Word structure and word formation

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НазваниеWord structure and word formation
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The questions under consideration
1. Morpheme. Allomorph
2. Word Structure
3. Immediate Constituents Analysis
4. Affixation
5. Conversion
6. Word-Composition
6.1. Properties of compounds
7. Other Types of Word Formation

Answer these questions.

  1. What is word-formation? How is word-formation classified?

  2. How do you distinguish between a morpheme and a word?

  3. Morphemes; types of morphemes. Structural types of words in English.

  4. Using dictionaries find out the allormorphs in the word clusters of the lexemes admire, estimate, demonstrate.

  5. Divide the following words into parts putting a slant line (/) at the point of division. Explain how the parts produce the total meaning.

impolite subordinate antipode

bibliophile transmission pseudonym

intervene verify essence

environment excess nominee

  1. Affixation. Classifications of affixes.

  2. Look up in a dictionary the meaning of the following suffixes, give examples:

  1. noun-forming suffixes: -er, -ness, -hood, -ence, -ism, -dom, -ment, -ity;

  2. adjective-forming suffixes: -less, -like, -ish, -ed, -ful, -able;

  3. verb-forming suffixes: -en, -ize, -ify.

8. List most common Latin affixes and define their probable meanings.
Suffix or Prefix Meaning Examples

9. What prefixes would be used with the following words to make them negative?

organized able perfect accessible

professional social normal sincere

important ^Joyal regular patient

10. Fill in the chart, analyze how different suffixes added to the same base change the meaning of the word.



i Person












11. What is conversion? Semantic groups of converted lexical units.

  1. Composition. Give examples of different types of composition.

  2. Ways of forming compounds.

  3. Classifications of compound words.

  4. What is back-formation?

  5. What is abbreviation, clipping, blending?

  6. Use nouns based on two-word verbs:

1) The machinery might break down. There was a in the


  1. The people cry out against high taxes. There was a loud

  2. Sales will drop off. There will be a in sales.

  3. They often get together. They had a with their friends.

  4. Don't mix up the price tags. A could be serious.

  5. The driver needed to speed up. The was sudden.

  6. Good friends stand by one another. You are my old .

  7. The plane will soon take off. The was smooth.

  8. John will write up his lessons. His is two pages long.

18. Analyze the following lexical units according to their structure:
























couch potato




hitch-hike .









morpheme composition

free vs. bound derivation

allomorph conversion

base blending

root clipping

affix back-formation

paradigm productivity

endocentric exocentric

Word-formation is the branch of lexicology that studies the derivative structure of existing words and the patterns on which a language builds new words. It is a certain principle of classification of lexicon and one of the main ways of enriching the vocabulary.

Most English vocabulary arises by making new lexemes out of old ones — either by adding an affix to previously existing forms, altering their word class, or combining them to produce compounds.

Like any other linguistic phenomenon word-formation may be studied from two angles — synchronically and diachronically: synchronically we investigate the existing system of the types of word-formation while diachronically we are concerned with the history of word-formation.

There are cases in the history of the English language when a structurally more complex word served as the original element from which a simpler word was derived. Those are cases of the process called back-formation or disaffixation. Compare: beggar — to beg, editor — to edit, teacher to teach, singer to sing, crashlanding — to crashland, brainstorming to brainstorm, burglar to burgle, legislator — to legislate, a diplomat — to diplome.

In Modern English lots of compounds have been coined in such a way, for example: to vacuumclean, to housewarm, to stagemanage. The fact that historically the verbs to beg, to edit, etc. were derived from the corresponding agent-nouns is of no synchronous relevance. While analyzing and describing word-formation synchronically it is necessaryto determine the position of these patterns and their constituents within the structural-semantic system of the language as a whole.
^ 1.Morpheme. Allomorph
The word is the fundamental unit of language, it has form and content. Linguists define the word as the smallest free form found in language. Words have an internal structure consisting of smaller units organized with respect to each other in a particular way. The most important component of word structure is the morpheme (Greek morphe "form" + -eme "the smallest distinctive unit") — the smallest unit of language that carries information about meaning or function. The word builder, for example, consists of two morphemes: build (with the meaning of "construct") and -er (which indicates that the entire word functions as a noun with the meaning "one who builds"). Similarly, the word houses is made up of the morphemes house (with the meaning of "dwelling") and -s (with the meaning "more than one"). Some words consist of a single morpheme. For example, the word train cannot be divided into smaller parts (say, tr and ain or t and rain) that carry information about its meaning or function. Such words are said to be simple words and are distinguished from complex words, which contain two or more morphemes.




More than three











It is important to keep in mind that a morpheme is neither a meaning nor a stretch of sound, but a meaning and a stretch of sound joined together. Morphemes are usually arbitrary — there is no natural connection between their sound and their meaning. Thus, morphemes are the smallest indivisible two-facet language units. They are not independent sense units as words or sentences are. They are always used as parts of words. Like a word a morpheme is a two-facet language unit, unlike a word a morpheme is not an autonomous unit and can occur in speech only as a constituent part of the word. It is the minimum meaningful language unit.

A morpheme that can be a word by itself is called a free morpheme whereas a morpheme that must be attached to another element is said to be abound morpheme. The morpheme boy, for example, is free, since it can be used as a word on its own; plural -s, on the other hand, is bound. Thus, structurally morphemes fall into free morphemes and bound morphemes. A free morpheme coincides with the stem or a word-form. Abound morpheme occurs only as a constituent part of a word (bound morphemes often signify borrowings). Affixes are bound morphemes, for they always make part of a word.

Morphemes do not always have an invariant form. Morphemes in various texts can have different phonemic shapes. All the representatives of the given morpheme are called allomorphs (from Greek allos "other") of that morpheme. The morpheme used to express indefiniteness in English, for instance, has two forms —a before a word that begins with a consonant and an before a word that begins with a vowel (an orange, an accent, a car). The variant forms of a morpheme are its allomorphs.

Another example of allomorphic variation is found in the pronunciation of the plural morpheme -s in the following words: cats, dogs, judges. Whereas the plural is /s/ in the first case, it is /z/ in the second, and /iz/ in the third. Selection of the proper allomorph is dependent on phonological facts.

Other examples of patterns in which a morpheme's form changes when it combines with another element are easy to find in English. The final segment in assert, for instance, is [t] when this morpheme stands alone as a separate word but [J] when it combines with the morpheme -ion in the word assertion. Similar alternations are found in words such as permit/permiss-ive, include/inclus-ive, electric/electric­ity, impress/impress-ion.

Catastrophe consists of the two morphemes having different forms; each morpheme has two allomorphs and they occur in particular combinations. Consider the allomorphic contrasts in halfpenny and twopence, poor and poverty, autumn and autumnal, divide and divisible, profane and profanity, serene and serenity, receive and receptive and so on. Thus, an allomorph is a positional variant of that or this morpheme occurring in a specific environment.
^ 2. Word Structure
In order to represent the morphological structure of words, it is necessary to identify each of the component morphemes. Words that can be divided have two or more parts: a core called a root and one or more parts added to it. The parts are called affixes — "something fixed or attached to something else." The root is the morpheme that expresses the lexical meaning of the word, for example: teach teacher teaching. Affixes are morphemes that modify the meaning of the root. An affix added before the root is called a prefix (un-ending); an affix added after the root is called a suffix. A word may have one or more affixes of either kind, or several of both kinds. For example:













-en, -ing








Complex words typically consist of a root morpheme and one or more affixes. A root constitutes the core of the word and carries the major component of its meaning. To find the root, you have to remove any affix there may be, for example, the root -morph-, meaning "form", remains after we remove the affixes a- and -ous from amorphous. Roots have more specific and definite meaning than prefixes or suffixes, for example Latin root -aqua- means “water” (aquarium), -cent- means "hundred" (centennial), Greek -neo- means "new" (neologism), etc.

Roots belong to a lexical category, such as noun (N), verb (V), adjective (A), or preposition (P). Nouns typically refer to concrete and abstract things (door, intelligence); verbs tend to denote actions (stop, read); adjectives usually name properties (kind, blue); and prepositions encode spatial relations (in, near). Unlike roots, affixes do not belong to a lexical category and are always bound morphemes. For example, the affix -er is a bound morpheme that combines with a verb such as teach, giving a noun with the meaning "one who teaches".

A base is the form to which an affix is added. In many cases, the base is also the root. In books, for example, the element to which the affix -s is added corresponds to the word's root. In other cases, however, the base can be larger than a root. This happens in words such as blackened, in which the past tense affix -ed is added to the verbal base blacken — a unit consisting of the root morpheme black and the suffix -en. Black is not only the root for the entire word but also the base for -en. The unit blacken, on the other hand, is simply the base for -ed.

One should distinguish between suffixes and inflections in English. Suffixes can form a new part of speech, e.g.: beauty — beautiful. They can also change the meaning of the root, e.g.: black — blackish. Inflections are morphemes used to change grammar forms of the word, e.g.: work — works — worked—working. English is not a highly inflected language.

Depending on the morphemes used in the word there are four structural types of words in English:

  1. simple (root) words consist of one root morpheme and an inflexion (boy, warm, law, tables, tenth);

  2. derived words consist of one root morpheme, one or several affixes and an inflexion (unmanageable, lawful);

  3. compound words consist of two or more root morphemes and an inflexion (boyfriend, outlaw);

  4. compound-derived words consist of two or more root morphemes, one or more affixes and an inflexion (left-handed, warm-hearted, blue-eyed).

In conformity with structural types of words it’s possible to distinguish two main types of word-formation: word-derivation (encouragement, irresistible, worker) and word-composition (blackboard, daydream, weekend).

Within these types further distinction may be made between the ways of forming words:


Word Derivation

Word Composition



Derivational Composition

Derivational Composition

The basic ways of forming words in word-derivation are affixation (feminist, pseudonym) and conversion (water to water, to run a run, slim — to slim). The importance of these processes of construction to the development of the lexicon is second to none. They are used in a complex and productive way. Word-formation has all the rights to be called the grammar of lexicon.
^ 3. Immediate Constituents Analysis
The theory of Immediate Constituents (I.C.) was originally set forth у L. Bloomfield as an attempt to determine the ways in which lexical units are related to one another. This kind of analysis is used in lexicology mainly to discover the derivational structure of lexical units.

Immediate constituents are any of the two meaningful parts of a word. The main constituents are an affix and a stem. For example, L. Bloomfield analyzed the word ungentlemanly. It consists of a negative prefix un— + an adjective stem. First we separate a free and a bound forms; un— + gentlemanly and gentleman + -ly. Then we break the word gentleman: gentle + man. At any level we obtain only two ICs, one of which is a stem, and, as a result, we get the formula: un + (gentle + man) + ly.

The adjective eatable consists of two ICs eat + able and may be described as a suffixal derivative, the adjective uneatable however possesses a different structure: the two ICs are un + eatable which shows that this adjective is a prefixal derivative though the unit has both a prefix and a suffix.

S. S. Khidekel describes numerous cases when identical morphemic structure of different words may be insufficient proof of their identical pattern of word formation structure, which can be revealed only by I.C. analysis. Thus, comparing snow-covered and blue-eyed we observe that both words contain two root morphemes and one derivational morpheme. I.C. analysis shows that whereas snow-covered may be considered a compound consisting of two stems snow + covered, blue-eyed is a suffixal derivative as the underlying structure is different: (blue + eye) + ed.

Thus I.C. analysis is used in lexicological investigations to discover the word-formation structure.
4. Affixation
Affixation — the addition of an affix — is a basic means of forming words in English. It has been productive in all periods of the history of English. Linguists distinguish among three types of affixes. An affix that is attached to the front of its base is called a prefix, whereas an affix that is attached to the end of its base is termed a suffix. Both types of affix occur in English. Far less common than prefixes and suffixes are infixes — a type of affix that occurs within abase of a word to express such notions as tense, number, or gender. English has no system of infixes, though many languages make great use of infixes.

Affixation is divided into suffixation and prefixation. In Modern English, suffixation is characteristic of noun and adjective formation, while prefixation is typical of verb formation. As a rule, prefixes modify the lexical meaning of stems to which they are added. The prefixal derivative usually joins the part of speech the unprefixed word belongs to, e.g. usual /un usual. In a suffixal derivative the suffix does not only modify the lexical meaning of the stem it is added to, but the word itself is usually transferred to another part of speech, e.g. care (n) / care less (adj).

Suffixes and prefixes may be classified along different lines. The logical classification of suffixes is according to:

  1. their origin: Romanic (e.g. -age, -ment, -tion), Native (-er, -dom, -ship), Greek (-ism, -ize), etc,

  2. meaning, e.g/-er denotes the agent of the action, -ess denotes feminine gender, -ence/ance has abstract meaning, -ie and -let express diminutiveness, -age, -dom — collectivity, -an, -ese, -ian — appurtenance, etc.;

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