In Greco-Latin compound words, I generally use the bare stems for all but the last component, joined together with stem vowels (in Greek) or i (in Latin). For example, certifaciō (> certify) comes from the bare stem cert- plus the conjugated verb faciō, joined together with i.

However, this answer indicates a difference between Ναυσι-κάα with the dative plural and Ναυ-κάα with the nominative singular.

Is it common for parts of compounds to decline on their own like this? If so, what cases and numbers are used?

  • Is certifacio a good example? Seems more like a late compound. The verb root was thematized in -ā-, which should involve a lot of <s>speaker laziness</s> progressive lenitions to end up as short -i-. Also, according to Harper, Old French had -e- there. I'd also not discount the -u > -i route, implying the original ablative or accusative, not a bare root (intermediate *certufactio?). Aug 19, 2018 at 1:28
  • @kkm Fair point. What would you consider the most archetypal compound?
    – Draconis
    Aug 19, 2018 at 2:16
  • Good question! L&S mentions argicultio was spelled argi cultio in Var. and Cic., so it looks like a good example of the word in the process of fossilization. I'll try to look up more examples. Aug 19, 2018 at 3:02

2 Answers 2


Though bare-stem compounding is the usual method in Indo-European, compounds with an inflected first member are actually not uncommon in many IE languages. It seems that all cases could be used. For Greek, Smyth (who calls these "flectional compounds") offers the following examples (879):

A compound whose first part is a case form, not a stem, is called a flectional compound (cp. sportsman, kinsfolk): (1) nominative: τρεισ-καί-δεκα thirteen; (2) genitive: Διόσ-κουροι Dioscuri (sons of Zeus), Ἑλλήσ-ποντος Helle's sea, Πελοπόν-νησος (for Πελοποσ-νησος, 105 a) Pelops' island; (3) dative: δορί-ληπτος won by the spear; (4) locative: ὁδοι-πόρος wayfarer, Πυλοι-γενής born in Pylus.

Some examples from Latin and Sanskrit are given in Kathryn Klingebiel (1989), Noun+Verb Compounding in Western Romance, ch. 2:

  • Latin: lēgis-lātor, with genitive first member; manū-missiō, with ablative first member
  • Sanskrit: vājam-bharāh "prize-bearing", with accusative first member; amhasas-pati "name of an intercalary month", with genitive first member

ETA: Speaking of Nausicaa, there are a number of other Greek compounds with the first element nausi- clearly functioning as a dative, e.g. ναυσίπορος "traversed by ships, navigable", ναυσιφόρητος "carried by ships", as well as another Phaeacean royal name Ναυσίθοος "swift in/by/with ships".

  • This lack of uniformity happens in Spanish too. I think it has to do with how old the compound is/how deep it has made it into the language by its own. I think res publica is an example of a compound that underwent the process of becoming a single word (and being treated as such)
    – Rafael
    Aug 15, 2018 at 21:20
  • 1
    @Rafael Res publica is an interesting example -- it's somewhat different from the ones above in that both parts decline (rei publicae etc.) rather than the first part remaining unchanged, but I think you're right that it can be thought of as a compound.
    – TKR
    Aug 15, 2018 at 21:44
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    @Rafael And you could argue that even in Classical Latin since the order is basically fixed (I don't recall ever seeing publica res, nor res ... publica with other words in between) it's well on its way to being a compound.
    – TKR
    Aug 15, 2018 at 21:59
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    @Rafael. It is correct that in the conservative IE languages there are a limited number of compounds where the first component (Vorderglied) is a fossilized inflected form (typically genitive singular). But it is fossilized; the Vorderglied is not inflected according to the syntactic environment. “Res publica” inflects both words and is consequently a phrase, not a compound.
    – fdb
    Aug 16, 2018 at 8:34
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    @fdb Couldn’t agree more. If I understood Tribulato correctly, such compounds were known as “improper” and were formed via univerbation.
    – Alex B.
    Aug 16, 2018 at 13:27

Yes, this is how compounds work in all IE languages: only the last component is variable for number and case. Even in English (“carwash” = “a place where cars are washed”). This consideration speaks against the proposed etymology of Ναυσικάα.

  • I wouldn't say all: double declension is certainly a thing. But this confirms what I suspected.
    – Draconis
    Aug 15, 2018 at 19:13
  • @Draconis. Please note that I said "all IE languages", not "all compounds".
    – fdb
    Aug 16, 2018 at 7:57

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