This way of word-building has existed in the English language since the 13-th century and achieved a high degree of productivity nowadays, especially in American English. Shortened words are a considerable quantitative gain and as such are useful and practical. The tendency towards shortness is a universal development and has linguistic value of its own in various languages [See: Antrushina, 1999; Arnold, 1959; Rayevska, 1979].
There exist two main ways of shortening: contraction (or clipping) and abbreviation (or initial shortening).
Contraction is the way of making a new word by means of clipping a full word (or, in other words, making a new word from a syllable of the original word).
One should distinguish between 4 types of contraction.
1) Final clipping (back-clipping), or apocope, i.e. clipping, or omission, of the final part of the word, e.g.: doc (<doctor), lab (<laboratory), mag (<magazine), prefab (<prefabricated), prep (<preparation), veg (<vegetable), prop (<proposition), croc (<crocodile), vac (<vacation), ad (<advertisement), cap (< captain), tick (<ticket), math (<mathematics), ed (<editor), uni (<university), op (<operation), fab (<fabulous), vamp (<vampire), perm (<permanent), vet (<veteran), Nick (<Nickolas), Ed (<Edward), Phil (<Philip), Al (<Albert), etc.
Back-clippings аге most numerous in Modern English and are characterized by the growing frequency. The original may be a simple word (as, grad – from graduate), a derivative (as, prep – from preparation), a compound (as, foots – from footlights „огни рампы, рампа” (театр.)), а combination of words (as, pub – from public house „пивная, кабак, трактир”) [Kashcheyeva, 1974:124].
2) Initial clipping (or fore-clipping), or apheresis [ ], i.e. clipping or omission of the fore part of the word, e.g. phone (<telephone), plane (<aeroplane), story (<history), van (<caravan), drome (<airdrome), fence (<defence), plot (<complot), squire (<esquire), bus (<omnibus), mid (<amid), cycle (<bicycle), Bert (<Albert), Bess (<Elizabeth), Becky (<Rebecca), Dora (<Theodora), Fred (Alfred), etc.
It has to be mentioned that in many cases of apheresis the shortened word differs from its source only stylistically (e.g. telephone – phone, omnibus – bus, tobacco – baccy (neutral – slang), etc. Sometimes, however, the shortened word is somewhat modified in meaning, or even altered: e.g. acute – sharp, as in acute pain, and cute – 1) pretty, 2) clever; espy [ ] – see at a distance and spy – watch secretly, act as a spy on; to disport – play, amuse oneself and to sport –1) to play; 2) to have or wear for proud display (выставлять напоказ, щеголять); 3) to go in for sports; history – 1) branch of knowledge, 2) orderly description of past events; 3) train of events connected with a person or thing; and story – 1) account of past events; 2) account of imaginary events; 3) (journalism) any descriptive article in a newspaper; etc. Fore-clippings are less numerous in Modern English.
3) Medial clipping, or syncope [ ] , i.e. omission of the middle part of the word, e.g. maths (<mathematics), fancy (<fantasy), curtsy, curtsey [ ] – gesture of respect made by women or girls – реверанс (<courtesy [ ] – courteous behaviour; politeness), through – from end to end; to the very end (<thorough – complete in every way; detailed), binocs (<binoculars [ ]), mart (<market), e’en [ ] (<even), ma’am [ ] (<madam), e’er [ ] (<ever), ne’er [ ] (<never). As we see from these examples, syncope mostly brings about (осуществлять, вызывать) vocabulary enlargement, not variety. It also played its role in the historical development of borrowed words (e.g. O. Fr. cheminee, capitain, Mod. Eng. chimney, captain). It should be mentioned that syncopized words used to be popular with poets (e.g. e’en, e’er, ne’er for even, ever, never because of purely rhythmical considerations). Modern poetry seldom resorts to syncope.
4) Mixed clipping, where the fore and the final pats of the word are clipped, e.g. tec (<detective), flu (<influenza), fridge (<refrigerator), stach (<moustache), Liz (<Elizabeth), etc. Here we can see a combination of two shortening devices: apheresis and apocope.
Clipped (or contracted) words do not differ from full words in functioning; they take the plural number and that of the possessive case and make any part of a sentence. New words may be derived from the stems of clipped words by conversion (to jeep, to demob, to taxi, to perm) or by affixation, chiefly by adding the suffix -y, -ie, deriving diminutives and pet-names (as, hanky– from handkerchief, nighty (nightie)–from nightgown, unkie–from unkle, baccy –from tobacco, granny–from grandmother,undies –from underwear– белье, tellie –from television, Aussies–from Australians).
It has to be stressed that clipped words do not always coincide in meaning with the original word, for instance: docand doctorhave – the meaning „one who practices medicine”, but doctoris also „the highest degree given by a university to a scholar or scientist” and „a person who has received such a degree” whereas doc is not used in these meanings.
Among clippings there are homonyms, so that one and the same sound and graphical complex may represent different words, as vac (vacation), vac (vacuum cleaner); prep (preparation), prep (preparatory school), prep (prepare).
Clippings usually have synonyms in literary English, the latter being the corresponding full words. But they are not interchangeable, as they are words of different styles of speech. Clippings are highly colloquial; in most cases they belong to slang. The moment the longer word loses its colloquial or slangy characters and becomes a literary word, for instance, the word taxi is the contraction of the taxicab –такси, which, in its turn, goes back to taximetercab;both words went out of use, and the word taxilost its stylistic colouring.
Clipping brings new words in the same part of speech. Most lexical units of this sort are nouns, e.g. pram (<perambulator), varsity (<university), tails (<tailcoat – фрак), etc. Clipped adjectives and verbs are infrequent in Modern English, e.g. imposs (impossible), pi [ ] (<pivus [ ] – набожный, религиозный), rev (<to revolve), tab (<tabulate), prep (<to prepare).
Similar formations will be found in other languages. Cf. German: das Auto (Automobil), der Bus (Autobus), der Zoo (Zoologicher Garten); French: prof (professeur), compo (composition), fac (faculty), recre (recreation), corri (corridor); Russian: агитпункт, колхоз, совхоз, комсомол.