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I've noticed a propensity for agglutinating languages to also permit quite long compound nouns. Finnish, Turkish and Hungarian certainly have them and I've been finding a few now that I'm trying to learn Georgian.

Obviously not only agglutinating languages go in for long compound nouns though, since German is quite famous at least among English speakers for having some really long nouns.

But are there languages which are of agglutinating typology but which don't have the tendency to permit long compound nouns? Is there a language universal that says something like:

+agglutinative ⇒ +noun compounding

I should add that I'm aware some languages, like Japanese, have agglutinating typology for verbs but not for nouns, so those are probably not languages I'm interested in for this question.

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  • A problem here is that it's not possible to categorise languages as 'agglutinating' vs. 'non-agglutinating'. It's more a matter of comparing languages as to degree of agglutination. Jun 7, 2012 at 14:32
  • True but then it comes down to asking whether a higher degree of agglutination implies the a higher degree of noun compounding. I think that's a reasonable reading of the question already for us linguisticy types though. Jun 7, 2012 at 14:50
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    It seems to me that's a somewhat different (and better) question than what you've asked: 'Does a higher degree of agglutination imply higher degree of noun compounding? Are there many exceptions?' Jun 8, 2012 at 1:03
  • what about swahili?
    – user483
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:18
  • Korean (and I assume Japanese as well) does use agglutination in their nouns in order to attach grammatical markers. It just so happens that Korean has very restrictive noun-noun compounding. I don't know much Japanese but my understanding is it has a relatively similar morphology. What is your motivation for excluding it?
    – acattle
    Mar 28, 2013 at 1:00

2 Answers 2

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Agglutinative languages can be non compounding, like Turkish for example.

As a contrast, Hungarian and Finnish are compounding languages.

Also German and Dutch are compounding, they are, however not agglutinative, but flective languages.

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  • Really? I was under the impression that Turkish was compounding too. Although I don't recall noticing many long words when in Turkey I did recall coming across long Turkish words on the Internet such as "Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdansınız" and "Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine". Are these words really made with just agglutination and no compounding? Oct 6, 2012 at 18:09
  • You can check with google translator:
    – snuki
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:17
  • Hungarian: esőkabát, íróasztal, ajtókilincs, szivárvány, gyerekágy, városkapu, hajópadló, teherhajó, faablak, karosszék, papírhajó, műanyagablak, iskolatáska, nászágy, faágy, kardhal, ivóvíz, bricsesznadrág, gyomorbaj, szemideg,
    – snuki
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:18
  • Turkish:yağmurluklar, masa, kapı kolları, gökkuşağı, bebek yatağı, şehir kapıları, döşeme, kargo gemileri, ahşap pencere, sandalye, kağıt el sanatları, plastik kutu, okul çantası, düğün yatak, ahşap yatak, kılıç balığı, içme suyu, pantolon, dispepsi, optik sinir,
    – snuki
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:18
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    Turkish is very productive with agglutination, in my opinion those long words are built words in Turkish, like "nicely" in English (from nice).
    – snuki
    Oct 6, 2012 at 18:22
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German compound nouns generally aren't made up of derivational suffixes, like those in agglutinative languages tend to be. They're more like some English ones, just strings of nouns. The only difference is that in writing they don't use spaces or hyphens. I think the reason why long compound formations are found so often in agglutinative languages is probably just because of the usefulness of derivational morphemes- they allow a language to have a smaller core vocabulary, which makes it easier to learn.

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  • I could be wrong but I seem to recall that at least genitive forms seem to occur within compound nouns in non-agglutinative languages reasonably often too. Is this right? Mar 27, 2013 at 6:47
  • In German no inflected forms are used to compound nouns, sometimes they do look like genitive forms, though. That which shows up in addition to the stem form of the noun is called "Fugenelement", a seam element, but it is not a genitive. In Sanskrit though there rarely are compound nouns, where some of the elements are inflected, mostly in accusative, some locatives.
    – zwiebel
    Jul 23, 2014 at 16:54

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