On the compound watch: ice nations

A recurring topic on this blog: the semantic relationship between N2 (the head N) and N1 in a N1 + N2 compound. If the compound is subsective — an N1 + N2 is an N2 — then the semantics of the compound is ‘an N2 related to N1’, but there are a great many types of relationship: a few common types, plus many very specific and context-bound examples. As in ice nations (boldfaced) in this NYT editorial (“Reaching an Arctic Accord”) of 4/20/13:

The waters of the central Arctic, an area the size of the Mediterranean, hold the last untouched fishing stocks on this planet. At present, they also lie beyond the boundaries of settled international law — more than a million square miles outside the reach of the exclusive economic zones that protect the national waters of the five countries with coastlines on the Arctic: the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark [in Greenland] and Norway.

What ice once protected, it is now up to humans to protect. Beginning later this month, the ice nations will discuss an international accord that would impose a moratorium on commercial fishing until scientists have had a chance to study the fish populations and underwater environment.

So ice nation refers to a nation that is related to ice in a very specific way, which couldn’t be predicted from the form of the compound. Iceland isn’t an ice nation. Nor are Finland and Sweden, despite the fact that significant portions of these countries lie north of the Arctic Circle. Nor is China, which has some decidedly cold northern regions. Nor are countries with Antarctic islands but no Arctic coastline: Australia, the UK, France. Nor are countries that merely have icy and snowy mountain ranges (in the Alps, Andes, and Himalayas, for example).

(Bonus: There is a firm named Ice Nation, which advertises itself as “Your #1 Source for Hip Hop Jewelry and Watches” — with the slang item ice ‘diamonds, jewels, bling’.)

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