Word Formation Processes
In linguistics, there are many ways for creating a new word. In this lesson, we will get to know all the word-formation processes in the English language.
What are Word Formation Processes?
As languages evolve and develop all the time, new words emerge to help speakers communicate better. In this lesson, we are going to talk about the word formation processes or WFP to find out how a new word enters a language.
Word Formation Processes in English
This is a list of common word-formation processes in English:
Now, let us discuss them one by one.
Borrowing or loan word refers to the process where a foreign word is used in the language without being translated. The English language has adopted a large number of words from other languages. Remember that the word does not lose its meaning in the target language.
There are two different types of loan words. Let's take a look at them:
- Foreign words with the same spelling
This happens when a word is borrowed from a foreign language and its orthography stays the same.
- Foreign words with different spelling
In this case, the orthography of the word changes in the target language.
Loan-translation, also known as calque, is a translation method in which a word or phrase is translated literally, word-for-word, into another language. It's important to note that calques are usually semantic or syntactic translations, meaning that they retain the meaning or structure of the word in the original language, rather than being phonetically matched.
There are five types of calque which have been listed below with examples:
- Phraseological calque:
When idiomatic phrases or sets of expressions are translated word-for-word.
Here, This English phrase is derived from a direct literal translation of a French phrase.
- Syntactic calque:
This type of calque only occurs at a structural level in a sentence where the structure of two different languages is involved. Remember that no lexical change happens in this type.
to find guilty =
Here, a third language is made which could be called 'Spanglish'.
in order to:
- Semantic calque:
Semantic calque happens when we transfer the additional meaning of the words of our source language into the target language.
Here, 'feu' means 'light' and 'vert' means 'green'.
- Phonological calque:
In this type of calque, the sound of the source language word is projected in the target language. Take a look at these similar-sounding Chinese words:
- Typographic calque:
This happens when typographical rules that only exist in the source language are transferred into the target language. For example, the rule of capital letters in English has entered Spanish, as well as the use of italics for emphasis and certain uses of quotation marks.
Sam wasn't the
Here, We must use italics for emphasis.
When two separate words are combined together to form a single new word, compounding happens. This happens in English and German more than in French and Spanish.
There are three types of compound words:
- Open compounding: When there is a space between two elements.
- Hyphenated compounding: When there is a hyphen between two compounded elements.
- Closed compounding: When the two elements are written together.
The Plural Form of Compound Nouns
- Compound nouns are usually pluralized by adding the inflection -s to the end of the word.
a bookcase → two bookcase
a post office → two post office
- In compound nouns that are made from a noun and an adverb, the first part (the noun) becomes plural.
a passer-by → several passer
a Listener-in → several Listener
- Compound nouns that end in -'in-law' can be pluralized on both the first and the final part.
Blending is when a word is formed by mixing two other words together.
There are two different types of blending:
- Attributive blends in which one part is the head and the other one is attributive.
Here, 'object' is the head.
Here, 'Fruit' is the head.
- Coordinate blends combine two words with equal positions and have two heads.
Clipping or shortening involves cutting down some parts of a word and forming a shorter word that is a synonym for the original word. Clipping is different from abbreviation as it is the shortened form of written words. Here are some examples:
Clippings as Slang or Jargon
Some linguists believe that clippings originated as slang or jargon among students and teachers in schools, officers and soldiers in the army, or doctors and nurses in the medical profession. Here are some examples:
Depending on the part of the word that is reduced, there are four types of clipping:
- Final clipping: (the most common type) When the final part of the word is shortened:
- Initial clipping: when the final part is kept and the first part is reduced:
- Medial clipping: when a word is gradually shortened due to the process of elision under the influence of rhythm
- Complex clipping: (clipped compounding) When a word is clipped and compounded with another word. Remember that complex clipping is a type of blending.
Here, It was compounded and then clipped.
As you can see, It was compounded and then clipped.
English speakers tend to clip each other’s names. For example, instead of saying 'Alexander', they shorten it to 'Alex' or just 'Al'. There are many more examples such as 'Jen' for 'Jennifer' or 'Rob' for 'Robert'.
It is a type of clipping mostly used in British and Australian English when a longer word is reduced to one syllable and -'ie' or –'y' is added to the end. It is mainly used in 'child-talk', 'nicknames', and everyday life conversations.
This word-formation process happens when a word (usually a noun) is reduced to another part of speech (normally a verb). This word-formation process originated in Latin nouns ending with '-ion' that entered the English language. Take a look at some examples:
Option (noun) →
As you can see in the example, the Latin word 'option' was taken over in English and many years later, the verb 'opt' was created.
Insertion (noun) →
opinion (noun) →
resurrection (noun) →
If there is a noun ending in -er (or something close in sound), then we can create a verb:
Back-formation is different from clipping. Back-formation may change the word's class or meaning, whereas clipping makes shortened words from longer words, but does not change the class or meaning of the word.
This word-formation process is also called zero derivation and happens when we create a new word with another part of speech without changing its form. For example:
green (noun) →
The adjective 'green' is derived from the noun 'green' that means a grass land.
As you can see below, there are three types of conversion:
- phrasal verb to noun
to print out → a
to take over → a
- verb to noun
must (verb) →
As you can see, 'Must' is mainly used as a verb but it is trendy to use 'must' as a noun.
- noun to verb
bottle (noun) →
The noun 'bottle' is used as a verb these days.
mail (noun) →
- adjective to verb
clean (adjective) →
empty (adjective) →
Coinage is a type of word-formation process in which a new word is created, either by inventing a completely new word or by adapting an existing word in a new way. This can happen because of advances in technology, movies, literature, music, and popular culture. For instance:
Words that are formed by coinage are usually written in lowercase letters when they are used in context, but when we want to refer to the source of the word, it becomes a proper noun and has to be written in uppercase letters.
This is a type of coinage where the word is derived from the names of people or places. Eponyms are usually written in lowercase letters, but when they are used as proper nouns, they must be written in uppercase letters. Like:
Here, 'jeans' comes from the Italian city of
Here, The condition is named after James Parkinson who described the shaking palsy.
create → creat
Here, the suffix -
Here, the prefix
Infixes are affixes inserted into the word stems. There are a few infixes in English and they are normally used in informal speech or technical texts. Here are some examples:
Here, -iz- is an infix from hip-hop culture.
Here, -izn- is an infix from hip-hop culture.
Tmesis is quite different from infixes. Infixes are tiny meaningless words but tmesis is a meaningful word inserted into another noun. For example:
An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase that is used to represent the full form of the word or phrase. Here are some examples:
There are five types of abbreviations. Let’s take a look at each type:
- Acronyms: When we put the initial letters of a set of words together or separate the initial letters of a word, we make an acronym. An acronym is always pronounced as a word.
- Initialism: An initialism is formed by the first letters of a group of words that are pronounced letter by letter, not as a word.
- Contraction: When we reduce the size of the word, by omitting the middle letters.
- Shortening: when only the first letters or first syllables of a word are kept.
- Syllabic abbreviations: When an abbreviation is formed from the initial syllables of a group of words and pronounced as a word.
Analogy happens when a new word is created based on an existing word that has a similar form or meaning. This process involves extending the meaning or form of an existing word to create a new word that is similar in structure or meaning. Take a look at this example for a better understanding:
'Yuppies' were those kinds of hippies that were politically active. By analogy, we could make a similar word to a word like 'Hippie'.
Sometimes, we can use two or more of these processes at the same time to make a word. For instance, partial calque or semi-calque is the combination of calque and loan words together. Take a look at some examples:
liverwurst (English) from (German) leberwurst
Here, 'wurst' remains the same but 'leber' is translated into English.
apple strudel (English) from (German) apfelstrudel
Here, 'strudel' remains the same but 'apfel' is translated into English.
- What are Word Formation Processes?
- Word Formation Processes in English
- 6. Hypocorisms
- 7. Backformation
- 9. Coinage
- 10. Eponyms
- 11. Affixation
- 12. Infixes
- 14. Analogy
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Loan Words and Calque
Sometimes we adopt a word from a language and translate it more or less literally. And Sometimes, we borrow words directly from another language. Let's learn!
Compounding and Blending
The act of making a new word using an old one is called derivation in English. And Compounding is creating words by combining two or more words. Let's learn!
Affixes are like codes in a code language. With their help, you can decode the words in a language. Let's take a closer look at these codes!
Prefixes are a group of letters that are placed at the beginning of the base of a word to changes its meaning and/or parts of speech.
Suffixes are particles with separate meanings placed at the end of a root or a stem. Adding them to our words defines the final meaning of the whole term.