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Word formation II

Other word-formation processes 28 November 2007

Other wordword-formation processes

In addition to inflection, inflection derivation and compounding, there are other wordformation processes in English. We shall discuss in turn CONVERSION, BLENDING, ACRONYMS and SHORTENINGS.


Co ve s o is Conversion sap process ocess by w which c a wo word be belonging o g g to one word class is transferred to another word class without any change of form, either in pronunciation or spelling. Conversion is a highly prolific source for the production of new words since there is no restriction on the form that can undergo conversion in English. English Conversion is sometimes also called FUNCTIONAL SHIFT because in such cases words are converted from one grammatical function to another without any change in form.


Conversion may y involve a change g within the same word class as in the change from one type of noun to another or one type of verb to another. For example, the use of uncountable nouns as countable and vice-versa: S Some beer/coffee/sugar b / ff / uncountable bl Two beers/coffees/sugars countable Even proper nouns can be easily used as common nouns, as in Which Hilary do you mean?. Similarly, intransitive verbs are often used as transitive verbs: e.g. How long can a pigeon fly non-stop? Or Can this little boy fly a kite? Th first The fi t is i intransitive i t iti and d the th second di is t transitive. iti


Co ve s o most Conversion ost o often te involves vo ves a change c a ge from o one o e word class to another. The major kinds of conversion are: nounverb: to bottle bottle, to commission commission, to e e-mail, mail to data databank... verb noun: a call, a command, a guess, a spy, a doubt... adjective noun: the poor, the rich, a daily, a convertible... adjective verb: to better, to empty, to wrong, to dirty...


Adverbs, ve bs, prepositions, p epos t o s, conjunctions, co ju ct o s, interjections te ject o s a and even affixes can all act as bases for conversion as in to up prices, the hereafter. Furthermore, many of these word classes can undergo conversion into more than one other class. It should be noted that even a whole phrase may undergo conversion and act as a noun noun,e.g. e g a forget-meforget me not, a has been, a dont know, a know-how; it may also act as an adjective as in Monday morning feeling, a not-to-bemissed opportunity. o ort nit


A lexical blend is a new lexeme built from parts of two (or possibly more) words in such a way that the constituent parts are usually easily identifiable, though in some instances, i only l one element l may be b identifiable. id ifi bl Blends may also be referred to as portmanteau words, and this term was used by Lewis Carroll Carroll, since he used many literary blends in his works. Portmanteau is an archaic word for a suitcase designed for carrying on h horseback. b k


In most cases, the second element is the one which controls the meaning of the whole. So BRUNCH is a kind of lunch, not a kind of breakfast. Blends tend to be more frequent in informal style in the registers of f journalism, j li advertising d i i and d technical h i l fields. fi ld In I most cases, blending results in the creation of new morphemes or in the addition of new meanings to old ones. E.g. E g automobile , taken from French, French was originally a combination of Greek autos self and Latin mobilis movable. The element auto became productive as evidenced by the words autobiography, g p , autobus... The second element also acquired q a combining g autograph, function as in bookmobile, bloodmobile...


Similarly, hamburger was blended so often with Similarly other words (cheeseburger, steakburger, chickenburger, g , vegeburger g g ) that the form burger g acquired the status of an independent word. In the field of chemistry, y, developing p g rapidly p y in the 19th century, new compounds and chemical substances required new names, which were chiefly blends.

Acronyms are a special type of blend or shortening. A typical acronym takes the first sound from each of several words and makes a new word from those initial sounds. If the resulting word is pronounced like any other word it is a true acronym. True acronyms are, are e.g. e g NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), RAM (Random Access Memory), ROM (Read only memory), UNESCO (United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation). Organisation) Often, however, to make an acronym pronounceable, we take not just the initial sounds but, e.g. the first consonant and vowel together. Thus RADAR comes from radio detecting and ranging, SONAR is from sound navigation and ranging. MODEM O was formed f from f modulator-demodulator. When an acronym becomes fully accepted as a word, it often comes to be spelled with lower-case letters, like other words.

Reverse acronyms

An interesting te est g p phenomenon e o e o in recent ece t yea years, s, a sort so t o of political offshoot of normal acronymic coinage, has been the rise of reverse acronyms the creators start with a word they want as their name (e.g. CORE),and then they work from those four letters to find four words which represent something like the idea they want to be associated with with. CORE is the acronym for Congress of Racial Equality, NOW is the acronym of the National Organization of Women, MADD is the acronym of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers... Drivers

Under the title of shortenings g we consider the following g wordformation processes: clipping, backformation, initialisms and aphetic forms. Clipping involves the type of word-formation device in which only part of f the h stem is i retained. i d The Th beginning b i i may be b retained i d as in i lab l b (from laboratory), the end as in plane or phone (from aeroplane and telephone), the middle part as in flu (from influenza).Very often, the clipped form completely supplants the original full form. form Thus bra, bra bus, car, and mob supplanted brassire, omnibus, motorcar and mobile vulgus respectively. Other examples: p zoo from zoological g gardens, g , ad from advertisement, gin from geneva (juniper), quiz from inquisitive, whiskey from Gaelic uisge beatha, and so on.


Backformation is the making g of a new word from an older word which is mistakenly assumed to be its derivative. Backderivation is characterised by the fact that it involves the shortening of a longer word by the subtraction of a morpheme. E Edit E.g. Edi comes f from editor, di where h the h final fi l or is i wrongly l analyzed l d as a suffix (like the er of worker, builder) and is therefore treated as removable. To burgle , from burglar, burglar is formed in the same way way. Most examples of backformations are no longer transparent. Other examples: peddle from peddler, and televise from television.

Initialisms constitute an extreme kind of clipping pp g since only y the initial letters of words, or sometimes initial syllables, are put together and used as words. Usually, the motivation for initialism is mostly brevity or catchiness, but sometimes also euphemisms. When Wh initialisms i i i li are pronounced d with i h the h names of f the h letters l of f the alphabet, they may be called alphabetisms or abbreviations. Examples are: BP (British Petroleum),VIP (very important person). America seems to have been the great breeding ground of initialisms. They are rare in English before the 20th century. Other examples: UFO, FCC, IRS, NBC, CBS, BBC, DOD.

Aphetic forms

Aphetic p forms are a special p kind of shortening g characterized by y the omission of the initial unstressed syllable as in scuse me, and cause for excuse me and because. This phenomenon has often resulted in g g e.g. g Fenderthe introduction of two different words in the language: defender, fence-defence, cute-acute, sport-disport.