Unpacking noun-noun compounds : interpreting novel and conventional food names in isolation and on food labels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In two complementary experiments we took an integrated approach to a set of tightly interwoven, yet rarely combined questions concerning the spontaneous interpretation of novel (unfamiliar) noun-noun compounds (NNCs) when encountered in isolation, and possible (re) interpretations of novel as well as conventional (familiar) NNCs when encountered in verbo-visual context. To enhance ecological validity, we mirrored our research questions in real-life concerns on the naming of commercial food products and the risk of consumers being misled by the names that producers give to them, focusing on the Danish food market and using Danish NNCs. Specifically, we addressed a highly productive type of compound food names where the modifier denotes a geographical entity and the head denotes a type of food, e. g. Hawaii pizza. Our findings contribute new evidence to central issues of (cognitive) linguistic theory concerning the relations between semantics and pragmatics, as well as system and usage, and psycholinguistic issues concerning the processing of NNCs. New insights and methodological tools are also provided for supporting future best practices in the field of food naming and labelling.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature
  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • noun-noun compounds, semantics, pragmatics, lexicalization, compound, word processing, context, verbo-visual communication, visual attention, food labelling, consumer law
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-147
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch