Consider the following hypothesis:
If a noun has an irregular plural form, then any other noun that is formed from it (either through
derivation or compounding) will also have an irregular plural form. Likewise, if a verb has an
irregular past tense form, then any other verb that is formed from it (either through
derivation or compounding) will also have an irregular past tense form.
In Lecture 3, we saw an example showing that this hypothesis is false: the plural of childhood is
regular, though the plural of child is irregular. Nevertheless, there are many words that seem to be
compatible with this hypothesis: consider, for instance, words like spokespeople and spoonfed, or
words like unwound and ex-wives.
a. There is a key difference between the example we discussed in class (childhood) and the examples I
have just presented here. What is it? [1 point]
b. In addition to the example discussed in class, words like sabre-tooths, lowlifes, and grandstanded
also show that the above hypothesis is false. But based on what we have learned so far, we would
actually expect these words to have irregular plurals/past tenses, contrary to fact. Why do you think
words like sabre-tooth, lowlife, and grandstand behave differently from words like spokesperson and
spoonfeed? [1 point]
c. In the slides for Lecture 3, you are told that “exocentric compounds still have heads”, although, in
such compounds, “the meaning of the whole is not a subtype of the meaning of the head”. Does data of
the sort you have just looked at challenge the notion that exocentric compounds have heads? Say why
or why not. [3 points]
a. Why is the word element sacr (as in sacred) spelled and pronounced as secr in the word consecrate?
b. It would be unexpected to find a word in which the word element sacr was spelled as sicr. Why?