Volume 14, Issue 6 (2024)                   LRR 2024, 14(6): 143-176 | Back to browse issues page

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sabzevari M, Azimdokht Z. The Semantic Imterpretation of Idiomatic Compound Verbs in Farsi. LRR 2024; 14 (6) :143-176
URL: http://lrr.modares.ac.ir/article-14-58480-en.html
1- Assistant Professor of Linguistics, PNU University, Tehran, Iran , m.sabzevari@pnu.ac.ir
2- PhD in Linguistics, Instructor at Isfahan University
Abstract:   (3267 Views)
Compound verbs are among the important linguistic categories in different languages which have been the subject of many studies from different aspects of syntactic, semantic, and cognitive researches. A compound verb can be said that is a verb formed from two (or even more) parts: a verb, and mostly a noun, or an adverb or a preposition. A compound verb functions as a single verb. It has two components one of which is a light verb , which carries inflections, and it contributes to some extent to the whole meaning. The other part is typically a noun which bears the most of the semantics of a compound. In this paper, the semantic features of idiomatic compound verbs of the spoken Farsi are described and analyzed to reach out the possible explanation behind the semantic reading of those compound verbs in Farsi. This non-compositionality results in opacity and it is not easy for Farsi learners to guess the meanings. A new non-compositional hypothesis are proposed in this paper which explains the process of interpretation and reading of an idiomatic compound verb is essentially based on the non-verbal element of the compound and the figurative and idiomatic meaning is activated based on a marked collocation with a verb with which the non-verbal part has no semantic compositionality. This hypothesis is called Three-layered reading of idiomatic compounds.

1. Introduction
Compound verb formation is a frequent and ongoing process in Farsi. It could be considered as a creative linguistic phenomenon. Persian compound verbs are the composition of a nonverbal element and a verbal element; the nonverbal elements include nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, and particles. As Wyatt describes it, phrasal verbs sometimes have meanings that you can easily guess (for example, sit down or look for). However, in most cases, their meanings are quite different from the meanings of the verb they are formed from. For example, hold up can mean 'to cause a delay' or 'to try to rob someone'. The original meaning of hold (for example, to hold something in your hands) no longer applies.
Verbal elements comprise some Persian simple verbs which are called light verbs according to Jespersen’s definition. The light verb is a simple verb that has undergone semantic bleaching (Vahedi langroodi, 1996; Karimi-Doostan, 1997; 2005). It can be said that a compound verb is a verb that is composed of one or more nonverbal components and a simple or compound verbal component. Compound verbs could be divided into two categories from a semantic point of view: composites and idiomatic (Karimi, 1997). In composite verbs, the meaning of the verb is somehow predictable from the meaning of its components; transparent, semi-transparent, or semi-ambiguous.

2. Literature Review
Despite many studies on morphologically complex and compound nouns, studies on morphologically complex and compound verbs are rare (e.g., Smolka et al., 2009; Smolka et al., 2010 for German; Feldman et al., 2002 for Serbian; among others). Guevara and Scalise believe (2009: 125) that it is remarkable the literature has dedicated a great deal of attention to just one case in compounding [...] that is endocentric subordinate right-headed [N+N]N compounds. While this pattern is certainly the canonical instance of compounding in the world’s languages, it is by no means the only one. Future work on the typology and the theory of compounding will necessarily have to shift the tendency shown until now by concentrating on the analysis of the many remaining compound types.
There is a considerable literature of study on compound verbs in Farsi by different scholars, namely, Lambton (1984), Bateni (1969), sadeghi(1970), khanlari (1976) ,windfuhr (1979), Mohammad and karimi (1992), Ghomeshi (1996), Vahedi langroodi ( 1996), Dabir Moghadam (1997), Karimi-Doostan (1997; 2005). Khanlary (2004) states that compound verbs will gradually replace simple verbs in modern Persian and this process started in the 13th century.
  1. Methodology
In this paper, the morpho-semantics features of compound verbs of Farsi are described and analyzed to reach out to the possible patterns behind the semantic complexity of those compound verbs in Farsi. Around 180 idiomatic verbs from spoken Persian in Tehran were collected and several sample verbs were analyzed individually to testify three-layered reading of idiomatic compounds which is the main hypothesis of this research. 
  1. Results
Bagasheva (127) states clearly that among the problems of compounds and compounding (including CVs) which are still at the center of ongoing debates, we find the interpretation of compounds as syntactic or morphological objects (Bisetto & Scalise, 1999; Neeleman & Ackema 2004, etc.); their properties as lexicalized objects or as the products of fully productive morphology, i.e. are they lexicalized items or morphological objects? (Gaeta & Ricca, 2009); issues over their headedness, is it as a unified concept or as a parameterized one (Lieber, 2004; Scalise & Guevaram, 2006; Scalise et al., 2009, etc.); the nature of their basic onomasiological function – naming or descriptive; the nature of their processing as on a situation computation online or as retrieval of stored ready-made lexical units (Libben & Jarema, 2006); the nature of their internal semantics in terms of compositionality (Benzces, 2006; Bundgaard et al., 2006; 2007); the status of their constituents as words or roots/stems or something else entirely (Trask, 1999; Bauer, 2005).
Dabir Moghadam (1997) intends to show there are two major types of compound verb formation in Persian: combination and incorporation. He supports his claim with different arguments. He mentions four major differences between compound verbs via incorporation and those formed by combination. He claims that semantically the verbs formed via combination and incorporation constitute conceptual wholes. He also suggests that compounds formed through direct-object incorporation and compounds that are the result of the combination of adjectives and auxiliaries do not need to be included as separate entries in Persian dictionaries since they are semantically transparent. The last feature suggests that compound–verb formation through incorporation is productive and the compound itself is referentially transparent, whereas compound-verb formation via combination is relative to incorporation, limited to productivity, and the compound usually involves metaphoric extension. There are hundreds of compound verbs in everyday usage of Farsi language among which one can find a large portion with idiomatic meaning. The most transparent compound verbs of Farsi are incorporated ones that are not completely lexicalized. The typical and most frequent compound verbs have lexical entries in the lexicon which means they do not have semantic compositionality and hence opaque in meaning. However, there are a lot of idiomatic compound verbs in Farsi which have figurative meaning. In this function, the usage of compound verbs is very high among Farsi speakers and the process of emerging idiomatic compound verbs is highly creative.
There are different reports on the number of Persian simple verbs; Khanlary (2004), for instance, suggests 279 verbs, Sadeghi (1994) discusses 115 verbs and Family (2006) talks about 160 verbs and this shows that Persian native speakers intend to use the productive combination of compound verbs to express verbal concepts and the usage of simple verbs is decreasing intensively. The specific feature of Persian compound verbs which is rare in other languages has motivated the Iranian and non-Iranian linguists to provide different analyses of this structure from different approaches (Bagherbeigi & Shamsfard ,2012).
Many compound verbs in Farsi have no literal or compositional meaning. This non-compositionality results in opacity, and it is not easy for Farsi learners to guess the meanings. To be non-compositional does not mean to have a figurative meaning, although we can find many compound verbs in Farsi with a metaphorical and figurative meaning. The examples below show compound verbs which are opaque and non-compositional:
Man zamin khordam.
I       ate      ground
I fell down.
“Khordan” is a light verb meaning to eat but as a light verb here has no semantic content. In the following example, “khordan” is a light verb in the compound verb and it has figurative meaning and it is still opaque:
Harfamo kordam va chizi nagoftam.
My speech ate and nothing was said.
I kept from and said nothing.
Some Iranian linguists as Dabir Moghadam suggests ghaza khordan(to eat food) in the following example as a case of incorporation. It could be understood as transparent and compositional:
Zara diruz ghaza khord.
Zara yesterday food ate.
Zara ate food yesterday.
Regardless of discussions on this issue if these types of incorporating verbs as “Ghaza Khordan” could be considered a compound verb or not, it seems that as long as it has not been lexicalized as a single verb and untied concept in the minds of Farsi speakers it leaves many debates. In a typical compound verb, the light verb lacks its semantic base and adds some meaning and it bears inflection but in incorporation as “Ghaza khordan” as it was seen the light verb has the core meaning and determines the output of the compound.
As another example, we have the light verb “Zadan” which could be found in several compounds in Farsi. It has lexical meanings of "to hit" and "to strike". Although the literal translation gives a figurative meaning, the intended meaning is not figurative.
Opaque and non-compositional:
?U dor zad.
Transparent and compositional:
Doostam ra kotak zadand.
My friend  OBJ-marker drub hit.
They hit/drubbed my friend.
A noun in the formation of a compound verb has a collocation with some light verbs. The process of compound verb formation follows some semantic restrictions. Hence, it is not general but rather it is a single lexical entry that has combinational meaning and complex form with its specific collocation. Compounding by itself is generative in Farsi. Many simple verbs in English have a compound equivalent in Farsi. For example:
English verbs Farsi verbs
organize sazman dehi kardan
invite            davit kardan
develop                              tose dadan
mobilize                     harekat kardan
call           seda/zang zadan
postpone          be takhir andakhtan
push                   feshar dadan
change taghir dadan
encounter                  movajeh shodan
discuss        bahs kardan
observe moshahede kardan
lie                                                                  dorough goftan
As it could be seen many concepts which are expressed by a simple verb in English have compound verbs equivalent in Farsi. The reason could be said to be the analytical tendency of Farsi language which moves toward more compounding while uses less derivation and inflection forms. Farsi had an inflectional tendency regarding morphological typology in the old and middle era of its history.
A native language can easily realize that a compound has a figurative meaning though its form is far from being ambiguity. As an example in " kolah gozashtan" which means to cheat some and take his/her money, a Farsi speaker knows that it has nothing to do with its literal meaning that is "to put hat on someone's head". If he/she hears the following sentence:
U               sare     man(ra)   kolah gozasht.
He/She      head     me(OBJ-marker)        hat     put.
He/she cheated me.
A Farsi speaker takes for granted its figurative meaning as its intentional meaning and he understands it just in the meaning of cheating. However, if the sentence is with the following structure there is no compounding involved and the primary meaning is lexical:

U           kolah       ro                  sare      man    gozasht.
He/she the OBJ+marker    head     my      put
He/She   put the hat on my head.
As it could be found from the examples if we could separate the noun from the vector, there is no compounding anymore and the result is a simple verb and its object. The non-separation in a compound verb is a key issue that results in a single entry with specific features and meanings. A typical compound could have a lexical or figurative meaning but its noun could not be regarded as its object.
Three-layered reading of idiomatic compounds was proved to work for the semantic analysis of idiomatic compound verbs in Persian. Regarding meaning transparency a cline could represent three different kinds of compound verbs from the transparent one to the opaque kind which could be represented as follows:
Incorporated compound verbs              metaphorical compound verbs                idiomatic compound verbs
  (transparent)      (semi-transparent/opaque)          (opaque)
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Article Type: مقالات علمی پژوهشی | Subject: Linguistics
Published: 2024/01/30

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