This paper highlights three issues in the study of verb–noun compounding and shows how data from Akan (Niger-Congo, Kwa, Ghana) help answer the relevant questions for the language. The issues, which mainly concern the exocentric subtype, are: one, the syntactic category of the left-hand constituent and that of the whole compound; two, whether the formation of verb–noun compounds is a matter of syntax or morphology; and three, how to distinguish between verb–noun compounds and verb phrases, given their structural similarity. Although these issues have come up somehow in the literature on Akan verb–noun compounds, they have not been deliberately targeted for discussion. This paper fills the gap. It is shown that the left-hand constituent is definitely a verb. This raises the question of how to account for the syntactic category of the exocentric subclass of the compound, given that the compound is not a hyponym of the right-hand nominal constituent whose syntactic category may be assumed to percolate to the whole. It is also argued that, per the criteria in the literature, the formation of Akan verb–noun compounds has to be a matter of morphology and not syntax. Finally, it is shown that there are formal and semantic basis for distinguishing verb–noun compounds from verb phrases in Akan.
In accounting for the properties of morphological constructions, one may adopt a source-oriented view where every property of the whole emanates from the parts or a product-oriented view where the whole may have properties that do not come from the parts. Such properties are called holistic constructional properties. Studies on Akan compounds have been invariably source-oriented, assuming that every property in a compound, including the syntactic category, has to come from its constituents. I show that compounding in Akan is blind to the syntactic category of the constituents. Thus, notwithstanding the syntactic category of the constituents the Akan compound is invariably nominal. This paper, therefore, provides evidence of holistic properties of morphological constructions in the form of the syntactic category of Akan compounds. I also present a Construction Morphology modelling of the syntactic category of the Akan compound as a holistic constructional property which is inherited from a constructional meta-schema that is pre-specified to be nominal. Finally, I posit and exemplify four schemas which inherit the category N from the meta-schema but differ in terms of the presence and position of a head constituent.