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Adjective compounds

English and German are sharply distinguished from both Spanish and Polish not only by the centrality of noun-noun compounding, but also by the abundant use of adjectival compounds of the structure noun + adjective, which are almost unknown in Romance and Slavonic languages. Between English and German there is a high degree of parallelism in this area (some of the following pairs probably constitute loan translations):

cost-efficient kosteneffektiv

firm-specific firmenspezifisch

interest-free zinslos

market-driven marktbestimmt resource-based ressourcenbasiert

Only in some isolated cases does a direct translation seem impossible, for example in the case of majority-owned vs. im Mehrheitsbesitz, literally ‘in_the majority ownership’, or state-owned vs. im Staatsbesitz, literally ‘in_the state ownership’. In these compounds, the semantic relationship between the adjectival head and the dependent noun is almost as flexible as in noun-noun compounds. Spanish equivalents, being mostly syntactic paraphrases, thus have to make this relationship explicit: eficiente en costes ‘cost-efficient’ (literally ‘efficient in costs’), especfico de la empresa ‘firm-specific’ (literally ‘specific of the firm’), etc. In order to avoid these somewhat roundabout paraphrases, Spanish occasionally also resorts to word-by-word translations contrary to the morphological spirit of the language: capital-intensive, for example, is also sometimes translated bluntly as capital-intensivo, instead of inten- sivo en capital. Polish, too, lacks a structurally equivalent noun-adjective pattern of compounding and must therefore resort to different naming strategies: panstwowy ‘state-owned’ (literally ‘state [adj.]’), oparty na zasobach ‘resource-based’ (literally ‘based on resources’), etc. Note, though, that Polish has possessive compounds of the type wysok-o-jakosci-owy ‘high-quality’ (literally ‘high-o-quality-owy’), where the adjective precedes the noun and the compound is followed by the suffix -owy. German has an equivalent type of adjective compounds: kurzfristig ‘short-term’ (literally ‘short term + suffix -ig’), hochpreisig ‘high-priced’, etc.

 
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