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  1. #11
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    The rule is common sense.

  2. #12
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    Quote Originally Posted by rambolola View Post
    But what about when you put together many nouns, like: Hotel reception desk. There has to be some kind of a rule to get the meaning of that as a whole? :/
    A "hotel reception desk" is a reception desk in a hotel. That is where people go when they want to check into the hotel. You can also have "hotel room", hotel restaurant", hotel bar", etc.

  3. #13
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I have no idea what 'command-line argument' means, but I don't work in computer programming, Those who do presumably know what it means.

    There are NO rules. We don't have a body regulating the English language. People invent new words and compounds, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. If enough people accept and use these neologisms, they will become normal within a certain group and, perhaps, within the language community as a whole.
    In the old days, people had to tell computers what to do by typing in commands on a command line. The old DOS "c prompt."

    Certain commands require more information. For example, if you want to "copy" you need to tell the computer what to copy from and what to copy to. Those two items are called "arguments" for the "copy" command. You would type something like "copy oldfilename newfilename."

    Argument | Define Argument at Dictionary.com

    See #7 under the World English Dictionary

  4. #14
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    Quote Originally Posted by rambolola View Post
    But what if the meaning of the noun plus noun word is not clear? Like what does command-line argument in computer programming mean? Is there no rule on how the meanings of noun plus noun alter when they're put together?
    The meaning of that will be perfectly clear to those who use the command line. Much specialist language only makes sense to people familiar with that area- if they are trying to communicate with non-specialists, then they will have to use other terms.

  5. #15
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    Quote Originally Posted by rambolola View Post
    But what about when you put together many nouns, like: Hotel reception desk. There has to be some kind of a rule to get the meaning of that as a whole? :/
    No, I think it's impossible to a have a rule. It would be easy to make one up, but whatever the rule was, there'd be more exceptions than examples that followed it. A "hotel reception desk" is obviously not a desk that receives hotels, because that is something that doesn't happen in this universe. Can you think of any really ambiguous or incomprehensible three or four noun clusters that occur in colloquial language? Even if you can, it's still not a demonstration of the need for a rule, but of the need for better writing.

  6. #16
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    Quote Originally Posted by rambolola View Post
    But what about when you put together many nouns, like: Hotel reception desk. There has to be some kind of a rule to get the meaning of that as a whole? :/
    What sort of "rule" do you suggest? English works using a system of words in sentences and the meaning is made clear with word order, context and logic.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  7. #17
    rambolola is offline Newbie
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    What sort of "rule" do you suggest? English works using a system of words in sentences and the meaning is made clear with word order, context and logic.
    Well I was thinking if there was any rule about how you predict the meaning of unknown or unfamliliar compound words(noun + noun mainly)? And if there isn't any how can you predict the meaning? And i'm pretty sure everyone is gonna say the "rule is logic" so i'm lost...:(

  8. #18
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    The rule is not logic. There is no rule. Quite a number of people have told you this already. If a string of nouns seems to make sense to you, go ahead and use it. And there is no limit to the number of nouns you can string together. To quote the noted linguist Steven Pinker, "English is free and easy with compounding, which glues together two words to form a new one, like toothbrush or mouse-eater... One can talk about a toothbrush holder fastener box."

  9. #19
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    Start with the last noun. That's the main noun. Work backwards from there.

    A desk.
    A reception desk.
    A reception desk in a hotel.

    Train station ticket office.

    An office.
    An office where you buy tickets.
    An office where you buy tickets in some sort of station.
    An office where you buy tickets in a train station.
    (You could probably take "train station" as one phrase and skip that third step.)
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  10. #20
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    Re: Compound words, noun plus noun.

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    The rule is not logic. There is no rule. Quite a number of people have told you this already. If a string of nouns seems to make sense to you, go ahead and use it. And there is no limit to the number of nouns you can string together. To quote the noted linguist Steven Pinker, "English is free and easy with compounding, which glues together two words to form a new one, like toothbrush or mouse-eater... One can talk about a toothbrush holder fastener box."
    But not a toothbrush holder fastener box eater. That is where logic and common sense come in.

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