Thoughts about compounding

In Ungglish, all parts of a compound word must help give meaning to the word, and must do so in a reasonable way. The English word “sunset”, for example, is not acceptable because the word “set” does not normally mean “to go down” except when we’re talking about the sun. Ungglish almost never makes special exceptions like that, so we use “sundown” in Ungglish instead.

“earphone” doesn’t directly work either, because although the lexeme “phone” is associated with sound in English, “phoen” in Ungglish specifically means “telephone”, which an earphone usually is not. However the word “sounda” means “make a sound” so “soundor” is a speaker and “eersoundor” is an earphone; “eer” is in the extended vocabulary though, so there is also a basic vocabulary term for an earphone, “heerster soundor”.

There are some compound words whose meaning is obvious, like “doghouse” and “dishwasher”, and of course these are allowed.

But what about compound terms like “blackboard”, “daydream”, and “death bed”? In these examples, both parts of the compound word contribute to the meaning, but clearly the entire meaning is not there: a blackboard is not simply any board that is black; it must be suitable for drawing with chalk. A daydream is not a dream you have in the daytime (which in Ungglish is called des-niet, because a “dey” is a 24-hour period that includes the night) but it’s dream-like, a feat of imagination. And while “death bed” contains most of its own meaning, one could easily imagine that a “death bed” is “a bed that causes death”, or “a bed where executions happen”, “a bed where dead people lay”.

In the case of “blackboard”, there is an alternative, “chalkboard”, which Ungglish will use instead. It can be misinterpreted (no, it’s not a board made of chalk), this word captures the essential fact that a chalkboard is related to chalk. The fact that a blackboard is black is not an essential feature. In fact, some chalkboards are green, but even if all chalkboards were black, their relationship to chalk is more important than their color.

In general, I think we should import these sorts of compound words from English, but not without considering whether a better compound word would communicate the idea better, without excessive length. A “daydream” is not a dream, but “day-time imagination session” is overly long and so, if we cannot find a shorter way to express the idea, I’m satisfied with “deydreem”. “dethh bed”, too, is acceptable to me, although I think one should try to avoid that phrase, preferring phrases like “az hi leya, dieing” or “on the bed werr hi dieda”. Remember, Ungglish is not English. Most things translate well from English, but not everything.

People should be very careful when trying to make their own compound words. When possible, use prefixes and suffixes instead, and if you must make a compound word, try to follow an existing pattern seen in a related series of Ungglish (not English) compound words.

I certainly haven’t thought through everything there is to think about compounding; your opinion is welcome.

Note: Elements of Ungglish described in blog posts may change after publication