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I’m so confused of the following expression: ‘the hot dog issue’.

The dialogue is following: A: Have you heard of the hot dog issue? B: Yes, I have. These days, the dog’s euthanasia problem is very controversial.

In this dialogue, ‘the hot dog issue’ refers to a controversial issue about dogs, then is ‘dog issue’ a compound or noun phrase??

I know that ‘green house’ and ‘greenhouse’ are a noun phrase and a compound, respectively but I’m not sure of the combination of two nouns..

Please help me get through my intellectual difficulties🤓

  • Where have you seen this phrase? It looks deliberately ambiguous to me. Is it a hot issue about dogs, or an issue about hot dogs (the food))? – Kate Bunting May 10 '19 at 7:56
  • I wouldn't say this is a compound, but a syntactic construction, where "issue" is head, "dog" is attributive modifier, and "hot" modifies the whole NP "dog issue", not just "dog". – BillJ May 10 '19 at 8:13
  • Possibly relevant Hot dog lawyer – Mitch May 10 '19 at 11:38
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If it refers to a controversial issue about dogs, is ‘dog issue’ a compound or noun phrase?

First of all, in your meaning of the phrase, it would normally be broken down as follows:

  • hot → adjective
  • (dog issue) → noun phrase
  • dog → attributive noun
  • issue → noun

Typically, a compound noun is only considered as such if its usage is so commonplace that it is recognized as a syntactical unit distinct from the individual words that have gone into it. These are words that have found their way into dictionaries as permanent, separate entries—open (ice cream), hyphenated (mother-in-law), or closed (online).

Phrases such as morning air, female president, and business license would not be considered compound nouns. They are, instead, simply noun phrases formed from the temporary conjunction of two nouns.

Having said that, if you did choose to view dog issue as a kind of single-use compound noun, you could then analyze it in the following way:

  • hot → adjective
  • dog issue → compound noun

However, the first interpretation, with it as a noun phrase, would be much more common.


Of course, this analysis aside, you have a semantic problem with your phrase.

Nobody would have a problem if they heard the following:

I want to talk to you about the dog issue.

They would assume that you are talking about an issue related to one or more animals.

But, if that's the case, then the following would be misleading:

I want to talk to you about the hot dog issue.

Here, because hot dog is a commonly used compound noun, everyone (barring context) would assume you were talking about an issue related to the food item.

It's structure (in the assumed interpretation) would look like this:

  • (hot dog issue) → noun phrase
  • hot dog → attributive compound noun
  • issue → noun

In order to make the meaning explicit, you have no choice but to use punctuation, style it in a certain way, or rephrase the sentence.

I want to talk to you about the hot dog-issue.
I want to talk to you about the hot dog issue.
I want to talk to you about the hot dog issue.

I want to talk to you about the hot issue concerning dogs.
I want to talk to you about the topical dog issue.
I want to talk to you about the urgent dog issue.
I want to talk to you about the controversial dog issue.

Of course, if you're speaking the sentence, you would have to either say one of the rephrased versions or something like "the hot . . . dog issue," where you pause briefly after "hot."

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  • Now I clearly understand the internal structure of ‘the hot dog issue’. Your answer really helped me figure everything out. I appreciate your kind and specific explanation:) – Jin May 11 '19 at 6:08
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One possibility is that this was a play on words, and A says "the (hot dog) issue", but B replies as if A had said "the hot (dog issue)".

These sound different in spoken English. Of course, I can't tell which was said without listening to the conversation. Which syllables were stressed in "the hot dog issue"?

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  • Actually, the problem is to find a primary and secondary stress of ‘the hot dog issue’ with several stress rules. So the thing is that I have to first figure out whether ‘dog issue’ is a compound or a noun phrase. – Jin May 11 '19 at 2:27
  • Hot dog is a compound noun in English. Dog issue is not. – Peter Shor May 11 '19 at 11:22

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