Retrieved 2020-08-02.

Related Research Articles

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A lexeme is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection. It is a basic abstract unit of meaning, a unit of morphological analysis in linguistics that roughly corresponds to a set of forms taken by a single root word. For example, in English, run, runs, ran and running are forms of the same lexeme, which can be represented as RUN.

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Compound verb

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English compound Word composed of more than one free morpheme

A compound is a word composed of more than one free morpheme. The English language, like many others, uses compounds frequently. English compounds may be classified in several ways, such as the word classes or the semantic relationship of their components.

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In theoretical linguistics, a distinction is made between endocentric and exocentric constructions. A grammatical construction is said to be endocentric if it fulfils the same linguistic function as one of its parts, and exocentric if it does not. The distinction reaches back at least to Bloomfield's work of the 1930s. Such a distinction is possible only in phrase structure grammars, since in dependency grammars all constructions are necessarily endocentric.

In morphology and lexicography, a lemma is the canonical form, dictionary form, or citation form of a set of words (headword). In English, for example, break, breaks, broke, broken and breaking are forms of the same lexeme, with break as the lemma by which they are indexed. Lexeme, in this context, refers to the set of all the forms that have the same meaning, and lemma refers to the particular form that is chosen by convention to represent the lexeme. Lemmas have special significance in highly inflected languages such as Arabic, Turkish and Russian. The process of determining the lemma for a given word is called lemmatisation. The lemma can be viewed as the chief of the principal parts, although lemmatisation is at least partly arbitrary.

The grammar of Old English is quite different from that of Modern English, predominantly by being much more inflected. As an old Germanic language, Old English has a morphological system that is similar to that of the Proto-Germanic reconstruction, retaining many of the inflections thought to have been common in Proto-Indo-European and also including constructions characteristic of the Germanic daughter languages such as the umlaut.

Sanskrit inherits from its parent, the Proto-Indo-European language, the capability of forming compound nouns, also widely seen in kindred languages, especially German, Greek, and also English.

Inflection Process of word formation

In linguistic morphology, inflection is a process of word formation, in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, animacy, and definiteness. The inflection of verbs is called conjugation, and one can refer to the inflection of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, determiners, participles, prepositions and postpositions, numerals, articles etc., as declension.

In Afro-Asiatic languages, the first noun in a genitive phrase of a possessed noun followed by a possessor noun often takes on a special morphological form, which is termed the construct state. For example, in Arabic and Hebrew, the word for "queen" standing alone is malika ملكة and malkaמלכה‎ respectively, but when the word is possessed, as in the phrase "Queen of Sheba", it becomes malikat sabaʾ ملكة سبأ and malkat šəbaמלכת שבא‎ respectively, in which malikat and malkat are the construct state (possessed) form and malika and malka are the absolute (unpossessed) form. In Geʽez, the word for "queen" is ንግሥት nəgəśt, but in the construct state it is ንግሥተ, as in the phrase "[the]Queen of Sheba" ንግሥተ ሣባ nəgəśta śābā..

In grammar, a genitive construction or genitival construction is a type of grammatical construction used to express a relation between two nouns such as the possession of one by another, or some other type of connection. A genitive construction involves two nouns, the head and the dependent. In dependent-marking languages, a dependent genitive noun modifies the head by expressing some property of it. For example, in the construction "John's jacket", "jacket" is the head and "John's" is the modifier, expressing a property of the jacket. The analogous relationship in head-marking languages is pertensive.

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