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The Morphological Structure of English Words and Word-building in English

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Lecture IV

Words are divisible into smaller meaningful units which are called morphemes. All morphemes fall into two large classes: roots and affixes. Affixes, in their turn, are subdivided into prefixes, which precede the root (as in re-read), and suffixes, which follow the root (as in teach-er). There also exist infixes (as n in stand), but they are not productive in English.

Root morphemes carry the lexical meaning of the word. Affixational morphemes fall into derivational morphemes, which carry the lexico-grammatical meaning and serve to form new words, and functional morphemes having grammatical meaning (inflexions). Lexicology deals only with roots and derivational affixes, while inflexions are studied by grammar. Root and derivational morphemes constitute the stem of the word.

Roots are usually free morphemes: they often coincide with independently functioning words: pen, walk, good. Some roots may be bound as well: they may not coincide with separate word-forms as in possible, forty. All affixes are bound morphem-es. There are also semi-affixes which stand between roots and derivational morphemes: fireproof, waterproof, kissproof, ladylike, businesslike, starlike, etc.; -worthy, -man, -ful, etc.).

Morphemes may have different phonemic shapes. For example, he root morpheme in the words please, pleasant, pleasure is [pli:z], [plez], [plež]. Different phonemic representations of one morpheme are called allomorphs.

As far as the morphemic composition of words is concerned, words are classified into monomorphic and polymorphic. Monomorphic words consist of one morpheme – the root morpheme only. These words are called simple: dog, cat, boy, girl, etc. Polymorphic words consist of a root and one or several affixes or of two or several root morphemes. Accordingly, polymorphic words fall into three subgroups:

1) derived words, which contain a root and one or several affixes: hardship, unbelievable.

2) compound words, which consist of at least two root morphemes: handbag, merry-go-round.

3) compound derivatives, or derivational compounds, which are constituted by two or more roots modified by an affix: old-maidish, long-nosed.

Simple words are the most frequent lexical units in English. The most widely used words, such as pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, articles, are simple words. The least frequent in usage are compound words, though their number is steadily growing.

Some words that were compound in Old English are known as simple words in Modern English: woman – OE wif+man, window – OE wind+eage, etc. This process is named the simplification of the stem (опрощение морфологической структуры слова).



There are three levels of analysis of the morphological structure of the word.

1. Morphemic analysis, which states the number of morphemes in a word and their types. At this level, the word friendliness, for instance, is characterized as a word containing three morphemes: one root morpheme (friend) and two derivational morphemes (ly, ness).

2. Derivational analysis, which reveals the pattern according to which the word is built. Thus, the word friendliness is built by adding to the stem friendly the suffix ness (not friend + liness as there is no suffix liness in English). Derivational analysis shows the structural correlation of the word with other words: friendly vs friendliness = happy vs happiness = easy vs easiness, etc.

3. Analysis into Immediate Constituents (непосредственные составляющие), which reveals the history of the word, the stages of the process of its formation. The analysis is binary: at each stage we split the word into two constituents. Thus, the word friendliness is first divided into friendly and ness, then the part friendly is further subdivided into friend and ly. So, the Ultimate Constituents (конечные составляющие) look this way: friend+ly+ness. The results of the analysis coincide with the result of the morphemic analysis of the same word.

The most productive ways of word-building in Modern English are:

· affixation

· conversion

· composition

· shortening

· back-formation

· blending

The types of word-building that are less productive are sound imitation and reduplication.

The ways of word-formation that are non-productive are sound and stress interchange.

Affixation is building new words by adding affixes to the stem of the word. The two main types of affixation are prefixation and suffixation.

Affixes can be classified according to different principles.

They can be divided into convertive and non-convertive according to their ability to convert the word into another part of speech. For example, the prefix be is convertible since it is used to build verbs fron nouns: headbehead; the prefix re is inconvertible: arrangerearrange. The majority of prefixes are non-convertible. The majority of suffixes are convertible, as, for instance, the suffix en: hardharden.

According to the part of speech formed affixes (suffixes, to be exact) are divided into noun-forming (-er, -ness, -ship, -hood, -ance, -ist, etc.), adjective-forming (-ful, -less, -ic, - al, -able, -ate, -ish, -ous, etc.), verb-forming (-en, -ate, -fy, - ize, etc.), adverb-forming (-ly, -wide, etc.).

According to their origin affixes are classified into native and borrowed. The native suffixes are -er, -ed, -dom, -en, -ful, -less, -hood, -let, -ly, -ness, -ship, -some, -teen, -th, -y, ward, -wise, -lock. Prefixes: un-, mis-, up-, under-, over-, out-.

Borrowed affixes are by their origin Latin (-or, -ant, -able), French (-ard, -ance, -ate), or Greek (-ist, -ism, -oid). There exist numerous prefixes of Latin and Greek origin used to form new words in English: anti-, contra-, sub-, super-, post-, vice-, etc.

Affixes may be classified according to their lexico-grammatical meaning. Prefixes possess the following main meanings: 1) negation (un-, mis-, dis-, in-), 2) repetition or reversal of the action (re-), 3) excessiveness or insufficiency (over-, under-), 4) time and order (pre-, post-, after-), 5) place (super-, sub-, trans-, in-), 6) counter activity (anti-, counter-). Suffixes may point to: 1) the doer of the action (-er), 2) female sex (-ess, -ine, -ette), 3) quality (-ness), 4) the presence or absence of quality (-full, -less), 5) collectivity (-dom, -ery, -hood, -ship, -ry).

According to their productivity (the ability to form new words) affixes may be divided into productive (-er, -ish, -less, etc.) and non-productive (-ard, -ive, -th, -ous, fore-, etc.). Productive affixes are always frequent, but not every frequent affix is productive (-ous, for example, is a very frequent affix as it is found in many words, but it is not productive).

According to their connotational characteristics affixes may be emotionally coloured (stinkard, drunkard, gangster, youngster, etc. – derogatory emotional charge) and neutral (-er, able, -ing); stylistically marked (ultra-, -oid, -eme, -tron, etc. – bookish) and neutral (-er, able, -ing).

Conversion is making a new word by changing the part of speech characteristics of the word without changing its morphemic shape. The word, which is converted into another part of speech, changes its paradigm (nurse, n – s, ‘s → to nurse, v - -s, -ed, -ing).

Conversion appeared in the 13th century when the loss of inflexions made nouns and verbs look similar in form. The most productive pattern of conversion (конверсионная модель) is N→V: honeymoon→to honeymoon. Less productive is the pattern Adj→N: slow→to slow (us. to slow down – сбавлять скорость). The pattern V→N is much less frequent than the pattern N→V: to fall – a fall. Conversion is predominant in the sphere of verb formation.

The semantic relations between the members of converted pairs are various.

Verbs formed from nouns acquire such meanings as: 1) to fulfil the action characteristic of the noun (father→to father, ape→to ape); 2) to act with the instrument denoted by the noun (hammer→to hammer); 3) to provide with the thing denoted by the noun (cuff→to cuff); 4) to deprive of the thing (skin→to skin) 5) to put in the place denoted by the noun (bottle→to bottle, blacklist→to blacklist) and some other meanings.

Nouns formed from verbs may possess the following meanings: 1) a singular action (to jump→a jump), 2) the doer of the action (help→a help), 3) the place of the action (to dump→a dump), 4) the object or result of the action (to find→a find, to peel→a peel), 5) the distance covered by the action (to pace→a pace (величина шага)), etc.

It is often difficult to identify the direction of derivation in converted pairs. The following criteria may help to do this. A derived word usually a) is less frequent in usage (author→to author), b) has fewer meanings than the word it is derived from (book→to book). Besides, irregular verbs and nouns with noun-forming suffixes can’t be derived: to catch→a catch, caution→to caution.

Composition consists in making new words by combining two or more stems which occur in the language as free forms. It is most characteristic of adjectives and nouns. Compound words may be divided into several groups.

According to the type of composition compounds are divided into those formed by juxtaposition without linking elements (skyblue), into compounds with a linking vowel or consonant (Anglo-saxon, saleswoman) and compounds with a linking element represented by a preposition or conjunction (up-to-date, bread-and-butter). Compounds may also be formed by lexicalized phrases: forget-me-not, stick-in-the-mud (отсталый, безынициативный). Such words are called syntactic compounds. There also exist derivational compounds (compound derivatives) which represent the structural integrity of two free stems with a suffix referring to the combination as a whole: honey-mooner, teen-ager, kind-hearted.

According to the structure of their ICs compounds are classified into those containing:

1) two simple stems: pen-knife, bookcase;

2) one derived stem: chainsmoker, cinema-going;

3) one clipped stem: B-girl, H-bomb;

4) one compound stem: wastepaper-basket.

There is a problem of differentiation of compounds and homonymous word combinations. There are five criteria which help to solve this problem:

1) graphical criterion: the majority of English words are spelled either solidly or are hyphenated;

2) phonological criterion: compounds usually have a heavy stress on the first syllable (cf.: `blackbird vs `black `bird);

3) semantic criterion: the meaning of a compound word is not a total sum of the meanings of its components but something different. There are compound words the semantic motivation of which is quite clear (table-cloth, shipwreck, etc.), but many compounds are idiomatic (non-motivated): butterfinger (a person who can’t do things well), blue-stocking (a pedantic woman);

4) morphological criterion (criterion of formal integrity (A. I. Smirnitsky)): a compound word has a paradigm of its own: inflexions are added not to each component but to the whole compound (handbags, handbag’s)

5) syntactic criterion: the whole compound but not its components fulfils a certain syntactic function. Nothing can be inserted between the components of a compound word.

It should be noted that a single criterion is not sufficient to state whether we deal with a compound word or a combination of words.

More than ⅓ of neologisms in English are compound words, so it’s a highly productive way of word-building.

Shortening (Clipping or Curtailment)is building new words by subtraction (отнятие, удаление) of a part of the original word. Shortenings are produced in two main ways: a) by clipping some part of the word; b) by making a new word from the initial letters of a word group.

According to the position of the omitted part, shortenings are classified into those formed by:

1) clipping the final part of the word (apocope): lab←laboratory;

2) clipping the initial part of the word (aphaeresis): phone←telephone;

3) clipping the middle part of the word (syncope): specs←spectacles;

4) clipping both the initial and the final part of the word: flue←influenza.

A lot of neologisms are formed by clipping: detox (клиника для лечения алкоголиков и наркоманов) ←detoxification, lib←liberation, scrip←prescription. A clipped word differs from its prototype in meaning, style and usage.

According to their reading, initial shortenings, or abbreviations are classified into:

1) abbreviations which are pronounced as a series of letters: FBI, CIA, NBA (National Basketball Association), etc.

2) abbreviations which are read as ordinary English words (acronyms): UNO, NATO, radar (radio detection and ranging), etc.

A special group is represented by graphical abbreviations used in written speech: N.Y., X-mas, PhD, etc. A number of Latin abbreviations are used in writing: e.g., p.m., i.e., P.S., etc.

Back-formation (Reversion)is a way of word-building by which a new word is formed by cutting off a real or supposed suffix: burglar→to burgle, enthusiasm→to enthuse. It is called back-formation, because the process of derivation is opposite to the traditional one. Usually, a derived word is longer (work→worker), in back-formation the derived word is shorter than the one from which it was derived. By way of back-formation verbs may be derived from nouns (beggar→to beg, television→to televise) and adjectives (peevish (сварливый) →to peeve), nouns from adjectives (greedy→greed). A very productive type of back-formation in present-day English is derivation of verbs from compounds in –er and –ing as final elements: to baby-sit (from baby-sitter), to air-condition (from air-conditioner), to house-clean (from house-cleaner).

The minor ways of word-building are blending, sound imitation, reduplication and ellipsis.

Blending is a way bulding words by merging parts of words (not morphemes) into one new word. Thus, the noun smog is composed of the parts of the nouns smoke and fog, the noun brunch – of breakfast and lunch, motel – of motor and hotel. Such words are called blends (сращения), fusions, telescope words.

Blends are built either by merging two clipped stems (dramedy←drama+comedy) or merging one full and one clipped stem (teleplay←television+play). Most blends are nouns, but sometimes verbs and adjectives are formed by blending: flush←flash+blush, fantabulous←fantastic+fabulous.

Blending is either viewed as a separate type of word-building, or as a variety of composition or shortening. It plays an important role in building neologisms in the sphere of advertising, mass media, colloqual speech, trade and marketing: Adidas←Adi+Dassler (основатель компании), slimnastics←slim+gymnastics, pollutician←pollution+politician, cottonopolis (Манчестер как центр хлопчатобумажной промышленности), Ameringlish←American English, swacket←sweater+jacket, etc.

Sound imitation (Onomatopoeia)is a way of word-formation which consists in imitating the sounds made by animals, birds, insects, men and different objects: bang, giggle, quack. Some scholars suggest that sounds have a certain meaning of their own: the sound [l] in glide, slide, slip conveys the nature of smooth, easy movement over a slippery surface. The sound of the verbs to rush, to dash, to flash reflects the brevity and energetic nature of these actions, but the theory has not been yet fully developed.

Reduplication (Repetition) consists in a complete or partial repetition of the stem or of the whole word (bye-bye), often with a variation of the root vowel or consonant (ping-pong

These words are always colloqual or slang, among them there many nursery words. There exist three types of such words: 1) the words in which the same stem is repeated without any changes (pretty-pretty, goody-goody, never-never (утопия); 2) words with a vowel variation (chit-chat (сплетни), ping-pong, tip-top); 3) words with pseudomorphemes (rhyme combinations) (lovey-dovey, walkie-talkie, willy-nilly); the parts of such words don’t exist as separate words.

Ellipsisis the omission of a word or words considered essential for grammatical completeness but not for the conveyance of the intended lexical meaning: pub←public house, daily←daily newspaper, sale←cutprice sale, taxi←taximotor cab (ellipsis+apocopy in the last word).

Non-productive ways of word-building aresound interchange and distinctive stress which are regarded as a means of word-building only diachronically because in Mod. English not a single word is formed by changing the root sound or by shifting the place of stress.

Sound interchange implies vowel-interchange (to sing – song, to live – live) and consonant-interchange (use – to use [z], advice – to advise). Consonant interchange may be combined with vowel interchange: bath – to bathe. Sound interchange only serves to distinguish one long-established word from another.

Distinctive stress is found in groups like `present – pres`ent, `conduct – con`duct, `abstract – abstr’act, etc. These words were French borrowings with the original stress on the last syllable. Verbs retained it, while in nouns and adjectives it was shifted. The place of stress helps to distinguish verbs and nouns or pronouns in speech

 

 

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