Dvandva compounds

Have you ever heard of the word "dvandva"? It actually comes from Sanskrit whose original meaning is "pair". As a loan word in English however, it refers to a specific type of compound words whose elements have a coordinate relationship.

Compound words are formed when two (or more) words are put together to form a new word with a new meaning. Examples of English compound words are "hometown", "backstage", "daytime", "washroom". In Japanese too, compound words are abundant. Examples are 飲み水 nomimizu "drinking water", 婦人服 fujinfuku "women's clothing", 健康食品 kenkou-shokuhin "health food".

Usually, the elements in a compound word have a "modifier & modifyee" relationship. For example, "hometown" is "town of home", "daytime" is "time during the day", "washroom" is "room for washing", 飲み水 nomimizu is "water for drinking", 婦人服 fujinfuku is "clothing for women".

In contrast, dvandva compounds do not exhibit a "modifier & modifyee" relationship such as "A of B" or "A for B". Rather, the elements in a compound word have a coordinate relationship; i.e. "A & B".

English has only a small number of dvandva compounds, but one good example is "bittersweet".

There are quite a few dvandva compounds in Japanese. Examples are 読み書き yomikaki "reading-writing"、枝葉 edaha (lit. "branches-leaves")  "ramification" or "peripheral/unimportant matter", 行き帰り ikikaeri (lit. "going-returning") "round-trip", 兄弟 kyoudai (lit. "older-brother-younger-brother") "sibling", 親子 oyako "parent-child".

Some dvandva words can be taken as they literally mean. 読み書き yomikaki literally means "reading-writing" and that's all there is to it.

Other drvandva words have extended meanings. 枝葉 edaha literally means "branches-leaves" but people often use it to mean "ramification" or even "peripheral/unimportant matters".

Let us know if you can think of more Japanese or even English dvandva compounds!      

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