The recursive formation of Old English non-verbal categories. Productivity and constraints

Raquel Vea Escarza


This paper aims at analysing the recursivity in the formation of non-verbal categories, more specifically, of nouns and adjectives in old English. Pounder’s (2000) model, known as Process and Paradigm Model, provides the formal representation of recursive operations. The data of analysis consist of a total of 388 recursive nouns and adjectives, 11 of which undergo a two-level recursivity, or slot-II recursivity. Both in the case of nouns and adjectives, suffixation has a clearly preeminent role over prefixation. As for nouns, the suffix -nes is the most frequent one in number of tokens, whereas -is the one that combines with a greater number of suffixes in prefinal position. Regarding adjectives, -lic is by far the suffix present in a higher number of predicates, and also the one that undergoes a wider variety of different recursive patterns, what evinces that there is correlation between a high type frequency and the assignment of a high number of different recursive patterns. Positional constraints affect -nes and -lic, since none of them can occur in a position other than final. A semantic interpretation of recursive suffixation leads to assign a semantic effect of this phenomenon when it applies to nouns, and a pragmatic one in the case of adjectives.


Recursivity; productivity; constraints; affixation; Old English.

Full Text:



Jember, G. K., J. C. Carrell, R. P. Lundquist, B. M. Olds and R. P. Tripp. 1975. English-Old English, Old English-English Dictionary. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

Kastovsky, D. 1992. Semantics and vocabulary. In R. Hogg (ed.), The Cambridge History of the English Language I: The Beginnings to 1066. 290-408. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lass, R. 1994. Old English: a Historical Linguistic Companion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lieber, R. 2004. Morphology and Lexical Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martín Arista, J. 2008. Unification and separation in a functional theory of morphology. In R. Van Valin (ed.), Investigations of the Syntax-Semantics-Pragmatics Interface. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 119-145.

Martín Arista, J. 2009. A Typology of Morphological Constructions. In C. Butler and J. Martín Arista (eds.), Deconstructing Constructions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 85-115.

Martín Arista, J. 2010a. OE strong verbs derived from strong verbs. SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics 7-1: 36-56.

Martín Arista, J. 2010b. Lexical negation in Old English. NOWELE-North-Western European Language Evolution. 60/61: 89-108.

Martín Arista, J. 2011a. Adjective formation and lexical layers in Old English. English Studies 92/3: 323-334.

Martín Arista, J. 2011b. Projections and constructions in functional morphology: the case of HRĒOW. Language and Linguistics 12/2: 393-425.

Martín Arista, J. 2012. The Old English Prefix Ge-: A Panchronic Reappraisal. Australian Journal of Linguistics 32/4: 411-433.

Martín Arista, J. 2013. Recursivity, derivational depth and the search for Old English lexical primes. Studia Neophilologica 85/1: 1-21.

Martín Arista, J. 2014. Noun layers in Old English. Mismatches and asymmetry in lexical derivation. Nordic Journal of English Studies 13(3): 160-187.

Pounder, A. 2000. Processes and Paradigms in Word-Formation Morphology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Quirk R. and C. L. Wrenn. 1994 (1955). An Old English Grammar. DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press.

Torre Alonso, R. 2009. Morphological Process Feeding in the Formation of Old English Nouns: Zero Derivation, Affixation and Compounding. PhD Dissertation, Department of Modern Languages, University of La Rioja.

Torre Alonso, R. 2010. Morphological process feeding in the formation of Old English nouns. SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics 7: 57-69.

Torre Alonso, R. 2011a. The Morphological Structure of Old English Complex Nouns. Atlantis 33.1: 127–146.

Torre Alonso, R. 2011b. Nominal Affix Combinations in Old English: Distribution and Restrictions. RESLA 24: 257-278.

van der Hulst, H. 2010. Recursion and Human Language. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.


Copyright (c) 2015 Raquel Vea Escarza

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

ISSN 1576-6357

EISSN 1695-4300