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Compound words and their types


Semantic classification

a) prefixes of negative meaning, as in- , non-, un- (invaluable, nonformals, unfree)

b) prefixes denoting repetition or reversal actions, as: de-, re-, dis- (decolonize, revegetation, disconnect)

a) prefixes denoting time, space, degree relations, as: inter-, hyper-, ex-, pre-, over- (interplanetary, hypertension, ex-student, preelection, overdrugging)

1.origin of prefixes:

a) native (Germanic) as: un-, over-, under-

b) Romanic as: in-, de-, ex-, re-

c) Greek as: sym-, hyper-

Conversionis a characteristic feature of the English word-building system. It is also called affixless derivation or zero-suffixation. Conversion is treated differently by different scientists, e.g. prof. A.I.Smirnitsky treats conversion as a morphological way of forming words when one part of speech is formed from another part of speech by changing its paradigm, e.g. to form the verb “to dial” from the noun “dial” we change the paradigm of the noun (a dial, dials) for the paradigm of a regular verb (I dial, he dials, dialed).

Marchant treats conversion as a morphological-syntactical word-building because we have not only the change of the paradigm, but also the change of the syntactic function, e.g. I need some good paper for my room. I paper my room every year.

Conversion is the main way of forming verbs in Modern English. Verbs can be formed from nouns of different semantic groups and have different meanings because of that, e.g.

a) verbs have instrumental meaning if they are formed from nouns denoting parts of a human body, e.g. to eye, to finger, to shoulder. They have instrumental meaning if they are formed from nouns denoting tools, machines, instruments, weapons, e.g. to hammer, to rifle, to nail

b) verbs can denote an action characteristic of the living being denoted by the noun from which they have been converted, e.g. to crowd, to wolf, to ape

c) verbs can denote acquisition, addition or deprivation if they are formed from nouns denoting an object, e.g. to fish, to dust, to peel, to paper

d) verbs can denote an action performed at the place denoted by the noun from which they have been converted, e.g. to park, to garage, to bottle, to pocket, to corner

e) verbs can denote an action performed at the time denoted by the noun from which they have been converted, e.g. to winter, to week-end

Nounscan also be formed by means of conversion from verbs. Converted nouns can denote:

a) instant of an action, e.g. a jump, a move

b) process or state, e.g. sleep, walk

c) agent of the action expressed by the verb from which the noun has been converted, e.g. a help, a scold

d) object or result of the action expressed by the verb from which the noun has been converted, e.g. a burn, a find, a purchase

e) place of the action expressed by the verb from which the noun has been converted, e.g. a drive, a stop, a walk

Compositionis the way of word-building when a word is formed by joining two or more stems to form one word. The structural unity of a compound word depends upon the unity of stress, solid or hyphenated spelling, semantic unity, unity of morphological and syntactical functioning. These are characteristic features of compound words in all languages.

There are two characteristic features of English compounds:

1. both components in an English compound are free stems, that is they can be used as words with a distinctive meaning of their own. The sound pattern will be the same except for the stresses.

2. English compounds have a two-stem pattern, with the exception of compound words which have form-word stems in their structure, e.g. middle-of-the-road, off-the-record.c


Compounds are not homogeneous in structure. Traditionally three types are distinguished: neutral, morphological and syntactic.

In neutral compoundsthe process of compounding is realized without any linking elements, by a mere juxtaposition of two stems. There are three subtypes of neutral compounds depending on the structure of the constituent stems. 1) simple neutral compounds, they consist of simple affixless stems. 2) derived or derivational neutral compounds, they have affixes in their structure. 3) contracted neutral compounds, they have a shortened stem in their structure.

Morphological compounds are few in number. This type is non-productive. It is represented by words in which two compounding stems are combined by a linking vowel or consonant.

In syntactic compounds we once more find a feature of specifically English word structure. These words are formed from segments of speech, preserving in their structure numerous traces of syntagmatic relations typical of speech: articles, prepositions, adverbs.

The compounds whose meaning do not correspond to the separate meanings of their constituent parts are called idiomatic compounds. F : blackboard, blackbird, lady-killer, chatterbox, in these compounds one of the components or both has changed its meaning: a blackboard is neither a board nor necessarily black, a chatterbox not a box but a person, and a lady-killer kills no one but is merely a man who fascinates women, a blackbird is some kind of bird.


Shortening (contraction)

Shortening is a comparatively new way of word-building has achieved a high degree of productivity, especially in American English.

Shortenings are produced in two different ways. The first is to make a new word of syllable of the original word. The latter may lose its beginning (as in phone made from telephone, fence from defence), its ending (as in hols from holidays, vac from vacation, ad from advertisement) or both the beginning and ending (as flu from influenza, fridge from refrigerator).

The second way of shortening is to make a new word from the initial letters of a word group: U.N.O., B.B.C., M.P. this type is called initial shortenings.


1. G.B. Antrushina “English Lexicology”, “Vyssaja skola”, M.1999

2. I.V. Arnold “The English Word”, “Vyssaja skola”, M. 1973, 1989

3. S.I. Ginsburg “A Course in Modern English Lexicology”, “Vyssaja skola”, M. 1979

4. R.Z. Ginaburg “A Course in Modern English Lexicology”, “Vyssaja skola”, M.1973

5. T.I. Arbekova “English Lexicology”, “Vyssaja skola”, M.1977


Additional literature:

1. A.V. Minajeva, B.K.Trnolieva “Modern English Lexicology”, 1989

2. E.M. Mednikova “Seminars in English Lexicology”, “Vyssaja skola”, M.1978


Internet sources:

1. file: // A: // lexicographical problems.htm.

2. file: // A: // ling. Dictionaries.htm.

3. www.google.com.

4. www.yahoo.com

5. www.rambler.com

6. ftp: // ftp.clres.com/pub/clres/lexicology/primer.txt-2003

7. file: // A: / Lora. Doc/ from.Latin.htm-2003

8. Electronic book of the university:

Электронный учебник по лексикологии английского языка.

Составители: Сыздыкова Г.Н., Булатова С.М. Алматы, 2001

9. Multimedia lectures and seminars compiled by the instructor of English lexicology: senior teacher Asanova G.S.


Problematic questions:

- What are the important characteristic structural and semantic features of English word-formation system?

- What are the common similarities and differences of word-building system of English, Kazakh and Russian languages?

- What criteria of distinguishing major and minor types of word-formation?

- What are the classification types of affixation, compound words and conversion?



Subtheme # 2: “Minor or secondary, non-productive types of word-formation”


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