Process of Word-Formation in English

The expression 'word-formation' or 'word-making' or 'word-building' means the process of creating or
forming words out of sequences of morphemes or words. In English, word-formation has got a great
importance, because the resources of this language have been enriched by this phenomenon as well as
by borrowings from various other languages. New words have continued to be made from old ones, and
have thus added to the existing store of words or vocables.

Various processes of word-making have been at work in English, the chief of which are—

i. Compounding or Composition

ii. Derivation

iii. Conversion, or Functional shift

iv. Reduction, Subtraction, or Shortening

v. Making of Abbreviations and Acronyms

vi. Reduplication

vii. Making of Proper Names from the Common ones

viii. Blending

ix. Imitation

x. Coinage, and Root-creation

Given below is a discussion of these processes:

(i) Compounding or composition

Words that cannot be rendered into a simpler form, are termed 'simple' or 'primary' words or roots.
Boy, eat, fit, sad and log are some such words.

When a word or vocable is formed by joining two or more words or vocables, each of which may be
used separately as well, it is called a compound word. Holiday (holy+day), breakthrough
(break+through), bedroom (bed+room), dotpen (dot+pen) and necktie (neck+tie) are some examples of
compound words.

Often, compounds are made up of more than two words; e.g. man-of-war, son-in-law, none-the-less,
gnard-of-honour, etc.

Except the articles, all the parts of speech (word-classes) can be used to make compounds; e.g.
blacksmith (Adj+N.) homesick (N+Adj.), yourself (Pro.+N.), undergo (Adv.+Vb.), upon (Prepo.+Prepo.),
outcome (Prepo.+Vb.).

Compound words are of two kinds:

In derivation. 'men' from 'man'. number. so far as meaning is concerned. ‘un-' the prefix and '-ness' the suffix. or in which there is a shift in the function of that word. English has derived the principles of word-formation from the primitive Indo-Germanic languages. '-ite\ and '-ity" are some of the common suffixes. e. p.'un-'. wood-work. time-piece. but only a particular kind of tree. '-less'. gender. 'stood' from "stand". "the last element expresses a general meaning. "join' is the base." (The English Language. "Since the close of the Old English period. 'breech' from 'break'. '-ist'. 'dis-\ 'mis-'. to form a new word.. Thus. etc. broad-based." (The Making of English. brainwash. '-er'. and so on. It has still this character. For example. the vocabulary of our language has been enriched by a multitude of new derivatives formed with the prefixes and suffixes that already existed in Old English. e. Thus an apple-tree is a tree. person. a word deprived of those grammatical characters—case. In the original Indo-Germanic language the prefixed element in a compound of this sort was not.g. or in "disjoined'. and suffix if it follows the base-word. Derivatives can be classified into two groups. and is particularly common in present-day English. etc. pp. According to Nelson Francis. (b) Related or Syntactical Compounds are those wherein the words composing or joining them have some grammatical relationship between them. or 'breath' from 'breathe'. (b) Secondary Derivatives are prefixes and suffixes that cannot be used separately or detached from the word to which they are affixed. remarks Henry Bradley. properly speaking. 135-36) (iii) Conversion or Functional Shift Conversion is the process under which a word changes its class without changing its form. As Henry Bradley points out. turncoat. while '-ness'.(a) Unrelated or Juxtapositional Compounds are those that are formed by joining simple words having no grammatical relations between them. mentioned below: (a) Primary Derivatives are those words that are made out of some root or primary word in whose body some change is made: e. which the prefixed element renders less general. "In those kinds of compounds that most frequently occur". and the other cannot be so used.g. 153) (ii) Derivation Compounding or composition implies the joining of two words both of which can be used separately too. the element in a compound. and there can be no doubt that the formation of new words by this means will continue in the future. "in. stone-deaf. the process involved in forming such a compound is called derivation. "Compounding has been a source of new words in English since the earliest times. in those English compounds that are formed on the inherited pattern" (The Making of English. is called an affix—prefix if it precedes the base-word. However. and the element which cannot be so used. 112). mood. 're-' and 'pre-' are some of the common prefixes. stepping-stone. which it would possess if it occurred separately in a sentence. in case where only one of the components of a compound word can be used separately. breakfast. p. a word. is the base. 'dis-' the prefix and'-ed' the suffix. in the compound word 'unkindness' 'kind' is the base. the word 'cover' changes its class from a noun . but a word-stem : that is to say. tense.g. which can be used separately.

and ceased to belong to its original class. TNT. Conversion can be of two kinds: (i) Complete. it can be used with the endings (-s). and 'typewrite' are formed by reducing 'book- keeping'. 165). the words 'henpeck'. (i) Back-Formation and (ii) Clipping. and (ii) Partial. when most of the inflections surviving from Old English finally disappeared.g. TV. 'burgle' and 'sunburn' are made by reducing or subtracting a part of the original words 'henpecked'. adopting the adjuncts and endings proper to that class. 'televise'. new words are formed from the initial letters of some old words. to 'labs' 'mathematics' to 'maths' 'telephone' to 'phone'. for example. the word 'child' which is originally a noun. But it cannot take the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives to become 'childer' and 'childest'. p. RADAR. (iv) Reduction or Subtraction or Shortening Besides the addition of something to an old word. and becomes '(to) cover'. Similarly. 'examinations' to 'exams'. 'gentlemen' to 'gents'. "/o backbite (1300). the words like 'book-keep'. 'sleep'. viz. as Otto Jesperson points out. lo as to form a name. Some of the oldest examples of back-formations a verb. In it. There are two categories of this process. SEATO. 'bicycle' to 'bike'.e.)" (Growth and Structure of the English Language. 'enthusiasm'. (-ed) or (-ing) of a verb (as in 'fasts'. 'burglar' and 'sunburnt' respectively even though the converted words may not have existed originally in English. (i) In the category of Complete Conversion we have the conversion of words in which the converted word has completely become a member of another class or part of speech. As has been observed by Nelson Francis. 'advertisement' to 'ad'. or joining two words together. there is another process of word-formation. to make a new word. and 'fastest'). to partake (partake. (v) Abbreviations and Acronyms Making of acronyms and abbreviations is an extreme form of clipping. p. as in 'evil deed'. 'fasted' and 'fasting'). the noun 'evil' comes to act as an adjective. The verbs like 'laugh'. and make a shorter or base word. 'house-keeping' and 'type-writing'. when the adjective 'fast' is used as a verb. DDT. "Since the late Middle English period. it has been easy to shift a word from one part of speech to another without altering its form at least in the unmarked base form" (The English Language. Thus. etc. This process is the opposite of that of derivation or compounding. NATO. continues to function as a noun besides functioning as an adjective qualifying 'birth'. 16th c). 'deep' and 'wrong' can change their class and become nouns without changing their form. i. 'house-keep'. 156). or the adjectives like 'round'. In the compound 'child-birth'. 'influenza' is changed into 'flu'. the converted word acquires certain characteristics of the other word-class. but cannot take on those of an adjective any more. . Back-Formal ion implies the use of analogy to bring about a sort of reversal of the process of derivation. Or. e. 'television'. 'enthuse'. but not (-er) or (-est) of an adjective (as in 'faster'. "walk'. it can take on any of the forms and functions of a verb. (ii) In the category of Partial Conversion. In the process of Clipping. and continues to belong simultaneously to two classes. to make a new word. and 'public house' to 'pub'. to soothsay and conycatch (Shakesp. a word is informally shortened so as usually to become a monosyllabic word. 'Missis' or 'Mistress' to 'Miss'. For example. 'touch'.. which is called reduction or subtraction or taking away something from the old word. Thus. laboratories.

Each of these names signifies a particular person or place. p..D. such as Smith. Wild and Bright. etc. newly formed words have no etymology. and 'pun' are a few of such words whose origin and source are unknown. we have an example of acronym which means a word whose spelling represents the initial letters of a phrase. the imitation of the sound produced by animals like dogs. e. we have acronymism. thus leading to the formation of a new word. Thus. sheep and cows lead to the formation of words like 'bow-wow'. RADAR and UNESCO are examples of acronyms. 'Tom-tom'. 'Quiz'. "Blending is". 'wishy-washy' and 'pooh-pooh' are some examples of such compounds. we pronounce only the syllabic names of the letters of the abbreviation. M. "a combination of clipping and compounding. which makes new words by putting together fragments of existing words in new combinations. For example. etc. (vi) Reduplication In this process we make a type of compounds in which both elements or components are same or only slightly different. are examples of Alphabetism. sometimes some common names of an occupation are given to particular persons. and their origins are not known. In these words. 'meow'.M. However. "There are also many words which were neither . animals. though they may become so afterward as a result of the blending process." (The English Language. 'breakfast' and ' lunch' merge to form the word 'brunch'. For examples. 'Calico' from 'Calcutta' or 'Calicut' and 'gin from 'Geneva'. etc. gods. They are not taken from Old English or a foreign language. (vii) Making Proper Names from Common Ones New words are also formed when individual names are given to various persons. nor are they formed by any of the processes of word- formation mentioned above. or some adjectives are used as proper names.. Often the names of some products are derived from the names of the places where these products abound or come from. whereas A.. (x) Coinage and Root-Creation Sometimes. we have alphabetism.g. 'fun'. but when a whole cluster of letters is pronounced as one word. Taylor and Clark. 'slovenly' and 'language' to form 'slang'. 'dilly-dally'. C. places. (viii) Blending This process involves the merging of two words into each other. 162). Such words are coined as and when the need arises. 'baa' and 'moo'. It differs from derivation in that the elements thus combined are not morphemes at the time the blends are made.J.M. which can be pronounced. According to Henry Bradley.M. and 'export' and 'import' to form 'exim'. (ix) Imitation Some new words are formed through attempts at the imitation of natural sounds. such as Brown. TV is pronounced as/ti: vi:/ and TNT as/ti:en ti:/. especially if several blends are made with the same element and the phenomenon of false analog}' is present. 'teleprinter' and 'exchange' to form 'telex'.A. P.P. and B.. cats. When different letters of an abbreviated form are pronounced separately. NATO. But when there is a combination of letters of an abbreviated phrase. remarks Nelson Francis. 'goody-goody'. These words exemplify the process of root-creation. For example.

'bang'. and so on. the sound of a word echoes its sense and also suggests its name. p. nor adopted from any foreign language. 'whiz'. and the chief of them are compounding or composition. It is to instances of this kind that the name 'root-creation' may be fitly applied" (The Making o)'English.inherited from Old English. 'buz'. The name thus suggested is a coinage. derivation and conversion. These are the various process of word-formation. nor formed by any process of composition or derivation. In it. Onomatopoeia is a prominent form of root-creation. 'mew'. examples of this are 'twitter'. . 154).