vav conversive

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Fri Sep 3 16:24:44 EDT 1999

Hi Peter,
> Thank you, Dave, for your answer. Yes, maybe do need to look at a 
> proper linguistic definition of "word" apart from the written 
> language. The problem seems to be that practical linguists too often 
> duck the issue and follow the white spaces in the orthography. I fear 
> that if we look at theories we end up with phonological words, 
> grammatical words and semantic words, each no doubt in various 
> flavours, and they don't match up with one another. I remember hearing 
> "clitic" defined as something like "something about which people can't 
> decide if it's a separate word". We may have a lot of such clitics in 
> Hebrew - even proper names, if we look at Genesis 7:13 W:$"M-W:XFM, 
> two names joined together in one phonological word. Your semantic or 
> lexical approach to defining "word" is helpful, but it is far from the 
> only possibility.

Agreed.  Is a compound word one or two?  (or more, in the case of 
German...)  My own current and very tentative view is that the 
answer depends on native speakers' intuitions, and barring that 
(e.g. ancient Hebrew, Akkadian, Ugaritic or whatever) the question 
of whether something can be lexically defined is the determining 
factor.  E.g. "keyboard" is a compound word made up of "key" and 
"board."  Each part has a meaning, "key" being an object used for 
unlocking something, and "board" being a type of surface (overly 
simplified for the sake of bandwidth).  But the compound 
"keyboard" is much more than the sum of its parts, and thus I 
would consider it a separate word even though some people write it 
as two ("key board") or hyphenated ("key-board").  Still, I won't go 
to the stake (or even the woodshed) for this idea, and am willing to 
hear and experiment with others.

Dave Washburn
"Ich veranlassenarbeitenworken mein Mojo."

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