Prepositions as relators in Italian Prepositional Compounds



In this paper, we propose a morphosyntactic analysis of Prepositional Compounds in Italian. We argue that while prepositions are not meaningless, their content isn’t too rich, either. We propose that they can be treated as general relators (along the lines of Manzini & Franco’s (2016) treatment of locative and oblique prepositions) which can express different directions of inclusion between the nominal items which are part of the compound. The lexicalization patterns are coherent with the syncretism found in other aspects of the grammar (e.g. locative/oblique prepositions). At the same time, the specific lexicalizations of these prepositions are ultimately determined by the morphosyntactic context in which they are embedded, highlighting the key role played by the syntactic context in shaping a vocabulary entry. One advantage of our proposal lies in its minimality: the prepositions only encode general relators with varying directionalities; they are not burdened with semantic content. The relevant interpretations of Prepositional Compounds are ultimately derived by pragmatic enrichment at the C-I interface on the basis of the elementary content expressed by the preposition.


preposition, compounds, lexicalization, relator, Italian


Bartning, Inge. 1993. La préposition de et les interprétations possibles des syntagmes

nominaux complexes. Essai d’approche cognitive. Lexique 11: 163–191.

Belvin, Robert & Marcel den Dikken. 1997. There, happens, to, be, have. Lingua 101

(3–4): 151–183.

Bisetto, Antonietta & Sergio Scalise. 1999. Compounding: Morphology and/or syntax? In Lunella Mereu (ed.), Boundaries of morphology and syntax, 31–48. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Bisetto, Antonietta & Sergio Scalise. 2005. The classification of compounds. Lingue e Linguaggio 4(2): 319–332.

Bisetto, Antonietta. 2015. Do Romance languages have phrasal compounds? A look at Italian. STUF 68(3): 395–419.

Buenafuentes de la Mata, Cristina. 2010. La composición sintagmática en español. La Rioja: Cilengua.

Busa, Federica & Michael Johnston. 1996. Cross-linguistic semantics for complex nominals in the generative lexicon. In AISB Workshop on Multilinguality in the Lexicon, Sussex.

Cadiot, Pierre. 1991. A la hache ou avec la hache? Représentation mentale, expérience située et donation du referent. Langue Française 91: 7–23.

Caha, Pavel. 2009. The Nanosyntax of case. PhD dissertation, CASTL, University of Tromsø.

Cecchetto, Carlo & Caterina Donati. 2019. Against the parallelism between the NP and the clause: evidence from idioms. Linguistics 5(4): 815-852

Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on Government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.

Chomsky, Noam. 1986. Barriers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cinque, Guglielmo. 2010. Mapping spatial PPs: An introduction. In Guglielmo Cinque & Luigi Rizzi (eds.), Mapping spatial PPs: The cartography of syntactic structure 6, 3-25. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dardano, M., 2009. Costruire parole. La morfologia derivative dell’italiano. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Delfitto, Denis, & Chiara Melloni. 2009. Compounds don’t come easy. Lingue e Linguaggio 8: 75-104.

DiSciullo, Anna-Maria, & Edwin Williams. 1987. On the definition of word (Linguistic Inquiry Monographs 14). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

DiSciullo, Anna-Maria. 2005. Decomposing Compounds. SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics 2(3):14-33.

DiSciullo, Anna-Maria. 2015. On the Domain Specificity of the Human Language Faculty and the Effects of Principles of Computational Efficiency: Contrasting Language and Mathematics. LinguiStica 11(1): 28-56.

Fábregas, Antonio. 2020. Morphologically derived adjectives in Spanish. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Fradin, Bernard. 2009. Indo-European, Romance: French. In: Štekauer, Pavol & Lieber, Rochelle (Eds.), Oxford Handbook on Compounding, 417–435. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Franco, Ludovico, Elisa Zampieri, & Francesca Meneghello. 2013. Prepositions inside (and at the edge) of words: A view from agrammatism. Language Sciences 40: 95–122.

Franco, Ludovico, & M. Rita Manzini. 2017. Instrumental prepositions and case: Contexts of occurrence and alternations with datives. Glossa 2(1). 1–47.

Franco, Ludovico, M. Rita Manzini & Leonardo M. Savoia. 2021. Locative Ps as general relators: Location, direction, DOM in Romance. Linguistic Variation 21: 135-173.

Gaeta, Livio & Davide Ricca. 2009. Composita solvantur: Compounds as lexical units or morphological objects? Rivista di Linguistica 21(1): 35–70.

Guevara, Emiliano. 2012. Spanish compounds. Probus 24(1): 175–195.

Hale, Kenneth. 1986. Notes on world view and semantic categories: some Warlpiri examples. In Peter Muysken and Henk van Riemsdijk (eds.), Features and Projections, 233-254. (Studies in Generative Grammar, 25). Dordrecht: Foris.

Hale, Kenneth & Samuel J. Keyser. 1993. On argument structure and the lexical expression of grammatical relations. In Kenneth Hale & Samuel J. Keyser (eds.), The view from building 20, 53–109. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Johnston, Michael & Federica Busa. 1999. Qualia structure and the compositional interpretation of compounds. In Evelyne Viegas (ed.), Breath and depth of semantics lexicons, 167–187. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Kampers-Manhe, Brigitte. 2001. Le statut de la préposition dans les mots composés. Travaux de linguistique 42–43: 97–109.

Kornfeld, Laura M. 2009. Romance: Spanish. In Rochelle Lieber & Pavol Štekauer (eds.), The Oxford handbook of compounding, 436–453. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Levinson, Lisa. 2011. Possessive with in Germanic: Have and the role of P. Syntax 14: 355–393.

Manzini, M Rita, & Leonardo M. Savoia. 2011. Reducing case to denotational primitives. Linguistic Variation 11: 76–120.

Manzini, M. Rita, Leonardo Savoia, & Ludovico Franco. 2015. Ergative case, Aspect and Person splits: Two case studies. Acta Linguistica Hungarica 62: 297-351. https://

Manzini, M. Rita & Ludovico Franco. 2016. Goal and DOM datives. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 34: 197–240.

Marantz, Alec. 1997. No Escape from Syntax: Don’t Try Morphological Analysis in the Privacy of Your Own Lexicon. In Alexis Dimitriadis (ed.), UPennWorking Papers in Linguistics, vol. 4.2. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Masini, Francesca & Anna Thornton. 2007. Italian VeV lexical constructions. In Geert Booij, Angela Ralli & Sergio Scalise (eds.), Morphology and dialectology, Proceedings of the 6th Mediterranean Morphology Meeting, 148–189.

Masini, Francesca. 2009. Phrasal lexemes, compounds and phrases: a constructionist perspective. Word Structure 2(2): 254–271.

Masini, Francesca. 2016. Binominal constructions in Italian of the N1-di-N2 type: Towards a typology of Light Noun Constructions. Language Science 53: 99–113.

Masini, Francesca & Sergio Scalise. 2012. Italian compounds. Probus 24(1): 61–91.

Pantcheva, Marina. 2011. Decomposing path: The nanosyntax of directional expressions. Doctoral dissertation. University of Tromsø.

Piunno, Valentina. 2016. Multiword Modifiers in some Romance languages. Semantic formats and syntactic templates. Yearbook Of Phraseology 7: 3–34.

Pietroski, Paul. 2005. Meaning before truth. In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Contextualism in philosophy: Knowledge, meaning, and truth, 253-300. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pietroski, Paul. 2018. Conjoining Meanings. Semantics Without Truth Values. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pustejovsky, James.1995. The Generative Lexicon. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Richards, Norvin. 2010. Uttering trees (Linguistic Inquiry Monograph 56). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Rio-Torto, Graça & Sílvia Ribeiro. 2009. Compounds in Portuguese. Lingue e Linguaggio 8(2). 271–291.

Semenza, Carlo, & Sara Mondini. 2006. Neuropsychology of compound words. In Libben, G., Jarema, G. (Eds.), The Representation and Processing of Compound Words, 71–95. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Simone, Raffaele & Francesca Masini. 2014. On Light Nouns. In Raffaele Simone and Francesca Masini (eds.), Word Classes: Nature, typology and representations, 51-74. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Svenonius, Peter. 2007. Adpositions, particles and the arguments they introduce. In Eric J. Reuland, Tanmoy Bhattacharya & Giorgos Spathas (eds.), Argument Structure, 63-103. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Villoing, Florence. 2012. French compounds. Probus. 24(1): 29–60.




Download data is not yet available.