Doktorsavhandling, 2019

Göteborgs universitet. Humanistiska fakulteten, Institutionen för svenska språket

Lisa Loenheim

This thesis presents a cognitive questionnaire-based study on the interpretation of compounds. The analysis is based on the interpretations from 190 Swedish-speaking students in upper secondary schools.

The overall aim is to test the assumption of usage-based approaches that linguistic phenomena become entrenched in the mind of the speaker as a result of repetition. To be able to analyse such entrenchment effects both established compounds and novel compounds with many potential meanings are included, and interpretations from speakers with various exposure time to Swedish (L1 and L2 speakers) are analysed.

The result of this study indicates that the meaning potentials of compounds are evaluated only when necessary. If the compound is entrenched as a unit, no analysis is needed. If the compound is unfamiliar to the language user, he/she makes use of an entrenched linguistic template, i.e. a specific (similar) compound or a low-level or higher-level schema, as an analogy base in the interpretation. This study confirms that the frequency of the compound and the user’s exposure time to Swedish are factors of great impact: frequent compounds result in more concordant interpretations than less frequent ones, and L1 speakers are more concordant in their interpretations than L2 speakers. The discrepancy between the speaker groups (L1 and L2) concerning established compounds is a result of entrenchment differences of these specific compounds (due to various exposure time to Swedish), whereas the discrepancy concerning the interpretation of novel compounds reflects various degrees of entrenchment of linguistic templates that can serve as analogy bases. This study further indicates that the right-headedness pattern is not as established for Swedish compounds as previously assumed. This is especially true for adjectival compounds.