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Various ways of word formation

The available linguistic literature on the subject cites various types and ways of forming words. Earlier books, articles and monographs on word-formation and vocabulary growth in general both in the Russian language and in foreign languages, in the English language in particular, used to mention morphological, syntactic and lexico-semantic types of word-formation. At present the classifications of the types of word-formation do not, as a rule, include lexico-semantic word-building. Of interest is the classification of word-formation means based on the number of motivating bases which many scholars follow. A distinction is made between two large classes of word-building means:

§ To Class I belong the means of building words having one motivating base. To give an English example, the noun catcher is composed of the base catch-and the suffix -er, through the combination of which it is morphologically and semantically motivated.

§ Class II includes the means of building words containing more than “ one motivating base. Needless to say, they are all based on compounding (cf. the English compounds country-club, door-handle, bottle-opener, etc., all having two bases through which they are motivated).

Most linguists in special chapters and manuals devoted to English word-formation consider as the chief processes of English word-formation affixation, conversion and compounding. Apart from these a number of minor ways of forming words such as back-formation, sound interchange, distinctive stress, sound imitation, blending, clipping and acronymy are traditionally referred to Word-Formation.

Another classification of the types of word-formation worked out by H. Marchand is also of interest. Proceeding from the distinction between full linguistic signs and pseudo signs he considers two major groups:

1. words formed as grammatical syntagmas, i.e. combinations of full linguistic signs which are characterised by morphological motivation such as do-er, un-do, rain-bow;

2. words which are not grammatical syntagmas, i.e. which are not made up of full linguistic signs.

To the first group belong Compounding, Suffixation, Prefixation, Derivation by a Zero Morpheme and Back-Derivation, to the second — Expressive Symbolism, Blending, Clipping, Rime and Ablaut Gemination, Word-Manufacturing. It is characteristic of both groups that a new coining is based on a synchronic relationship between morphemes.


Суффиксация в английском языке. Происхождение и продуктивность английских суффиксов

Suffixation is the formation of words with the help of suffixes. Suffixes usually modify the lexical meaning of the base and transfer words to a, different part of speech. There are suffixes however, which do not shift words from one part of speech into another; a suffix of this kind usually transfers a word into a different semantic group, e.g. a concrete noun becomes an abstract one, as is the case with child — childhood, friend — friendship, etc.

Chains of suffixes occurring in derived words having two and more suffixal morphemes are sometimes referred to in lexicography as compound suffixes: ' -ably = -able + -ly (e.g. profitably, unreasonably); -ically = -ic + -al + -ly (e.g. musically, critically); -ation = -ate + -ion (e.g. fascination, isolation) and some others. Compound suffixes do not always present a mere succession of two or more suffixes arising out of several consecutive stages of derivation. Some of them acquire a new quality operating as a whole unit. Let us examine from this point of view the suffix -ation in words like fascination, translation, adaptation and the like. Adaptation looks at first sight like a parallel to fascination, translation. The latter however are first-degree derivatives built with the suffix -ion on the basesfascinate-, translate-. But there is no base adap-tate-, only the shorter base adapt-. Likewise damnation, condemnation, formation, information and many others are not matched by shorter bases ending in -ate, but only by still shorter ones damn-, condemn-, form-, inform-. Thus, the suffix -ation is a specific suffix of a composite nature. It consists of two suffixes -ate and -ion, but in many cases functions as a single unit in first-degree derivatives. It is referred to in linguistic literature as a coalescent suffix or a group suffix. Adaptation is then a derivative of the first degree of derivation built with the coalescent suffix on the baseadapt-.

Of interest is also the group-suffix -manship consisting of the suffixes -man and -ship. It denotes a superior quality, ability of doing something to perfection, e.g. authormanship, quotemanship, Upmanship, etc. (cf. statesmanship, or chairmanship built by adding the suffix -ship to the compound base statesman- andchairman- respectively).

It also seems appropriate to make several remarks about the morphological changes that sometimes accompany the process of combining derivational morphemes with bases. Although this problem has been so far insufficiently investigated, some observations have been made and some data collected. For instance, the noun-forming suffix -ess for names of female beings brings about a certain change in the phonetic shape of the correlative male noun provided the latter ends in -er, -or, e.g. actress cf. actor), sculptress (cf. sculptor), tigress (cf. tiger), etc. It may be easily observed that in such cases the sound [ə ] is contracted in the feminine nouns.

Further, there are suffixes due to which the primary stress is shifted to the syllable immediately preceding them, e.g. courageous (cf. courage), stability (cf.stable), investigation (cf. investigate), peculiarity (cf. peculiar), etc. When added to a base having the suffix -able/-ible as its component, the suffix -ity brings about a change in its phonetic shape, namely the vowel [i] is inserted between [b] and [1], e.g. possible — possibility, changeable — changeability, etc. Some suffixes attract the primary stress on to themselves, there is a secondary stress on the first syllable in words with such suffixes, e.g. `employ´ ee (cf. em´ ploy), `govern´ mental (cf. govern), `pictu´ resque (cf. picture).

The origin

While examining the stock of derivational affixes in Modern English from the point of view of their origin distinction should first of all be made between:

§ native affixes (the suffixes -ness, -ish, -dom and the prefixes be-, mis-, un- are of native origin)

§ foreign affixes (suffixes as -ation, -ment, -able and prefixes like dis-, ex-, re- are of foreign origin)

Many of the suffices and prefixes of native origin were originally independent words. In the course of time they have gradually lost their independence and turned into derivational affixes. For instance, such noun-suffixes as -dom, -hood, -ship may be traced back to words: -dom represents the Old English noundom which meant ‘judgement’; ’sentence’. The suffix -hood goes back to the OE, noun had, which meant ’state’, ‘condition’; the adjective suffix -ly (e.g. manly, friendly) is also traced back to the OE. noun lī c — ‘body’, ’shape’. Some suffixes are known to have originated as a result of secretion. An instance of the case is the suffix -ling occurring in words like duckling, yearling, hireling, etc. The suffix is simply the extended form of the Old English suffix -ing and has sprung from words in which -ing was tacked on to a stem ending in [1] as lỹ tling. Many suffixes, however, have always been known as derivational affixes within the history of the English language, for instance -ish, -less-, -ness, etc.

The same is true of prefixes: some have developed out of independent words, e.g. out-, under-, over-, ethers have always functioned as derivational affixes, e.g. mis-, un-.

In the course of its historical development the English language has adopted a great many suffixes and prefixes from foreign languages. This process does not consist in borrowing derivational affixes as such. It is words that the language borrows from a foreign language and the borrowed words bring with them their derivatives formed after word-building patterns of this language. When such pairs of words as derive and derivation, esteem and estimation, laud and laudationfound their way into the English vocabulary, it was natural that the suffix -ation should be recognised by English speakers as an allowable means of forming nouns of action out of verbs. In this way a great many suffixes and prefixes of foreign origin have become an integral part of the system of word-formation in English. Among borrowed derivational affixes we find both suffixes, e.g. -able, -ible, -al, -age, -ance, -ist, -ism, -ess, etc., and prefixes, e.g. dis-, en[em]-, inter-, re-, non- and many others.

It is to be marked that quite a number of borrowed derivational affixes are of international currency. For instance, the suffix -ist of Greek origin is used in many European languages to form a noun denoting ‘one who adheres to a given doctrine or system, a political party, an ideology’ or ‘one, who makes a practice of a given action’ (cf. socialist, communist, Marxist; artist, scenarist, realist and their Russian equivalents). Of international currency is also the suffix -ism of Greek origin used to form abstract nouns denoting ‘philosophical doctrines, political and ’scientific theories, ’ etc. (e.g. materialism, realism, Darwinism). Such prefixes as anti-, pre-, extra-, ultra- are also used to coin new words in many languages, especially in political and scientific terminology (e.g. anti-fascist, pro-German, extra-territorial, transatlantic, ultra-violet).

The adoption of countless foreign words exercised a great influence upon the system of English word-formation, one of the result being the appearance of many hybrid words in the English vocabulary. The term hybrid words is, needless to say, of diachronic relevance only. Here distinction should be made between two basic groups:

1. Cases when a foreign stem is combined with a native affix, as in colourless, uncertain. After complete adoption the foreign stem is subject to the same treatment as native stems and new words are derived from it at a very early stage. For instance, such suffixes as -ful, -less, -ness were used with French words as early as 1300;

2. Cases when native stems are combined with foreign affixes, such as drinkable, joyous, shepherdess. Here the assimilation of a structural pattern is involved, therefore some time must pass before a foreign affix comes to be recognised by speakers as a derivational morpheme that can be tacked on to native words. Therefore such formations are found much later than those of the first type and are less numerous. The early assimilation of -able is an exception. Some foreign affixes, as -ance, -al, -ity, have never become productive with native stems.

Reinterpretation of borrowed words gave rise to affixes which may not have been regarded as such in the source language. For instance, -scape occurring in such words as seascape, cloudscape, mountainscape, moonscape, etc. resulted from landscape of Dutch origin. The suffix -ade developed from lemonade of French origin, giving rise to fruitade, orangeade, gingerade, pineappleade, etc.; the noun electron of Greek origin contributed the suffix -tron very widely used in coining scientific and technical terms, e.g. cyclotron, magnetron, synchrophasotron, thyratron, etc.


Distinction is usually made between:

§ dead affixes,

§ living affixes.

Dead affixes are described as those which are no longer felt in Modern English as component parts of words; they have so fused with the base of the word as to lose their independence completely. It is only by special etymological analysis that they may be singled out, e.g. -d in dead, seed, -le, -1, -el in bundle, sail, hovel; -ock in hillock; -lock in wedlock; -t in flight, gift, height. It is quite clear that dead suffixes are irrelevant to present-day English word-formation, they belong in its diachronic study.

Living affixes may be easily singled out from a word, e.g. the noun-forming suffixes -ness, -dom, -hood, -age, -ance, as in darkness, freedom, childhood, marriage, assistance, etc. or the adjective-forming suffixes -en, -ous, -ive, -ful, -y as in wooden, poisonous, active, hopeful, Stony, etc. However, not all living derivational affixes of Modern English possess the ability to coin new words. Some of them may be employed to coin new words on the spur of the moment, others cannot, so that they are different from the point of view of their productivity. Accordingly they fall into two basic classes — productive and non-productive word-building affixes.

It has been pointed out that linguists disagree as to what is meant by the productivity of derivational affixes.

Following the first approach all living affixes should be considered productive in varying degrees from highly-productive (e.g. -er, -ish, -less, re-, etc.) to non-productive (e.g. -ard, -cy, -ive, etc.).

Consequently it becomes important to describe the constraints imposed on and the factors favouring the productivity of affixational patterns and individual affixes. The degree of productivity of affixational patterns very much depends on the structural, lexico-grammatical and semantic nature of bases and the meaning of the affix. For instance, the analysis of the bases from which the suffix -ise ( -ize ) can derive verbs reveals that it is most productive with noun-stems, adjective-stems also favour its productivity, whereas verb-stems and adverb-stems do not, e.g. criticise (cf. critic), organise (cf. organ), itemise (cf. item), mobilise (cf. mobile), localise (cf. local), etc. Comparison of the semantic structure of a verb in -ise ( -ize ) with that of the base it is built on shows that the number of meanings of the stem usually exceeds that of the verb and that its basic meaning favours the productivity of the suffix -ise ( -ize ) to a greater degree than its marginal meanings, cf. to characterise — character, to moralise — moral, to dramatise — drama, etc.

The treatment of pertain affixes as non-productive naturally also depends on the concept of productivity. The current definition of non-productive derivational affixes as those which cannot be used in Modern English for the coining of new words is rather vague and may be interpreted in different ways. Following the definition the term non-produсtive refers only to the affixes unlikely to be used for the formation of new words, e.g. -ous, -th, fore- and some others (cf.famous, depth, to foresee).

If one accepts the other concept of productivity mentioned above, then non-productive affixes must be defined as those that cannot be used for the formation of occasional words and, consequently, such affixes as -dom, -ship, -ful, -en, -ify, -ate and many others are to be regarded as non-productive.

The degree of productivity of a suffix or, to be more exact, of a derivational affix in general may be established on a statistical basis as the ratio of the number of newly-formed words with the given suffix to the number of words with the same suffix already operating in the language. To give an illustration, we shall take the suffix –ise ( -ize ). The dictionaries of new words compiled by P. Berg (1953) and M. Reifer (1958) as well as the Addenda section of Webster’s New International Dictionary (1958) contain 40 new verbs built up with the help of the suffix –ise ( -ize ). On the other hand, The Thorndike Century Junior Dictionary (1941) has 127 verbs derived by means of the same suffix. Consequently, the productivity measure of the suffix –ise ( -ize ) is 40: 127=0.315. A similar examination of the verb-suffixes -ate, -en, -ify yields the following results characterising the productivity measure of each of the verbs: the suffix -ate — 0.034, the suffix -en — 0.018 and the suffix -ify — 0.017. Thus, these figures lead one to the conclusion that the suffix –ise ( -ize ) is the most productive of the four under investigation and that the suffix -ate is more productive than -en and -ify.

The theory of relative productivity of derivational affixes is also corroborated by some other observations made on English word-formation. For instance, different productive affixes are found in different periods of the history of the language. It is extremely significant, for example, that out of the seven verb-forming suffixes of the Old English period only one has survived up to the present time with a very low degree of productivity, namely the suffix -en (cf. to soften, to darken, to whiten).

A derivational affix may become productive in just one meaning because thai meaning is specially needed by the community at a particular phase in its history. This may be well illustrated by the prefix de- in the sense of ‘undo what has been done, reverse an action or process’, E.g., deacidify (paint spray), decasualise(dock labour), decentralise (government or management), deration (eggs and butter), de-reserve (medical students), desegregate (coloured, children), and so on.

Furthermore, there are cases when a derivational affix being nonproductive in the non-specialised section of the vocabulary is used to coin scientific or technical terms. This is the case, for instance, with the suffix -ance which has been used to form some terms in Electrical Engineering, e.g. capacitance, impedance, reactance. The same is true of the suffix -ity which has been used to form terms in physics and chemistry such as alkalinity, luminosity, emissivityand some others.




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