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It will be helpful now to remember what has been said in the first chapter about the vocabulary being a constantly changing adaptive system, the subsets of which have blurred boundaries.

There are cases, indeed, where it is very difficult to draw a hard and fast line between roots and affixes on the one hand, and derivational affixes and inflectional formatives on the other. The distinction between these has caused much discussion and is no easy matter altogether.

There are a few roots in English which have developed great combining ability in the position of the second element of a word and a very general meaning similar to that of an affix. These are semi-affixes treated at length in Chapter 6.1 They receive this name because semantically, functionally, structurally and statistically they behave more like affixes than like roots. Their meaning is as general. They determine the lexico-grammatical class the word belongs to. Cf. sailor : : seaman, where -or is a suffix, and functionally similar, -man is a semi-affix.


1 On the subject of semi-affixes see p.p. 116-118.

Another specific group is formed by the adverb-forming suffix -ly, following adjective stems, and the noun-forming suffixes -ing, -ness, -er, and by -ed added to a combination of two stems: faint-hearted, long-legged. By their almost unlimited combining possibilities (high valency) and the almost complete fusion of lexical and lexico-grammatical meaning they resemble inflectional formatives. The derivation with these suffixes is so regular and the meaning and function of the derivatives so obvious that such derivatives are very often considered not worth an entry in the dictionary and therefore omitted as self-evident. Almost every adjective stem can produce an adverb with the help of -ly, and an abstract noun by taking up the suffix -ness. Every verbal stem can produce the name of the doer by adding -er, and the name of the process or its result by adding -ing. A suffix approaching those in productivity is -ish denoting a moderate degree of the quality named in the stem. Therefore these words are explained in dictionaries by referring the reader to the underlying stem. For example, in “The Concise Oxford Dictionary” we read: “womanliness — the quality of being womanly; womanised a or past participle in senses of the verb; womanishly — in a womanish manner; womanishness — the quality or state of being womanish”.

These affixes are remarkable for their high valency also in the formation of compound derivatives corresponding to free phrases. Examples are: every day : : everydayness.

Other borderline cases also present considerable difficulties for classification. It is indeed not easy to draw the line between derivatives and compound words or between derivatives and root words. Such morphemes expressing relationships in space and time as after-, in-, 1 off-, on-, out-, over-, under-, with- and the like which may occur as free forms have a combining power at least equal and sometimes even superior to that of the affixes. Their function and meaning as well as their position are exactly similar to those characteristic of prefixes. They modify the respective stems for time, place or manner exactly as prefixes do. They also are similar to prefixes in their statistical properties of frequency. And yet prefixes are bound forms by definition, whereas these forms are free. This accounts for the different treatment they receive in different dictionaries. Thus, Chambers’s Dictionary considers aftergrowth a derivation with the prefix after-, while similar formations like afternoon, afterglow or afterthought are classified as compound nouns. Webster’s Dictionary does not consider after- as a prefix at all. COD alongside with the preposition and the adverb on gives a prefix on- with the examples: oncoming, onflow, onlooker, whereas in Chambers’s Dictionary oncome is treated as a compound.

The other difficulty concerns borrowed morphemes that were never active as prefixes in English but are recognised as such on the analogy with other words also borrowed from the same source. A strong protest against this interpretation was expressed by N.N.Amosova. In her



1 Not to be mixed with the bound form in-/im-/il-/ir- expressing negation.

opinion there is a very considerable confusion in English linguistic literature concerning the problem of the part played by foreign affixes in English word-building. This author lays particular stress on the distinction between morphemes that can be separated from the rest of the stem and those that cannot. Among the latter she mentions the following prefixes listed by H. Sweet: amphi-, ana-, apo-, cata-, exo-, en-, hypo-, meta-, sina- (Greek) and ab-, ad-, amb- (Latin). The list is rather a mixed one. Thus, amphi- is even productive in terminology and is with good reason considered by dictionaries a combining form. Ana- in such words as anachronism, anagram, anaphora is easily distinguished, because the words readily lend themselves for analysis into immediate constituents. The prefix ad- derived from Latin differs very much from these two, being in fact quite a cluster of allomorphs assimilated with the first sound of the stem: ad-/ac-/af-/ag-/al-/ap-/as-/at-/. E. g. adapt, accumulation, affirm, aggravation, etc.

On the synchronic level this differentiation suggested by N.N. Amosova is irrelevant and the principle of analysis into immediate constituents depends only on the existence of other similar cases as it was shown in § 5.3 for the suffixes.


It has already been mentioned in the beginning of this chapter that there exist linguistic forms which in modern languages are used as bound forms although in Greek and Latin from which they are borrowed they functioned as independent words.

The question at once arises whether being bound forms, they should be treated like affixes and be referred to the set of derivatives, or whether they are nearer to the elements of compounds, because in languages from which they come they had the status of words. In fact we have a fuzzy set whose elements overlap with the set of affixes on the one hand and with that of words on the other. Different lexicographers have treated them differently but now it is almost universally recognised that they constitute a specific type of linguistic units.

Combining forms are particularly frequent in the specialised vocabularies of arts and sciences. They have long become familiar in the international scientific terminology. Many of them attain widespread currency in everyday language.

To illustrate the basic meaning and productivity of these forms we give below a short list of Greek words most frequently used in producing combining forms together with words containing them.

Astron ‘star’ — astronomy, autos ‘self’ — automatic; bios ‘life’ — biology, electron ‘amber’ — electronics; 1 ge ‘earth’ — geology, graph-ein ‘to write’ — typography, hydor ‘water’ —hydroelectric; logos ‘speech’ — physiology, oikos ‘house’, ‘habitat’ — 1) economics, 2) ecological system’, philein ‘love’ —philology, phone ‘sound’, ‘voice’ — telephone;



1 Electricity was first observed in amber.


photos ‘light’ — photograph; skopein ‘to view’ — microscope; tē le ‘far’ — telescope.

It is obvious from the above list that combining forms mostly occur together with other combining forms and not with native roots. Lexicological analysis meets with difficulties here if we try to separate diachronic and synchronic approach and distinguish between the words that came into English as borrowings and those coined on this model on the English soil. From the synchronic point of view, which coincides with that of an educated English speaking person, it is immaterial whether the morphological motivation one recognises in the word аиtopilot originated in modern times or is due to its remote ancestry in Latin and Greek. One possible criterion is that the word in question could not have existed in Greek or Latin for the simple reason that the thing it names was invented, discovered or developed only much later.

Almost all of the above examples are international words, each entering a considerable word-family. A few of these word-families we shall now describe though briefly, in order to give an idea of the rich possibilities this source of word-building provides.

Auto- comes from the Greek word autos ‘self’ and like bio-, eco-, hydro- and many others is mostly used initially. One of the first English words containing this element was automaton borrowed from late Latin in the 16th century. OED dates the corresponding adjective automatic as appearing in 1586.

The word autograph belonging to this word-family is a good example of how combining forms originate. It was borrowed from French in the 17th century. Its etymology is: Fr autograph< late Latin autographum < Gr autographos ‘that which is written in one’s own handwriting’. Hence in the 19th century the verb — ‘to write with one’s own hand’, ‘to give an autograph’. Thus the word autograph provides one of the patterns so well established in English that they are freely segmented providing material for new combinations.

In English as well as in Russian and other languages word coining with the form auto- is especially intense in the 19th century and goes on in the 20th. Cf. autobiography, autodiagnosis, autonomy, autogenic (training).

There are also many technical terms beginning with auto- and denoting devices, machines and systems, the chief basis of nomination being ‘self-acting’, ‘automatic’. E. g. autopilot, autoloader, auto-starter or auto-changer ‘apparatus on a record-player for changing the records’.

The word automobile was coined not in the English but in the French language and borrowed from French. The word itself is more often used in America, in Britain they prefer its synonym motor-car or simply car, it proved productive in giving a new homonym — a free-standing word auto, a clipping of the word automobile. This in its turn produces such compounds as: autobus, autocross ‘an automobile competition’, auto-drome. It is thus possible for a combining form to be homonymous to words. One might also consider such pairs as auto- and auto or -graph and graph as doublets (see § 13.3) because of their common origin.



The Greek word bios ‘life’, long known to us in the internationalism biography, helps to name many branches of learning dealing with living organisms: bio-astronautics, biochemistry, bio-ecology, biology, bionics, biophysics. Of these bio-astronautics, bio-ecology and bionics are the newest, and therefore need explanation. Bio-astronautics (note also the combining forms astro- and -naut-) is the study of man’s physical capabilities and needs, and the means of meeting those in outer space. Bio-ecology is also an interesting example because the third combining form is so often used in naming branches of study. Cf. geology, lexicology, philology, phonology. The form eco- is also very interesting. This is again a case of doublets. One of these is found in economics, economist, economise, etc. The other, connoting environment, receives now the meaning of ‘dealing with ecology’. The general concern over the growing pollution of the environment gave rise to many new words with this element: eco-climate, eco-activist, eco-type, eco-catastrophe, eco-development ‘development which balances economic and ecological factors’. Bionics is a new science, its name is formed by bio-+-onics. Now -onics is not a combining form properly speaking but what the Barnhart Dictionary of New English calls abstracted form which is defined as the use of a part of the word in what seems to be the meaning it contributes. The term here is well motivated, because bionics is the study of how man and other living beings perform certain tasks and solve certain problems, and the application of the findings to the design of computers and other electronic equipment.

The combining form geo- not only produced many scientific terms in the 19th century but had been productive much earlier: geodesy and geography come down from the 16th century, geometry was known in the 14th century and geology in the 18th.

In describing words containing the forms auto-, bio-, and geo- we have already come across the form graph meaning ‘something written’. One can also quote some other familiar examples: hydrography, phonograph, photograph, telegraph.

Words beginning with hydro- arealso quite familiar to everybody: hydrodynamic, hydroelectric, hydromechanic, hydroponic, hydrotherapeutic.


Words that are made up of elements derived from two or more different languages are called hybrids. English contains thousands of hybrid words, the vast majority of which show various combinations of morphemes coming from Latin, French and Greek and those of native origin.

Thus, readable has an English root and a suffix that is derived from the Latin -abilis and borrowed through French. Moreover, it is not an isolated case, but rather an established pattern that could be represented as English stem +-able. Cf. answerable, eatable, likable, usable. Its variant with the native negative prefix un- is also worthy of note: un- +English stem+-able. The examples for this are: unanswerable, unbearable, unforeseeable, unsayable, unbelievable. An even more



frequent pattern is un-+ Romanic stem + - able, which is also a hybrid: unallowable, uncontrollable, unmoveable, unquestionable, unreasonable and many others. A curious example is the word unmistakable, the ultimate constituents of which are: un-(Engl)+mis-(Engl)+-tak-(Scand) +-able (Fr). The very high valency of the suffix -able [эbl] seems to be accounted for by the presence of the homographic adjective able [eibl ] with the same meaning.

The suffix of personal nouns -ist derived from the Greek agent suffix -istes forms part of many hybrids. Sometimes (like in artist, dentist) it was borrowed as a hybrid already (Fr dentiste< Lat dens, dentis ‘a tooth’ + -ist). In other cases the mixing process took place on English soil, as in fatalist (from Lat fatalis) or violinist (from It violino, diminutive of viola), or tobacconist ‘dealer in tobacco’ (an irregular formation from Sp tabaco).

When a borrowed word becomes firmly established in English this creates the possibility of using it as a stem combined with a native affix. The phenomenon may be illustrated by the following series of adjectives with the native suffix -less: blameless, cheerless, colourless, countless, doubtless, faceless, joyless, noiseless, pitiless, senseless. These are built on the pattern that had been established in the English language and even in Old English long before the corresponding French loans were taken up. Prof. B.A. Ilyish mentions the following adjectives formed from noun and verbal stems: slæ pleas ‘sleepless’; zeliefleas ‘unbelieving’; arleas ‘dishonest’; recceleas ‘reckless’. It goes without saying that there are many adjectives in which -less is combined with native stems: endless, harmless, hopeless, speechless, thankless.

The same phenomenon occurs in prefixation and inflection. The noun bicycle has a Latin prefix (bi-), a Greek root (cycle< kyklos ‘a wheel’), and it takes an English inflection in the plural: bicycles. There are also many hybrid compounds, such as blackguard (Engl+Fr) or schoolboy (Gr+Engl); сf. aircraft in which the first element came into English through Latin and French about 1600 but is ultimately derived from the Greek word aē r, whereas the second element is Common Germanic.

Observation of the English vocabulary, which is probably richer in hybrids than that of any other European language, shows a great variety of patterns. In some cases it is the borrowed affixes that are used with native stems, or vice versa. A word can simultaneously contain borrowed and native affixes.





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