Mauvais genre

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 Generalities about Learned Composition 

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 We saw that the first derogation to the Gender Rule was related to derivation, and more precisely to Suffixation. The second derogation is related to another word-formation process which is Compounding or Composition, and more precisely Learned Composition.   

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WORD FORMATION PROCESSES

Like in the case of learned suffixes used in the creation of scientific terms, learned composition is an artificial word formation process which juxtaposes... 

 

 two Latin/Greek roots such as in the words synonyme (syn- + -onyme) or polychrome (poly- + -chrome) or 

one Latin/Greek root together with one full word  like in  biochimie (bio- + chimie), omniprésence (omni- + présence) or multimédia (multi- + média) 

 Both processes are following a "determining-determined" element order which opposes the usual French composition order:

      A microorganisme is an organism (determined) that is very small (determining).

      A métropole is a mother (determining) city (determined) which means Capital city.


Between the two elements of composition an -o- may be inserted for Greek compounds like in cleptomanieor an -i- for Latin compounds like in herbicides. In the case of bilingual compounds,  -o- is often preferred.


Learned compounds have sometimes been directly adopted from Latin or Greek like the word prélude (that plays first > what precedes) or have been created anew like: télescope (that watches far > the device to watch far).


All learned compounds composed of 2 roots put together end with a  final –e disregarding whether they’re masculine or feminine. This is the main difficulty when dealing with them.


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 FROM ADJECTIVE TO NOUN   

The first process (juxtaposition of two Latin or Greek roots) helps in the formation of numerous adjectives that have been easily converted into nouns:

      mammifère « that wears mammals» gave  «an animal that wears mammals ».

      insecticide « that kills insects » gave «a chemical that kills insects».

      homonyme « that has a similar name» gave «a word that has a similar name”.

      palmipède « with webbed legs» gave «an animal with webbed-legs”.

      Like it is the case for any other nouns born from a conversion process (other parts of speech turned into nouns) these artificial compounds are given the masculine gender.

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DIRECT NOUN COMPOSITION   

To create nouns in the first place, 2 fashions have been in use: 

1)  juxtaposition of 2 nominal roots, like in bibliothèque f. (livre-armoire), o

2) juxtaposition of a root and a full noun like in bibliobus m. (livre-bus m.).

Gender is then given by the noun on which the compound is based:

 bibliobus is masculine because bus is masculine and bibliothèque is feminine following the gender of -thèque (Latin theca f. from Greek)

In fact, when it comes to gender, these last category of compounds can easily join the popular compounds group.

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Editions EDILIVRE

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