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The Evolution of Noun Incorporation

Marianne Mithun
Language
Vol. 60, No. 4 (Dec., 1984), pp. 847-894
DOI: 10.2307/413800
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/413800
Page Count: 48
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The Evolution of Noun Incorporation
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Abstract

Noun incorporation is perhaps the most nearly syntactic of all morphological processes. Examination of the phenomenon across a large number of geographically and genetically diverse languages indicates that, where syntax and morphology diverge, incorporation is a solidly morphological device that derives lexical items, not sentences. It is used for four different but related purposes; these fall into an implicational hierarchy which in turn suggests a path along which incorporation develops historically. Differences in its productivity from language to language show that this development may be arrested at any point-resulting either in the eventual disappearance of the process, or in its resurgence as a productive system of affixation.

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