Productivity and Diachronic Evolution of Adjectival and Participial Compound Pre-modifiers in English for Specific Purposes

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Published May 15, 2015
Alexandra Mestivier-Volanschi


This article studies the ways in which adjectival and participial compound pre-modifiers are used in scientific texts in the field of biology. We do not attempt to strictly classify these
pre-modifiers within the class of adjectival compounds or dispute the fluctuating terminology in this field of morpho-syntactic analysis. Instead, we aim to provide detailed and reliable statistical data on the productivity of this phenomenon which we claim is an undeniable characteristic of at least two genres of the scientific register: research articles and monographs. Using data derived from several specialised and reference corpora, scientific journal archives and monograph collections we show that this type of construction is significantly more frequent in English for Specific Purposes (ESP), at least in the fields of Biology and Earth Sciences, than in English for General Purposes (EGP) and that it has become so especially over the last half-century. The article is structured as follows: Section 1 reviews a number of aspects related to Adjectival and Prepositional Compound Pre-modifiers (APCPs) discussed in the literature. While justifying terminological and orthographic choices, the article discusses the types of morpho-syntactic process which are at play in the production of APCPs as well as the role these compounds play in building information structure. Section 2 presents the resources used in the statistical study of the phenomenon while section 3 measures the productivity of APCPs using several qualitative and quantitative measures both synchronically (in specialised vs. reference corpora) and diachronically (over the last 100 years).

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Mestivier-Volanschi, Alexandra. 2015. “Productivity and Diachronic Evolution of Adjectival and Participial Compound Pre-Modifiers in English for Specific Purposes”. Fachsprache 37 (1-2):2-23.
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