Determining Compoundhood in Ígálà: From Universal to Language Specific Focus

Gideon Sunday Omachonu1,2,, Williams Sunday Onogu3,
Author Information & Copyright
1Humboldt University
2Nasarawa State University
3Kogi State University
Corresponding Author : Gideon Sunday Omachonu, Department of Languages and Linguistics, Nasarawa State University PMB 1022 Keffi, Nasarawa State, Nigeria. Phone: +2348065309796; Email:, Williams Sunday Onogu, Department of Theatre Arts Kogi State University PMB 1008 Anyigba, Kogi State, Nigeria. Phone: +2348069187070; Email:

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jun 18, 2012; Revised: Aug 02, 2012; Accepted: Aug 24, 2012

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


In spite of the fact that compounding is really pervasive in the world’s languages and despite the huge volume of literatures on compounding in languages, a critical assessment of the extant literature on compounding reveals that providing satisfactory criteria for defining and or determining compoundhood still requires both language specific and cross-linguistic investigations for dependable linguistic generalizations. As it were, there are hardly any universally accepted criteria for determining compoundhood, hence the focus of reasearch is how to determine compounding across languages. In Ígálà,1 in particular, not much attention has been devoted to describing compounding. The present study therefore investigates compounding and or compound word formation in Ígálà, a West Benue-Congo language spoken in north central Nigeria. Defining compoundhood and distinguishing compound words in Ígálà, the study shows, favours semantic criteria such as unity of concept, semantic specialization, permanent aspect, and unitary representation of concept above phonological and syntactic considerations. Compounding generally has been found to be a highly productive word formation process in Ígálà in terms of forms and functions. For instance, apart from Noun + Noun nominal compounds, other compound types such as verbal as well as synthetic compounds have been attested in the language. Besides, in addition to the general function of lexical expansion through creation of new lexical categories or lexemes, compounding has been used copiously in naming concepts, particularly foreign institutions, ideas, items, objects and or concepts that were hitherto non-existent in Ígálà.

Keywords: Ígálà; compounding; defining criteria; forms and functions



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