When was the first time ish became a suffix

English word formation processes

Table of Contents

English word formation processes

What is a word


Word formation
Connection of composition and derivation
Differentiation between compound and phrase
Mixed words
Other processes
Onomatopoeia word formation
Borrowings of words

Sources of new words


English word formation processes

Like any spoken language, English is subject to constant change and further development. Since the environment of the speakers is constantly changing, so too must language as a means of communication and thus the words used by the members of a language community. It is also not enough for communication to simply line up the words in their basic form at random, they have to be put into grammatical context and, for this, partially changed.

So there are essentially two important types of word change in English, word (re) formation and inflection. But before I deal with these two word formation processes in more detail, I would like to clarify the question of what a word is.

What is a word

Every speaker of a language knows thousands upon thousands of words, which means he knows both the pronunciation and the meaning. The sound sequence of a word is inextricably linked with its meaning. Knowing a word means being able to associate a certain (arbitrarily determined) sequence of phonemes with a thing, an idea, etc. According to this, a word (lexeme) is a linguistic symbol, a sign for this thing, the person, the idea, etc.

Words are converted into content words (content words) and function words (function words or grammatical words) divided. As the name suggests, content words have a content meaning, they denote something, whereas function words only have grammatical use. The word classes of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs contain all content words, articles, pronouns and prepositions belong to the group of functional words. For reasons that are easy to see, the classes of the content words are called open and, in contrast, the function words are called the closed class. Since the content words designate something specific, you can always find new or different terms for these designations, that is, you can expand the class of content words at will. With functional words, however, it is almost inconceivable to introduce a new article or to create a new pronoun, for example. So this class cannot be expanded, it is closed.

Words can, however, be analyzed even further: Each word consists of one or more morphemes, the smallest grammatical units of meaning or linguistic signs of phonetic (or, in the written language, letter) combinations. These cannot be broken down further in terms of their meaning.

Morphemes can themselves be words in their own right, such as B. boy, desire, man These morphemes are called free morphemes (free morphemes).

However, there are also morphemes that can only appear in conjunction with others and do not form their own words, for example loc-, U.N-, -able. These morphemes each have their own specific meaning - loc - from the Latin locus for place, U.N- For not, etc. - but they are not words themselves. It is impossible for them to appear alone. For this reason, morphemes of this group are called bound morphemes (bound morphemes). The bound morphemes must therefore be appended to other morphemes. In the English language it is possible to append a morpheme either in front or in the back of another morpheme. A morpheme like bi-, which only occurs when it is connected to another morpheme at the front (bi-polar, bi-lingual, etc.), is called a prefix, a morpheme like -hethat can only appear after another morpheme (sing-he, danc-er, etc.), suffix. Together, prefixes and suffixes are called affixes. The morpheme or morphemes to which affixes are attached is called the base.

By specifically combining morphemes, we get words, phrases and sentences.


There are now two ways in which affixes can cause word changes. The inflection is syntactically motivated, that is, it clarifies the relationship structures of the words in a sentence. No new lexemes are formed by functional affixing, but only existing ones are adapted to the grammatical requirements.

English is a very inflectional language and therefore has only a small number of inflectional affixes. The relationships between the words in a sentence are shown in the English language primarily by the position of a word in the sentence and only rarely by changing the word itself.

Affixes attached to verbs are

-s Identification of the third person singular present tense

-ing Identification of the course form

-ed Marking the past.

Is a nominal affix

-s Identification of the plural.

Are affixes for adjectives

-he Comparative of the adjective / adverb

-est Superlative of the adjective / adverb

If an inflectional affix, or in English an inflectional suffix, is added to a base, this base is called stem (stem). The basis remains in its original word class, there is no change.

Word formation

In contrast to this is word formation, which expands the language and creates new lexemes (i.e. dictionary entries). The vocabulary of a language is expanded by word formation.

I would like to introduce the five most important and currently most productive word formation processes here; these are

a) Derivation through 1st suffixation

2. Prefiguration

b) composition (compounding)

c) conversion

d) Reductions 1. Clippings

2. regressions (backformations)

3. Mixtures of words (blending)

4. Acronyms (acronyms)

5. Alphabetisms

e) Coinage

f) Other processes

Derivation, composition and conversion are highly productive, whereas cuts and other processes currently play a smaller role in word formation.

a) Derivation or derivation

Derivation creates new lexemes through suffixation or prefixation of a basis. This basis is an already existing word that has been given a new content by adding affixes and has thus "earned" a new lexicon entry.

For example, at the base active the derivation suffix -ate (> activate) are appended. The new word (base + suffix) now belongs to a different word class and symbolizes something completely different from the base alone. The suffix changed the word class from adjective to verb, and the new word therefore no longer expresses a property, but an activity.

1. upgrading

With suffixation, a suffix is ​​added to the back of the base and thus a new word is formed (regulate > regulation). There is usually a grammatical and phonological distinction from the base. Thus nouns and adjectives can be formed from verbs, verbs and adjectives, etc. from nouns. The largest group are the suffixes that make up nouns and adjectives (e.g. . -ation, -ant, -er, -ism, -ive, -able). Verb-forming (e.g. -ize, -ify, -en, - ate) or adverb-forming (e.g. -ly, -wards, -wise) Suffixes. However, there are also suffixes that do not change the word class.

Examples: changing word classes: donation, accomplish-ment ,representative-ive, terror ise, tradition-al

2. Prefig

The prefixing creates new lexemes by adding a prefix to the base and, with only a few exceptions, neither changes the word class nor changes the phonology of the base. Most of the prefixes that are still in use are of Greek or Romance origin, such as B. in-, dis-, re-, mis-, Etc.

Examples: re-think, co-operate, ex-wife, un-do, in-articulate

b) Composition (compounding)

Composition is a very productive word formation process that creates a new, complex free morpheme by concatenating two or more free morphemes, a compound word (compound). Compounds can be written in three different ways, which are often not logically justified. They appear as one word written together (cupboard), with a hyphen (freeze - dry) or written separately (call back). Sometimes there are two or even all three possible spellings for a word (word formation, word - formation or wordformation). Compounds are often spontaneous formations from everyday language, which are often meant as jokes.

Usually a compound is a noun, which in turn consists of two nouns (e.g. water + bed > waterbed), the first being the modifier, the second, the head or head, modified. Often the expression is a special case of what the head describes. At waterbed So it is a specific type of bed washroom around a certain space, etc. This case of compound is called endocentric or determinative compound. It is important to say here that the meaning of the compound can never be fully deduced from the meaning of the individual parts, since the two (or more) parts combine to form a new complex meaning that the individual parts do not have. So neither presses water still bed that from what the word waterbed symbolizes, namely a kind of bed. The meaning of compound words must be learned by foreign language speakers in order to understand them properly.

Other compound words are adjectives (e.g. man - eating), (very rarely) verbs (e.g. sleepwalk) and nominal compounds that are not formed from two nouns (e.g. loudspeaker). As a rule, the last free morpheme determines the word class of the compound. As shown above, the head or head of compound vom modifier modified. Is this head not included in the word, but only semantically implied (paleface For a person with a pale face, egghead For a person who is stubborn), one speaks of an exocentric compound word. The meaning of the word can no longer be deduced from the individual words, as is the case with waterbed was the case. If, on the other hand, a compound word denotes the entirety of the components it contains (sleepwalk = sleep + walk, freeze - dry = freeze + dry, Alsace - Lorraine = Alsace + Lorraine), so it is called a copulative compound word.

If the individual elements of a compound word do not come from one language, as in the examples above, but belong to different languages, then this is a hybrid formation (combining forms), such as at bureaucracy, Where bureau comes from French and - cracy the Greek.

Connection of derivation and composition

There is now a connection between derivation, which creates new words by adding affixes to words, and composition, which combines independent words with one another. In the history of the English language, it has happened that formerly free morphemes became derivative affixes over time and can no longer be used independently, as well as the reverse case, that formerly bound morphemes are now freely in use and no longer only function as affixes.

Examples of the first case are - hood, that from Old English had (Condition, quality), and - ly, which comes from the Old English word lic (Body) has arisen.

An example of the second case is burgerthat formerly only in the word hamburger occurred, but then also for Cheese burger, Chicken Burger, etc. was used and eventually also occurred individually.

Differentiation between compound and phrase

Since the spelling of compound nouns is relatively inconsistent, the question arises of how to distinguish them from phrases. However, there are certain characteristics that can be used to separate compound words from simple phrases with relative certainty. Because after all, the sentence says it A man eating shrimp ... something completely different than A man-eating shrimp

A compound always describes a single lexeme. "The word association has a word function if it is equivalent to a single word in a different or, even better, in the same language" (Leisi, The word content. Its structure in German and English.Heidelberg, 1971) (word formation corresponds to the German compound word formation). In English, compound words are often synonymous with single words of Latin origin (bring about - accomplish, put up with - tolerate).

In other respects, too, the compound tends to behave like a single word, regardless of the spelling. It can have a suffix that is then related to the whole word and not just to the free morpheme in the back (old-maid ish). Often the compound is then written with a hyphen to make it clear that the words belong together. A modification of the first element is not possible (* a very blackbird).

It can also have a genitive as a whole (group genitive). If the genitive is appended to the last free morpheme, this refers to the entire compound (the old maid's house, the King of England's power, somebody else's). It is the same with the plural. If the last free morpheme is a - s appended, this means that the entire compound has been put in the plural (pickpockets, blackboards).

The emphasis on the words is also helpful here. Usually there is a change in the stress compared to the individual words of the compound. While the second is often stressed in the individual elements or both are equivalent, the accent in the compound word usually shifts to the first syllable (short st ó ry in contrast to sh ó rt story). The individual elements cannot be separated from one another, for example by using adjectives (* a sh ó rt vivid story does not exist, but it does a vivid sh ó rt story).

c) conversion

Conversion has been productive since Middle English (around the 12th century) and especially since Early New English (around the 16th century) and means, "Deriving a new lexeme from an existing one without the associated change of word class and meaning being morphologically identified "(Bernd Kortmann, Linguistic essentials, 1999,67). Another expression is therefore also zero derivative (zero derivation).

The most productive are the derivatives noun> verb (bottle, butter, knife, ship, shoulder), Adjective> verb (calm, clean, dry, faint, open) and verb> noun (cough, cover, desire, doubt, guess, love), but other constellations are also possible. The so-called partial conversion often occurs, in which there is no morphological but a phonological change when the word class is changed. For example, it is possible to change the ending (the belief / f /> to believe / v /) or a shift in the accent (to subj é ct > the s ú bject). However, this word formation pattern is no longer active. A change of word class is not always the result of the conversion, however. In the case of intra-word class conversions, for example, non-countable nouns are converted as countable (beer > two beers, coffee > one coffee), non-gradable adjectives as gradable (English > look very English), intransitive verbs as transitive (run > run a horse) and transitive as intransitive (read> the book reads very well; scare > I don't scare easily) is used.

The conversion compensates, among other things, for the fact that English can hardly form denominational verbs in any other way, e.g. B. by - ify and - ize (cf. "Suffixation").

d) reductions

The importance of the abbreviations in word formation processes has recently increased more and more. A shortening leaves out parts of a word in order to establish the shortened form as the actual lexeme after a while. The original form may even disappear completely from linguistic usage, it is antiquated and is no longer used.

There are mainly five types of cuts.

1.Clippings (abbreviations)

At the Clipping a part of the original word, usually the last one, is completely left out. It rarely happens that a word is shortened in front or in front and back. This creates a shorter form that has the same semantic properties as the longer form before. Lots of Clippings are colloquial and purely economically motivated (advertising > ad or advert, examination > exam, gasoline > gas, laboratory > lab, influenza > flu, refrigerator > fridge, omnibus > bus, airplane > plans).

Clippings are often arbitrarily shortened without paying attention to certain morphemes.

For example at influenza the middle section was selected at helicopter > heli, an incomplete morpheme, because you wanted to helicopter you would have to divide it into its components helic - opter write.

2. Mixtures of words (contamination or blends)

Mixtures of words are when two words are fused together. The mixture usually connects the front part of the first word with the last part of the second word (smog = fog + smoke, motel = engine + hotel, brunch = breakfast + lunch). However, compounds that contain one or both bases are also possible (rockumentary = rock + documentary, breathalyze = breath + analyze, slanguage = slang + language, wargasm = was + orgasm). With these word mixes, the semantic properties of the word also change. They are mostly a mixture of what the individual elements express.

3. Acronyms

Acronyms are particularly popular in technical jargons to shorten long, complex expressions. The first letters of an expression of several words or parts of words together form a new expression that is pronounced like a word (laser = Lightwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, radar = Radio Detecting And Ranging, asap = As Soon As Possible, NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Many of these terms come from science and technology and have been incorporated into everyday language with the introduction of new findings or technical developments. Lower case can indicate that a word has been added to everyday vocabulary and is considered a word. Often the speakers are no longer aware that the word is an abbreviation.

4. Alphabetisms

Alphabetisms are created similar to acronyms. The only difference is that these are pronounced letter by letter, mainly because the sequence of sounds makes it difficult or impossible to pronounce as a word. Many alphabetisms can be found in everyday language, especially in relation to the new media (TV, CD, LP, PC, VIP, USA, OED).

The largest number of both alphabetisms and acronyms are not used in everyday vocabulary, but are only used in the respective subject areas and can therefore only be found in special lexicons relating to the respective subject area. Similar to the Clippings these words originated from economics and do not change the word class or change the meaning.

5. back-formations

If alleged or actual derivative affixes are removed from a word, one obtains the basic morpheme of the word, which one could actually think of first existed (edit ). In fact, this is often a mistake, since the alleged derivative affixes are not at all, but since derivative processes such as sing> sing-er are possible, why shouldn't the other direction also be allowed? This rule is also often used to derive verbs or adjectives from complex compound words or mixed words (lip-read, chain-smoke, sightsee). In fact, most regressions are verbs derived from nouns.

Here you can see that the members of a language community have made the word formation rules their own in such a way that they can and do use them themselves as a conclusion by analogy.

e) Coinage

In this word formation process, either a person or place name or a company or product name is used to denote an object, an idea, a product, etc. This process is not very productive, but it does happen occasionally. Here, too, it is no longer known that many words in everyday language were originally proper names.

For the sake of simplicity, the name of a certain product, for example a vacuum cleaner, is used on all products of this type, regardless of the actual manufacturer (hoover, kleenex). So are the words sandwich, watt and boycott originated.

Once these words have been established, further words can soon be derived from them using one of the word formation processes described (to hoover, sandwich board).

f) Other processes

1. Onomatopoeia word formations (echoic words)
2. Borrowings of words (borrowing)
3. Reduplication

1. Onomatopoeic word formations (echoic words)

With a limited number of words, the word imitates the activity or quality that the word expresses (bang, splash, cuckoo).

2. Borrowing

English in particular is a language with a very mixed vocabulary. Many words are of Germanic or Romance origin. The words enter a language as foreign words. Usually there is an English word that is easier to understand for the speaker, which often consists of a compound word or phrase. If the word is then adapted over time to the English pronunciation and no longer regarded as a foreign word, because it may have even displaced the English word, it has become a loan word, as z. B. at restaurant or garage the case is.

3. Reduplication

There are around 2000 words in English that are repetitive, either with reference to the first letter (wishy-washy, goody-goody), in rhyme form (higgledy-piggledy) or as a modification of the first Word (tip-top, ping-pong, flip-flop).

It can be said of all these processes that they often do not occur in their pure form, but are mixed with one another. Several word formation processes are then carried out one after the other to form a new lexeme.

Sources of new words

Composition 40%

Affiliation 28%

Conversion 17%

Reductions 13%

Borrowing 2%

Creation 0.5%


Fromkin / Rodman, An Introduction to Language, 5th edition.New York, 1993

Hatch / Brown, Vocabulary, Semantics and Language Education. Cambridge, 1995

Katamba, English words.New York, 1994

Kortmann, Linguistic essentialsBerlin, 1999

Leisi, The word content. Its structure in German and English. Heidelberg, 1971