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Term 2 Week 1. Word-formation processes. Food for Thought. How receptive are people towards new words? Do people accept the use of different forms of that new word easily? . Point to Note. There is a lot of regularity in the word-formation processes in the English L anguage . Background.

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food for thought
Food for Thought
  • How receptive are people towards new words?
  • Do people accept the use of different forms of that new word easily?
point to note
Point to Note
  • There is a lot of regularity in the word-formation processes in the English Language.
  • The study of the origin and history of a word is known as its etymology.
  • There are many different ways in which new words can enter the language.
  • A lot of words in daily use today were, at one time, considered barbaric misuses of the language. In the early 19th century, words like handbook and aviation horrified readers of a London newspaper.
  • Yet many new words can cause similar outcries as they come into use today.
  • Rather than act as if the language is being debased, most linguists prefer to view the constant evolution of new words and new uses of old words as a reassuring sign of vitality and creativeness in the way a language is shaped by the needs of its users.
  • The invention of totally new terms.
  • The most typical sources are invented trade names for commercial products that become general terms (usually without capital letters) for any version of that product.
  • Examples include Kleenex, Teflon, Tylenol, aspirin, Vaseline and zipper.
  • New words based on the name of a person or a place are called eponyms.


  • Sandwich – from the 18th century Earl of Sandwich who first insisted on having his bread and meat together while gambling.
  • Jeans – from the city of Genoa where the type of cloth was first made.
  • One of the most common source of new words in English is the process of taking over words from other languages.
  • Throughout history, English has adopted a vast number of new words from other languages, including croissant (French), dope (Dutch), lilac (Persian), piano (Italian), pretzel (German), sofa(Arabic), tycoon (Japanese) and yogurt(Turkish).
  • 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 American concept of ‘boyfriend’ was a borrowing, with sound modification into Japanese as boifurendo ボイフレンド, but as a calque into Chinese as nan pengyou男朋友.
  • The joining of two separate words to produce a single form is known as compounding.
  • Common English compounds are bookcase, doorknob, fingerprint, sunburn, textbook, wallpaper, wastebasketand waterbed.
  • The combination of two separate forms to produce a single new term is called blending.
  • Blending is typically accomplished by taking only the beginning of one word and joining it to the end of the other word.


  • Brunch = Breakfast + Lunch
  • Smog = Smoke + fog
  • Motel = Motor + Hotel
  • Telecast = Television + Broadcast
  • Infotainment = Information + Entertainment
  • Clipping occurs when a word of more than one syllable (facsimile) is reduced to a shorter form (fax), usually beginning in casual speech.
  • Common examples include ad (advertisement), cab(cabriolet), condo (condominium), fan (fanatic), flu (influenza), perm (permanent wave), pub (public house) etc.
  • A particular type of reduction, favoured in Australian and British English, produces forms technically known as hypocorisms.
  • In this process, a longer word is reduced to a single syllable, then –y or –ie is added to the end.
  • Examples include movies (‘moving pictures’) and telly (television’).
  • 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 televise was created from it.
  • A change in the function of a word, as for example when a noun comes to be used as a verb (without any reduction), is generally known as conversion.
  • Examples of nouns converted to use as verbs include bottle(bottled the home brew), butter (buttered the toast), chair(chair the meeting), spy etc.
  • It is worth noting that some words can shift substantially in meaning when they change category through conversion.
  • The verb to doctor often has a negative sense, not normally associated with the source noun a doctor.
  • Acronyms are new words formed from the initial letters of a set of other words.
  • These can be forms such as CD (compact disk) or VCR (video cassette recorder).
  • Many acronyms simply become everyday terms such as laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) and radar (radio detecting and ranging).
  • The most common word formation process to be found in the production of new English words.
  • Derivation is accomplished by means of a large number of small ‘bits’ of the English language which are not usually given separate listings in dictionaries.
  • The small ‘bits’ are generally described as affixes.
  • Some familiar examples are the elements un-, mis-, pre-, -ful, -less, -ish, -ism and –nesswhich appear in words like unhappy, misrepresent, prejudge, joyful, careless, boyish, terrorism and sadness.
multiple processes
Multiple Processes
  • Although we have concentrated on each of these word-formation processes in isolation, it is possible to trace the operation of more than one process at work in the creation of a particular word.
  • For example, the term deliseems to have become a common American English expression via a process of first borrowing delicatessen (from German) and then clipping that borrowed form.
multiple processes23
Multiple Processes
  • Forms that begin as acronyms can also go through other processes, as in the use of lase as a verb, the result of backformation from laser.
  • In the expression waspish attitudes, the acronym WASP (‘white Anglo-Saxon protestant’) has lost its capital letters and gained a suffix (-ish) in the derivation process.
final note
Final Note
  • Many of these new words can have a very brief life-span.
  • The generally accepted test of the ‘arrival’ of recently formed words in a language is their published appearance in a dictionary.
food for thought25
Food for Thought
  • How will an understanding of word-formation processes aid your understanding of a text, in relation to its purpose, target audience, context and culture?