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Word-formation is the system of derivative types of words and the process of creating new words from the material available in the language after certain structural and semantic formulas and patterns. A distinction is made between two principal types of word–formation:

Word-derivation and Word-composition.

The basic ways of forming words in word-derivation are affixation and conversion. Affixation is the formation of new words with the help of affixes. Conversion is the formation of a new word by bringing a stem of this word into a different formal paradigm. The basic form of the original and the basic form of the derived words in case of conversion are homonymous.

Word-composition is the formation of a new word by combining two or more stems which occur in the language as free forms.

Apart from principal there are some minor types of modern word-formation: shortening, blending, acronymy, sound interchange, sound imitation, distinctive stress, back-formation.




Before turning to the various processes of making words, it would be useful to analyse the related problem of the composition of words, i.e. of their constituent parts.

If viewed structurally, words appear to be divisible into smaller units, which are called morphemes.

(Morphemes do not occur as free forms but only as constituents of words. Yet they possess meanings of their own.) All morphemes are subdivided into two large classes: roots and affixes. The latter, in their turn, fall into prefixes which precede the root in the structure of the word ( as in re-read, un-well) and suffixes which follow the root (as in teach-er, dict-ate).

The process of affixation consists in coining a new word by adding an affix or several affixes to some root morpheme. Affixation is generally defined as the formation of words by adding derivational affixes to different types of bases. Affixation includes suffixation and prefixation.


Etymology of derivational affixes


From the etymological point of view affixes are subdivided into two main classes: native and borrowed affixes.

N a t i v e affixes are those existed in the Old English period or were formed from Old English words.


Some Native Affixes ( especially frequent native affixes)


  Noun-forming suffixes -er -ness -ing -dom -hood -ship -th -let worker, teacher, driver painter loneliness, coldness, loveliness meaning, singing, reading, understanding freedom, kingdom, wisdom childhood, manhood, motherhood friendship, leadership, mastership health, length, truth booklet, coverlet  
  Adjective-forming suffixes -full -less -y -ish -ly -en -some -like careful, wonderful, skilful sleepless, cloudless, senseless snowy, tidy, cozy English, Spanish, stylish ugly, likely, lovely golden, silken, wooden handsome, tiresome, quarrelsome dreamlike, ladylike, cowlike
  Verb-forming suffixes   -en   sadden, darken, redden
  Adverb-forming suffixes   -ly   hardly, simply, warmly
    Prefixes   be- mis- un- over-     befriend. befool, befog misname, misuse, mismanage unselfish, overdo, overact, overanalyze  


B o r r o w e d affixes are those that have come to the English language from different foreigh languages. The affixes of foreign origin are classified according to the source into:


    L a t i n -able/-ible -ant/-ent extra- pre- ultra- advisable, divisible servant, student extraterritorial, extracurricular pre-school, pre-election ultra-high, ultra-intelligent
    G r e e k -ist -ism -ite anti- sym-/syn- artist, realist materialism, darwinism vulcanite anti-democratic symmetrical
  F r e n c h -age -ance/-ence -ard -ate -ee -ess en-/em- percentage, wreckage perseverance, coherence wizard, drunkard doctorate, filtrate employee, absentee princess, authoress enlist, embed


The adoption of countless foreign words caused the appearance of many hybrid words in the English vocabulary. Hybrids are words that are made up of elements derived from two or more different languages. There are two basic types of forming hybrid words:

1/ a foreign base is combined with a native affix, e.g. uncertain, colourless

2/ a native base is combined with a foreign affix, e.g.drinkable, ex-wife. There are also many hybrid compounds, such as schoolboy (Greek + English), blackguard (English + French).


Productive and Non-Productive affixes

Productive affixes

By productive affixes we mean the ability of being used to form new, occasional or potential words, which take part in deriving new words in this particular period of language development.


The most productive prefixes in Modern English are:

de- /decontaminate/

re- /rethink/

pre- /prefabricate/

non- /non-operational/

un- /unfunny/

anti- /antibiotic/

dis- /disappoint/


The most productive English suffixes are:


Noun-forming suffixes -er, -ing, -ness, -ation, -ee, -ism, -ist, -ance/-ancy, -ry, -or, -ics

Adjective-forming suffixes -able, -ic, -ish, -ed, - less, -y

Verb-forming suffixes -ize/-ise, -ate, -ify

Adverb-forming suffixes -ly


Non-productive affixes

By non-productive affixes we mean affixes which are not able to form new words in the period in question. Non-productive affixes are recognized as separate morphemes and possess clear-cut semantic characteristics.


Some non-productive English suffixes are:


Noun-forming suffixes -th, -hood, -ship

Adjective-forming suffixes -ful, -ly, -some, -en, -ous

Verb-forming suffixes -en


It is worthy of note that an affix may lose its productivity and then become productive again in the process of word-formation. The native noun-forming suffixes –dom and – ship ceased to be productive centuries ago. Yet, Professor I.V.Arnold in The English Word gives some examples of comparatively new formations with the suffis –dom: boredom, slavedom, serfdom and –ship, salesmanship. The adjective-forming –ish, which leaves no doubt as to its productivity nowadays, has comparatively recently regained it, after having been non-productive for many centuries.

The productivity of an affix should not be confused with its frequency of occurrence. The frequency of occurrence is understood as the existence in the vocabulary of a great number of words containing the affix in question. An affix may occur in hundreds of words, but if it is not used to form new words, it is not productive. For example, the adjective suffix – ful is met in hundreds of adjectives beautiful, hopeful, trustful, useful , but no new words seem to be built with its help, and so it is



Classification of Suffixes and Prefixes


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. They can transfer a word into a different semantic group, e.g. a concrete noun becomes an abstract one : friend – friendship.


Suffixes and Prefixes can be classified into different types in accordance with different principles.


1. According to the lexico-grammatical character of the base suffixes and prefixes are usually added to, they may be: deverbal, denominal, deadjectival.

2. According to the class of words they form suffixes and prefixes fall into several groups: noun-forming, adjective-forming, verb-forming, adverb-forming. According to the part of speech formed suffixes may be numeral-forming. It should be mentioned that the majority of prefixes function in more that one part of speech.

3. Semantically suffixes and prefixes fall into: monosemantic, polysemantic.

4. According to their stylistic reference suffixes may be classified into: those characterized by neutral stylistic reference, those having a certain stylistic value ( these suffixes occur in terms and are bookish).

5. According to their generalizing denotational meaning:

suffixes may fall into several groups: e.g. the agent of the action, collectivity...

prefixes fall into: negative (un-, non-, in-, dis-, a-), reversative (un-, de-, dis-), pejorative (mis-, mal-, pseudo-), prefixes of time and order (fore-, pre-, past-, ex-), prefixes of repetition (re-), locative (super-, sub-, inter-, trans-).


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 6075

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