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This paper is concerned with the status of bound forms in compounds and other lexical items, but it ultimately aims at setting up a hierarchy of lexical items of various degrees of “freedom”, making use of clear-cut criteria applicable in at least one (fairly large) group of languages. In spite of the difficulties of the various (phonological, morphological, lexical, and semantic) definitions of ‘word’, Bloomfield’s characterization of minimum free forms is applied to designate items at the top of the hierarchy, which are called ‘autonomous words’. Bound forms that allow autonomous words to occur between them and the lexical item they are bound to are ‘dependent words’. The novelty of this paper lies in dividing the rest of the lexical items “below”, i.e., ‘nonwords’, into three groups: semiwords, affixoids, and affixes, based on a new application of a familiar operation, coordination reduction, which is shown to work both backward and forward for some items, but only backward reduction is possible for others.

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