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G. Hussain Chinoy May 23, 2015 (01:10)

The most common kind of compound word is what's called "endocentric:" it includes the thing that it is. So a houseboat is a kind of boat; a shoe salesman is a kind of salesman; a whoremonger is a kind of monger. (That being an old word for a dealer or trader) The second most common is "exocentric:" made out of nouns and adjectives, but not including the thing that it is. (e.g., a loudmouth is not a kind of mouth, but a kind of person.)

This is all about a third category: exocentric compounds that are built out of verbs, which describe what the thing does. +Brianne Hughes  wrote her master's thesis on these, where she named them "cutthroat compounds," after such an example: A cutthroat is someone who cuts throats.

These are surprisingly rare in English, but are common among kids: apparently, children go through a phase where they spontaneously generate lots of these, and then stop.

This is what's called a "productive" grammar: you can make up new ones and people will understand you, so if I call someone a lack-faith or Bob Stealhorse people will understand me. But they don't fit naturally into English grammar, because English is what's called a "head-initial" language: you tend to put the most significant part of a phrase or sentence first. Since English verbs have to go before their objects, this gets it backwards; it sounds like more natural English to call someone "faithless" or a "horse-thief." That's why, apart from a few cases which happened to survive, English has relatively few cutthroat compounds.

But the few we keep are pretty great, and tend to be very evocative: a sawbones, a killjoy, a slingshot. (And some, like "breakfast," become so common that we even forget that they're compound words) Apparently they dominantly fall into three categories: occupational names, local nature-words, and insults.

What it says about us that we primarily use these especially colorful compounds to describe just what we think of one another, I leave as an exercise for the reader.

h/t +Laura Gibbs.
The Kick-Butt World of Cutthroat Compounds
The following post was excerpted from Sentence First: An Irishman's blog about the English language. A houseboat is a type of boat; a boathouse is a type of house. This illustrates a common pattern in English morphology: the rightmost part of a compound (houseboat) is usually the ‘head’. In other...

Tamas Ferencz May 23, 2015 (09:09)

That is a very good question. Nothing obvious springs to mind, but I will have to look through some vocabularies to be sure

Jenna Carpenter May 23, 2015 (09:09)

Yes, and other types. Endocentric (tatpurusha) in Sindarin examples: balrog, rochben, dirnaith, Exocentric (bahuvrihi) examples: anfang, lachenn. Other types in Sindarin are copulative compounds (dvandva), e.g. ann-thennath, or names such as Iorhael. Can't think of any appositional compounds offhand though.

Tamas Ferencz May 23, 2015 (09:28)

+Jenna Carpenter indeed but I took the question was about the "cutthroat compounds" as the article calls them, and I just can't think of any of those

Александр Запрягаев May 23, 2015 (09:29)

You should definitely consult David Salo's essay on compounds in Gateway to Sindarin pp. 173-178; he lists seven main classes plus some non-standard examples. I believe all Eldarin tongues are very rich in compounds and their formation methods, and this is the reason we are never stumped over the limits of vocabulary: making a compound is the safest well-attested method of producing predictable words.
+Tamas Ferencz Concerning 'cut-throat' ones, though Sindarin is very rich in verb + object compounds, which are one of the most productive patterns, it normally puts object first (bas-oneth etc.); still, Salo lists two very proper ones, medli < mad + glî 'eat-honey, a bear' and talagan < talan + gand 'play-harp, a harper'. These are characteristic for old stage of language but get rare in modern forms and remain non-productive.

Tamas Ferencz May 23, 2015 (09:40)

+Александр Запрягаев ah excellent! Well found, sir

Björn Fromén May 23, 2015 (22:42)

Examples from Quenya: Hirilonde 'Haven-finder', Turambar 'Doom-conqueror'