Compositionality in English deverbal compounds: The role of the head
This paper is concerned with the compositionality of deverbal compounds such as budget assessment in English. We present an interdisciplinary study on how the morphosyntactic properties of the deverbal noun head (e.g., assessment) can pre- dict the interpretation of the compound, as mediated by the syntactic-semantic relationship between the non-head (e.g., budget) and the head. We start with Grim- shaw's (1990) observation that deverbal nouns are ambiguous between composi- tionally interpreted
... ionally interpreted argument structure nominals, which inherit verbal structure and realize arguments (e.g., the assessment of the budget by the government), and more lexicalized result nominals, which preserve no verbal properties or arguments (e.g., The assessment is on the table.). Our hypothesis is that deverbal compounds with argument structure nominal heads are fully compositional and, in our system, more easily predictable than those headed by result nominals, since their composi- tional make-up triggers an (unambiguous) object interpretation of the non-heads. Linguistic evidence gathered from corpora and human annotations, and evaluated with machine learning techniques supports this hypothesis. At the same time, it raises interesting discussion points on how different properties of the head con- tribute to the interpretation of the deverbal compound.