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X. Blending and word-manufacturing

Blending can be considered relevant to word-formation only insofar as it is an intentional process of word-coining. We shall use the term here to designate the method of merging parts of words into one new word, as when sm/oke and f/og derive smog. Thus blending is compounding by means of curtailed words. However, the clusters sm and og were morphemes only for the individual speaker who blended them, while in terms of the linguistic system as recognized by the community, they are not signs at all. Blending, therefore, has no grammatical, but a stylistic status. The result of blending is, indeed, always a moneme, i.e. an unanalysable, simple word, not a motivated syntagma. Once the blend smog has been formed, it ceases to contain the two (curtailed) morphemes which the word-coiner intended to combine in it. Unless speakers have received extralingual information about the composition of the blend, such words as brunch (br/eakfast + l/unch), smaze (sm/oke + h/aze) and others are simple words, the subject matter of lexicology. [...]

2. Read the following text and answer the questions:

1. What is Hockett's definition of morphemes?

2. What is Hockett's procedure of determining morphemes?

3. Does Hockett make any difference between morphemes and inflectional endings?

4. What does Hockett understand by a grammatical form?

5. What difference does Hockett see between a grammatical form and a morpheme?

Charles Hockett

A course in modern linguistics


14.1.Definition. If the utterances of a language consisted merely of arrangements of phonemes, there would be no point in speaking or in listening. But people do speak and listen, and their oral communication transmits information and instructions and serves to coordinate their activities. That utterances can serve in this way is because they have another kind of structure in addition to the phonemic, one, a structure in terms of morphemes.

Morphemes are the smallest individually meaningful elements in the utterances of a language.

To illustrate, we shall examine the following English sentence:

John treats his older sisters very nicely.

In order to determine the morphemes of which this sentence is composed, we pull out any portion and ask the following questions about it:

(I) Does the portion recur in various utterances, with approximately the same meaning? If the answer is no, then the portion we have chosen to examine is of no use to us, and we try another. If the answer is yes, then the portion is tentatively a grammatical form (or, for short, simply a form), but not necessarily a single morpheme. (It is unfortunate that we must include "tentatively" in the preceding statement, especially since the reasons for the reservation cannot be explained until § 19. In the meantime we shall proceed as though no reservation had been expressed.)

(II) Can the form be broken into smaller pieces, each of which recurs with approximately the same meaning, in such a way that the meaning of the whole form is related to the meanings of the smaller pieces? If the answer is yes, then the form is larger than a single morpheme (is a composite form) and we must subject each of the pieces, in turn, to the same two-step examination. But if the answer is no, then the form is itself a single morpheme.

Thus each portion we choose is shown, by Test I, to be either a bad choice or a grammatical form, and each grammatical form is shown, by Test II, to be either a com­posite form or a morpheme. By a series of such operations, we can discover all the morphemes of an utterance.

Let us apply the tests to the following extracts from our sample sentence: [ja], [jan + tr], [owldər] and [sistər].

The first portion, [ja], fails Test I. It recurs, true enough — for example, in Jobs are scarce here, He's a jolly old man, Two jars of shaving cream. But we detect no common feature of meaning in these utterances which could reasonably be assigned to the recurrent portion [ja].

The second portion also fails Test I. The portion recurs: John traded his watch for a pencil. If John tries that he'll fail. From the broken demijohn trickled a stream of wine. But the requirement of similarity of meaning is not satisfied.

Test I is quickly passed by [owldər]. Its meaning in the original sentence is certainly much the same as in such sentences as He is older than I; The older of the two is a girl; I do declare, I'm getting older every day! In order to apply Test II, we must decide how to break [owldər] up into smaller pieces. If we were working with an alien language we might have to test many alternatives — say [ow] and [ldər], [owl] and [dər], and so on. Since we control English natively we can avoid this complication and proceed immediately to the cut which we feel will yield positive results: [owld] and [ər]. The former recurs, with reasonably constant meaning, in such sentences as He's an old man, He's the oldest of their three children, Jack is quite an active oldster. And the latter recurs in such sentences as When I was younger I enjoyed such things more, You should learn to enjoy the finer things of life. The evidence seems quite clear: older is more than one morpheme.

Similar testing of [owld] and [ər] shows that each is only a single morpheme; older, then, is exactly two morphemes.

Finally [sistər]. This quickly passes Test I: My sister Eileen; OK, sister, get moving!; Sister Angela will be here in a moment. Turning to Test II, once again we have to decide what break-up to try. Let us first try sist-and -er, if only because this is much like the cut of older which proved fruitful.

Now there can be no doubt but that the string of phonemes [sist] occurs in environments other than those in which it is immediately followed by [ər], and it is equally obvious that the latter occurs where it is not preceded by [sıst]. Thus, for [sıst], we have He has a cyst which must be removed; I have a system, I can't lose; Whipped cream consists largely of air; I don't mean to insist. And for [ər], in addition to the examples given earlier, we could find sentences involving brother, father, mother, daughter; hammer, butter, fetter, wither; singer, writer, actor, better.

But this is not enough. We get into trouble on the score of meaning, just as we did with the portions [ja] and [jan + tr] which we tested first. There seems to be no reasonable similarity of meaning between the sist-of sister and any of the other [sıst]'s illustrated. The words sister, brother, father, mother, daughter are all kinship terms, which means that they share some feature of meaning; on this basis one might want to extract the element -er as a morpheme carrying this shared feature of meaning. However, to do so leaves us not only with a [sıst] which — in this meaning — seems not to recur, but also with similarly forlorn elements [brəd], [fəd], [mad] and [dot]. Thus it seems reasonable to conclude that sister should not be regarded as a combination of smaller forms sist-and -er.

No other way of cutting sister into smaller pieces seems to have even the partial justification which we have found above for the cut into sist-and -er. We therefore decide to accept sister as a single morpheme.

Proceeding in this same way with all the different parts of our original sentence, we arrive finally at the following list of the constituent morphemes:

(1) John [jan]

(2) treat [trıjt]

(3) -s [s]

(4) hi-[ı]

(5) -s [z]

(6) old [owld]

(7) -er [ər]

(8) sister [sıstər]

(9) -s [z]

(10) very [verıj]

(11) nice [najs]

(12) -ly [lıj]

(13) [3 2 22].

Note the following points:

First, the intonation must not be overlooked; we have taken it as a single separate morpheme.

Second, (5) and (9) are phonemically the same, but certainly not the same morpheme, because of the difference in meaning.

Third, the breakdown of his [ız] into hi-[ı]and -s [z] may seem unconvincing. The [z] recurs, with exactly the same meaning, in John's book, the men's room, and the like. But the [ı] recurs only in him (as in hit 'im).

If this evidence is enough to persuade us to break up (h)is, then maybe we want to break up very top, into a ver-which recurs in verity, veritable, perhaps veracious, and an element -y which recurs in pretty (pretty well) and perhaps elsewhere.

Marginal uncertainties of this sort are to be expected -in any language, not just in English. They must not be allowed to disturb us too much. Most problems of whether to cut or not are answered easily and quickly. Where there is conflict of evidence, it is often not very important which alternative we choose. The uncertainties lie in the nature of language, rather than in our method of attack.

3. Read the following text and answer the questions:

1. What does Kennedy understand by the term "conversion"?

2. What difference does Kennedy see between conversion and derivational change?

3. What is understood by complete and partial conversion?

4. What types of functional change does Kennedy distinguish?

5. What does Kennedy understand by commonization?

6. Does Kennedy make any distinction between a word as a unity of all its forms and the dictionary form of the word (e.g. try v., tries, tried, trying, etc.; try n, a try)?

Arthur G. Kennedy

Current English

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