Creative Word-Formation Processes

English Morphology

Term Paper 2005 9 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Morphology in General

3. Some Examples of “Creative” Processes in Word-Formation
3.1 Affixational Processes
3.2 Coinage
3.3 Borrowing
3.4 Compounding
3.5 Blending and Telescoping
3.6 Clipping, Acronyms and Backformation
3.7 Conversion
3.8 Reduplication


1. Introduction

Word-formation could be found in languages all over the world. English could be seen as the most important source for other languages in every respect. A huge amount of English terms has been spread like wildfire to other countries. English seems to have a global influence on politics (English as official language), science and technology, computer, mobile phones and the Internet (e.g. technical terms), broadcasting, music (e.g. the majority of English songs on the “German radio” is obvious), film industries and cinemas (e.g. the majority of English movies or English movies in original speech in German cinemas). So one could state that English is an international language. It seems that English is superior to all other languages. But how can we explain that “English phenomenon”? On the one hand, English is relatively easy to understand and to learn. Additionally, English is spoken in many countries (e.g. United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada) and there are surely millions of second language speakers. On the other hand, it could have to do with the grammatical structure of the language and with the several word-formation processes which exist in English. The vocabulary seems to be variable and fast-moving. At all times the speech seems to change constantly, e.g. new compounds are created (e.g. fantabulous derived from fantastic and fabulous) and abbreviations are found (e.g. ABA derived from American Bankers Association[1]). Word-formation processes in the English speech are connected with productivity. The linguists Spencer and Zwicky[2] give the following definition: “Morphological productivity may be defined informally as the extent to which a particular affix is likely to be used in the production of new words in the language.”

And yet sometimes borrowing from English tongue goes hand in hand with language problems. In Germany some people do not esteem Anglicism or they are overtaxed with the amount of new terms. For instance the elderly cannot understand new invented English words like “e-mail”, “hi-fi”, “Bluetooth”, etc. But nevertheless I want to discuss creative word-formation processes afterwards in my term paper.

2. Morphology in General

Morphology in general pays attention to the analysis of linguistic forms and word-formation processes (lexical morphology)[3], as I learned in the basic course of “Introduction to English Linguistics”. Additionally I want to mention the difference between free and bound morphemes. A free morpheme, which are open class items, can stand by itself, while bound ones, which are closed class items, cannot have certain functions. Bound morphemes can be divided into inflectional (includes grammatical functions, e.g. she eats) and derivational morphemes (the stem is attached to affix, e.g. dis appear, prison er).

3. Some Examples of “Creative” Processes in Word-Formation

3.1 Affixational Processes

One aspect of word-formation is the process of suffixation (generic term= affixation) which is a derivational one. Derivation seems to be the most common process in the English language to create new words. For example the bound morpheme -able can be added to a vast amount of verbs to create adjectives. Therefore we can assume that this suffix is very productive and important for word-formation processes. It seems that there are unlimited possibilities to create a new expression. Bauer[4] underlines that statement: “It would not be possible in principle too make an exhaustive list of all cases of -able suffixed to a base which is a transitive verb, because every time a new transitive verb is formed, -able can be also added to it.” Nevertheless there are exceptions. Anderson[5] discusses transitive verbs like goal or die. Secondary I like to mention the opposite of suffixation. When we put an affix before the stem of a word it is called prefixation. Possible prefixes are also bound morphemes, for example dis- (disagree), re- (recall) , im- (impossible). Therefore one could assume that this process is less productive than suffixation because prefixes do not change the word class, but a change in meaning is obvious. Only to complete the affixational processes, the third type of it is called infixing. This operation does normally not exist in English, but an exception could be the slang expression Unfuckingbelievable! given by Yule[6]. I think that such slang is more likely used by native English speakers to express joy.


[1] Pons Großwörterbuch Englisch-Deutsch/ Deutsch English.

[2] Spencer, Andrew/ Zwicky, Arnold M. (1998): The Handbook of Morphology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

[3] Koll-Stobbe, Amai/ Sing Christine S. (2004): The Linguistic Tool-Kit. Greifswald: Universität Greifswald.

[4] Bauer, Laurie (2003): Introducing Linguistic Morphology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd.

[5] Anderson, Stephen R. (1992): A-Morphous Morphology. Cambridge a.o.: Cambridge University Press.

[6] Yule, George (1996): The Study of Language. Cambridge: CUP.


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Linguistic Morphology Word-Formation



Title: Creative Word-Formation Processes