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Word-formation

This is a brief explanation of how new English words are created. Also, the processes of word-formation are discussed. The writer provides the references for further reading to deepen knowledge in addressing some related issues in word-formation.

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Word-formation

  1. 1. P a g e | 124 A Concise Companion to Word-Formation Ahmad Faiz (ahmadfaiz.faiz@gmail.com) Badril Huda Islamic Institute for Science & Education, Situbondo, East Java, Indonesia I. Introduction In English, word formation is a creation of a new word. People have been generating new words through many processes. Generally new words can be generated by derivation and compounding processes. The derivation process can be further divided into two smaller processes i.e. affixation and non-affixation. The affixation processes can also be broken down into prefixation and suffixation. While non-affixation processes consists of coinage, eponyms, borrowing, blending, clipping, backformation, conversion, acronyms and initialisms. II. Word Formation The following passage will explain you how new words are generated. 2.1 Derivation Derivation is the most common word-formation process to be found in the production of new English words. This is accomplished by the so- called affixation. English only recognizes two kinds of affixations. They are prefixes and suffixes. Note that other languages e.g. Bahasa Indonesia may have also other kinds of affixation such as infixation and circumfixation. 2.1.1 Affixation Affixes are bound morphemes attached to certain words to change its meaning or use, for example an adjective rich plus an affix en– forms a verb enrich and an adjective bright plus an affix –ness can form brightness which is a noun. An Affix added to the beginning of a word is called prefix as en– in enrich, when it is added in the end of a word, we call it suffix as –ness in brightness.
  2. 2. P a g e | 125 2.1.1.1 Prefixation A prefix is a group of letters added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning and make a new word. For example, un–, dis–, and multi– are prefixes in the words unnecessary, distrust, and multicultural. Many prefixes appear as headwords in the dictionary. Learning the meanings of common prefixes can unlock the meanings of many new words, especially academic words. The following list is most common prefixes taken from Teaching Reading Sourcebook: For Kindergarten through Eighth Grade by Bill Honig, Linda Diamond, and Linda Gutlohn. Can you mention other examples?
  3. 3. P a g e | 126 2.1.1.2 Suffixation A suffix is a group of letters added to the end of a word to change its function, making it into a different part of speech. For example, the suffix –al changes verbs to nouns: arrival, refusal, denial. The suffix –ous changes nouns to adjectives dangerous, famous, and poisonous. Many suffixes appear as headwords in the dictionary. Learning common suffixes can help you understand and use all the members of a word family. Here is the list of most common suffixes taken from Teaching Reading Sourcebook: For Kindergarten through Eighth Grade by Bill Honig, Linda Diamond, and Linda Gutlohn. Can you make your own list of the common suffixes?
  4. 4. P a g e | 127 2.1.2 Non-affixation Some linguists e.g. Plag classifies non-affixation processes which have many subcategories such as coinage, eponyms, borrowing, and so on under derivation processes. This is rather odd because derivation processes require affixation. Whereas, coinage, eponyms, etc. do not use any affixes at all. Thus, this kind of process in generating new words is not through affixes, whether prefixes nor suffixes. Some linguists may also call this kind of process as zero-affixation because no affixes involved or attached to generate new words. There are many types of non- affixation. They are coinage, eponyms, borrowing, blending, clipping, backformation, conversion, acronyms and initialisms. The following section will discuss them respectfully. 2.1.2.1 Coinage Coinage is totally the invention of new words. However, this is one of the least common processes of word-formation in English. The most typical sources are invented trade names for commercial products that become general terms (usually without capital letters). The most well-known example for this is the word xerox (a photocopying machine) as in Can you xerox this report for me? or a recent word google (a search engine on the Internet) that come into use as in I have googled the answer last night. Other examples are kodak, kleenex, aspirin, nylon, teflon, and zipper. Can you think of other examples? 2.1.2.2 Eponyms Like coinage, eponyms is also least common processes of word-formation. Eponyms is generating new words based on the name of a person or a place. For example, the word sandwich is derived from the eighteenth- century Earl of Sandwich who first insisted on having his bread and meat together while gambling. Another example is the word jeans which is derived from the Italian city of Genoa where the type of cloth was first
  5. 5. P a g e | 128 made. Other examples are the word watt as in A 60-watt light bulb; the word sprangler and volt. Can you make a sentence using those two words? 2.1.2.3 Borrowing When one language takes a word from another one, it is simply said to borrow the word, and the word is called a loan-word. Borrowing is one of the most common sources of new words in English. Throughout its history, the English language has adopted a vast number of words from other languages, including croissant (French), dope (Dutch), lilac (Persian), piano (Italian), pretzel (German), sofa (Arabic), tattoo (Tahitian), tycoon (Japanese), yogurt (Turkish) and zebra (Bantu). What do you think of the word bamboo, orangutan, and sarong? Where do these words come from? Note that, a special type of borrowing is described as loan-translation or calque. In this process, there is a direct translation of the elements of a word into the borrowing language. The common English phrase flea market is calque of the French marché aux puces which means market with fleas. Also, the English expression moment of truth is believed to be a loan- translation from the Spanish phrase el momento de la verdad. 2.1.2.4 Blending Blending can be simply defined as the combination of two separate forms to produce a single new term. Blending is usually accomplished by taking only the beginning of one word and joining it to the end of the other word such as the word brunch, a combination of breakfast and lunch, or smog, a combination of smoke and fog. Other examples of blending are infotainment, motel, and Macbook. Can you identify the combination of those words? 2.1.2.5 Clipping Clipping can be defined as creating new words by shortening already existing words. Moreover, the element of reduction that is noticeable in blending is even more apparent in clipping. This occurs when a word of more than one syllable e.g. facsimile is reduced to a shorter form fax. Also,
  6. 6. P a g e | 129 we have info from information, ad from advertisement, fridge from refrigerator, and Mac from Macintosh as in My roommate just got a Mac. Others are lab, flu, phone, gas, bra, and condo. Can you guess the complete word for those clipping? Do you know that English speakers also like to clip each other’s names, as in Al, Ed, Liz, Mike, Ron, Sam, Sue and Tom? 2.1.2.6 Backformation A very specialized type of reduction process is known as backformation. Typically, a word of one type (usually a noun) is reduced to form a word of another type (usually a verb). A good example of backformation is the process whereby the noun television first came into use and then the verb to televise was created from it. Others are to donate from donation, to edit from editor, to burgle from burglar, to surveil from surveillance and a very recent word to twit from twitter. Can you think of other examples? 2.1.2.7 Conversion Conversion is a change in the function of a word, as for example when a noun comes to be used as a verb (without any reduction). Other linguists also call this type of word-formation as category change or functional shift because the category or function of the word is shifted or altered. An example of conversion of a verb derived from a noun is chair in Someone has to chair the meeting. Conversion is also able to create a noun from a verb as a noun a guess, a spy, and a must. They respectively come from a verb guess, spy and must. Further, through conversion a phrasal verb can transform into a noun as to print out and to take over can be a noun a printout and a takeover. Verbs as see through and stand up also become adjectives as see-through materials and a stand-up comedian. Some compound nouns have assumed adjectival or verbal functions, exemplified by the ball park appearing in a ball-park figure or asking someone to ball-park an estimate of the cost. Other nouns of this type are carpool, mastermind, microwave and quarterback. Other forms, such as up and down, can also
  7. 7. P a g e | 130 become verbs, as in They upped the offer by 50% or More than 60 electric lines were downed by the severe thunderstorm. Can you think of other examples of conversion? 2.1.2.8 Acronyms and Initialisms When the first letters of words that make up a name or a phrase are used to create a new word, the results are called acronyms or initialisms. In acronyms, the new word is pronounced as a word, rather than as a series of letters. For example, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome gives us AIDS, pronounced [eidz], North Atlantic Treaty Organization gives us NATO pronounced [neıţoʊ]. Other example is self-contained underwater breathing apparatus gives us scuba. The word laser is also an acronyms of light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Furthermore, Initialisms are similar to acronyms in that they are composed from the first letters of a phrase, but unlike acronyms, they are pronounced as a series of letters. So most people in the US refer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the FBI pronounced [ɛf bi ai] and the Central Intelligence Agency as the CIA pronounced [si ai eı]. Other words we commonly found are PIN, ATM, BBM, MAC OS, zip, Interpol, radar, LCD, and HIV. Can you identify which ones are acronyms and which ones are initialisms? 2.2 Compounding Derivation is not the only way of forming new words, of course. Many languages also form words by a process called compounding. Chiefly, compounding can be described as a joining of two separate words to produce a single form. Common English compounds are bookcase, doorknob, fingerprint, sunburn, textbook, wallpaper, wastebasket and waterbed. Some compounds that have been introduced fairly recently into English are Facebook, YouTube, powerbank, and carjack. All these examples are nouns, but we can also create compound adjectives as good-looking and low-paid and compounds of adjective fast plus noun food as in a fast-food restaurant or a full-time job. Also, compound words are commonly found in
  8. 8. P a g e | 131 movies such as Harry Potter movies and a well-known American TV serials, Friends. You will notice some compound words as you-know-what and you-know-who words to refer to Voldemort. And in Friends you will frequently hear Mr. I wanna-be-your-buddy, Man-child, You should go to a quit-being-a-baby-and-leave-me-alone clinic, Mr. right-place-at-the-right-time, and Who is educated now? Mr. I-forgot-ten-states! Those are examples of compound words. Now, can you make your own compound words? III. Summary We have reviewed how new English words are generated. Keep in mind that word-formation is generally divided into two main branches. They are derivation and compounding. In derivation, the affixes play vital role in creating new words. Note that, some subcategories of derivation which is called non-affixation does not need any affixes at all. Please read other sources to address this issue. On the other hand, compounding is really depending on joining two separate words. However, in compounding words, you should consider many issues dealing with when do we have a compound? compound structure, and types of compound. Please consult other books in addressing these issues. Hopefully, this brief explanation will help you to understand the process of creating new words in Queen Elizabeth’s language. Last but not least, below is a diagram of word- formation for you based on the discussion above-mentioned.
  9. 9. P a g e | 132 Diagram of Word-formation
  10. 10. P a g e | 133 References for Further Reading Bauer, Laura. 2001. Vocabulary. New York, NY: Routledge Fromkin, Victoria, Rodman, Robert, and Hyams, Nina. 2011. An Introduction to Language (9th Edition). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Lieber, Rochelle. 2009. Introducing Morphology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Plag, Ingo. 2002. Word-Formation in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Yule, George. 2010. The Study of Language (4th Edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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