29 / 7 / 2021
Around 1900, in New Berlin, Ohio, a department-store worker named J. Murray Spangler invented a device which he called an electric suction sweeper. This device eventually became very popular and could have been known as a spangler. People could have been spanglering their floors or they might even have spanglered their rugs and curtains. The use could have extended to a type of person who droned on and on (and really sucked), described as spanglerish, or to a whole style of behavior called spanglerism. However, none of that happened. Instead, Mr. Spangler sold his new invention to a local businessman called William H. Hoover, whose Hoover Suction Sweeper Company produced the first machine called a “Hoover.” Not only did the word hoover (without a capital letter) become as familiar as vacuum cleaner all over the world, but in Britain, people still talk about hoovering (and not spanglering) their carpets.
The point of this small tale is that, although we had never heard of Mr. Spangler before, we really had no difficulty coping with the new words: spangler, spanglerish, spanglerism, spanglering or spanglered. That is, we can very quickly understand a new word in our language (a neologism) and accept the use of different forms of that new word. This ability must derive in part from the fact that there is a lot of regularity in the word-formation processes in a language. In this chapter, we will explore some of the basic processes by which new words are created.
The study of the origin and history of a word is known as its etymology, a term which, like many of our technical words, comes to us through Latin, but has its origins in Greek (e´tymon “original form” + logia “study of”), and is not to be confused with entomology, also from Greek (e´ntomon “insect”). When we look closely at the etymologies of less technical words, we soon discover that there are many different ways in which new words can enter the language. We should keep in mind that these processes have been at work in the language for some time and a lot of words in daily use today were, at one time, considered barbaric misuses of the language. It is difficult now to understand the views expressed in the early nineteenth century over the “tasteless innovation” of a word like handbook, or the horror expressed by a London newspaper in 1909 over the use of the newly coined word aviation. Yet many new words can cause similar outcries as they come into use today. Rather than act as if the language is being debased, we might prefer to view the constant evolution of new words and new uses of old words as a reassuring sign of vitality and creativeness in the way a language is shaped by the needs of its users.
One of the least common processes of word formation in English is coinage, that is, the invention of totally new terms. The most typical sources are invented trade names for commercial products that become general terms (usually without capital letters) for any version of that product. Older examples are aspirin, nylon, vaseline and zipper; Word formation 53 more recent examples are granola, kleenex, teflon and xerox. It may be that there is an obscure technical origin (e.g. te(tra)-fl(uor)-on) for some of these invented terms, but after their first coinage, they tend to become everyday words in the language.
The most salient contemporary example of coinage is the word google. Originally a misspelling for the word googol (= the number 1 followed by 100 zeros), in the creation of the word Googleplex, which later became the name of a company (Google), the term google (without a capital letter) has become a widely used expression meaning “to use the internet to find information.” New products and concepts (ebay) and new activities (“Have you tried ebaying it?”) are the usual sources of coinage.
New words based on the name of a person or a place are called eponyms. When we talked about a hoover (or even a spangler), we were using an eponym. Other common eponyms are sandwich (from the eighteenth-century Earl of Sandwich who first insisted on having his bread and meat together while gambling) and jeans (from the Italian city of Genoa where the type of cloth was first made). Some eponyms are technical terms, based on the names of those who first discovered or invented things, such as fahrenheit (from the German, Gabriel Fahrenheit), volt (from the Italian, Alessandro Volta) and watt (from the Scottish inventor, James Watt).
As Bill Bryson observed in the quotation presented earlier, one of the most common sources of new words in English is the process simply labeled borrowing, that is, the taking over of words from other languages. (Technically, it’s more than just borrowing because English doesn’t give them back.) Throughout its history, the English language has adopted a vast number of words from other languages, including croissant (French), dope (Dutch), lilac (Persian), piano (Italian), pretzel (German), sofa (Arabic), tattoo (Tahitian), tycoon (Japanese), yogurt (Turkish) and zebra (Bantu).
Other languages, of course, borrow terms from English, as in the Japanese use of suupaa or suupaamaaketto (“supermarket”) and taipuraitaa (“typewriter”), Hungarians talking about sport, klub and futbal, or the French discussing problems of le stress, over a glass of le whisky, during le weekend. In some cases, the borrowed words may be used with quite different meanings, as in the contemporary German use of the English words partner and look in the phrase im Partnerlook to describe two people who are together and are wearing similar clothing. There is no equivalent use of this expression in English.
A special type of borrowing is described as loan-translation or calque (/kælk/). In this process, there is a direct translation of the elements of a word into the 54 The Study of Language borrowing language. Interesting examples are the French term gratte-ciel, which literally translates as “scrape-sky,” the Dutch wolkenkrabber (“cloud scratcher”) or the German Wolkenkratzer (“cloud scraper”), all of which were calques for the English skyscraper. The English word superman is thought to be a loan-translation of the German U¨ bermensch, and the term loan-word itself is believed to have come from the German Lehnwort. The English expression moment of truth is believed to be a calque from the Spanish phrase el momento de la verdad, though not restricted to the original use as the final thrust of the sword to end a bullfight. Nowadays, some Spanish speakers eat perros calientes (literally “dogs hot”) or hot dogs. The American concept of “boyfriend” was a borrowing, with sound modification, into Japanese as boyifurendo, but as a calque into Chinese as “male friend” or nan pengyu.
In some of the examples we have just considered, there is a joining of two separate words to produce a single form. Thus, Lehn and Wort are combined to produce Lehnwort in German. This combining process, technically known as compounding, is very common in languages such as German and English, but much less common in languages such as French and Spanish. Common English compounds are bookcase, doorknob, fingerprint, sunburn, textbook, wallpaper, wastebasket and waterbed. All these examples are nouns, but we can also create compound adjectives (good-looking, low-paid) and compounds of adjective (fast) plus noun (food) as in a fast-food restaurant or a full-time job.
This very productive source of new terms has been well documented in English and German, but can also be found in totally unrelated languages, such as Hmong (spoken in South East Asia), which combines hwj(“pot”) and kais (“spout”) to produce hwjkais (“kettle”). Recent creations are paj (“flower”) plus kws (“corn”) for pajkws (“popcorn”) and hnab (“bag”) + rau (“put”) + ntawv (“paper” or “book”) for hnabrauntawv (“schoolbag”).
The combination of two separate forms to produce a single new term is also present in the process called blending. However, blending is typically accomplished by taking only the beginning of one word and joining it to the end of the other word. In some parts of the USA, there’s a product that is used like gasoline, but is made from alcohol, so the “blended” word for referring to this product is gasohol. To talk about the combined Word formation 55 effects of smoke and fog, we can use the word smog. In places where they have a lot of this stuff, they can jokingly make a distinction between smog, smaze (smoke + haze) and smurk (smoke + murk). In Hawai’i, near the active volcano, they have problems with vog. Some other commonly used examples of blending are bit (binary/digit), brunch (breakfast/lunch), motel (motor/hotel) and telecast (television/broadcast).
The activity of fund-raising on television that feels like a marathon is typically called a telethon, while infotainment (information/entertainment) and simulcast (simultaneous/broadcast) are other new blends from life with television. To describe the mixing of languages, some people talk about Franglais (French/Anglais) and Spanglish (Spanish/English). In a few blends, we combine the beginnings of both words, as in terms from information technology, such as telex (teleprinter/exchange) or modem (modulator/demodulator). There is also the word fax, but that is not a blend. It’s an example of our next category.
The element of reduction that is noticeable in blending is even more apparent in the process described as clipping. This occurs when a word of more than one syllable (facsimile) is reduced to a shorter form (fax), usually beginning in casual speech. The term gasoline is still used, but most people talk about gas, using the clipped form. Other common examples are ad (advertisement), cab (cabriolet), condo (condominium), fan (fanatic), flu (influenza), perm (permanent wave), phone, plane and pub (public house). English speakers also like to clip each other’s names, as in Al, Ed, Liz, Mike, Ron, Sam, Sue and Tom.
There must be something about educational environments that encourages clipping because so many words get reduced, as in chem, exam, gym, lab, math, phys-ed, polysci, prof and typo.
A particular type of reduction, favored in Australian and British English, produces forms technically known as hypocorisms. In this process, a longer word is reduced to a single syllable, then -y or -ie is added to the end. This is the process that results in movie (“moving pictures”) and telly (“television”). It has also produced Aussie (“Australian”), barbie (“barbecue”), bookie (“bookmaker”), brekky (“breakfast”) and hankie (“handkerchief”). You can probably guess what Chrissy pressies are.
A very specialized type of reduction process is known as backformation. Typically, a word of one type (usually a noun) is reduced to form a word of another type (usually a 56 The Study of Language verb). A good example of backformation is the process whereby the noun television first came into use and then the verb televise was created from it. Other examples of words created by this process are: donate (from “donation”), emote (from “emotion”), enthuse (from “enthusiasm”), liaise (from “liaison”) and babysit (from “babysitter”). Indeed, when we use the verb backform (Did you know that “opt” was backformed from “option”?), we are using a backformation.
One very regular source of backformed verbs in English is based on the common pattern worker – work. The assumption seems to have been that if there is a noun ending in -er (or something close in sound), then we can create a verb for what that noun -er does. Hence, an editor will edit, a sculptor will sculpt and burglars, peddlers and swindlers will burgle, peddle and swindle.
A change in the function of a word, as for example when a noun comes to be used as a verb (without any reduction), is generally known as conversion. Other labels for this very common process are “category change” and “functional shift.” A number of nouns such as bottle, butter, chair and vacation have come to be used, through conversion, as verbs: We bottled the home-brew last night; Have you buttered the toast?; Someone has to chair the meeting; They’re vacationing in Florida. These conversions are readily accepted, but some examples, such as the noun impact being used as a verb, seem to impact some people’s sensibilities rather negatively.
The conversion process is particularly productive in Modern English, with new uses occurring frequently. The conversion can involve verbs becoming nouns, with guess, must and spy as the sources of a guess, a must and a spy. Phrasal verbs (to print out, to take over) also become nouns (a printout, a takeover). One complex verb combination (want to be) has become a new noun, as in He isn’t in the group, he’s just a wannabe.
Verbs (see through, stand up) also become adjectives, as in see-through material or a stand-up comedian. Or adjectives, as in a dirty floor, an empty room, some crazy ideas and those nasty people, can become the verbs to dirty and to empty, or the nouns a crazy and the nasty.
Some compound nouns have assumed adjectival or verbal functions, exemplified by the ball park appearing in a ball-park figure or asking someone to ball-park an estimate of the cost. Other nouns of this type are carpool, mastermind, microwave and quarterback, which are all regularly used as verbs.
It is worth noting that some words can shift substantially in meaning when they change category through conversion. The verb to doctor often has a negative sense, not normally associated with the source noun a doctor. A similar kind of reanalysis of meaning is taking place with respect to the noun total and the verb run around, which do not have negative meanings. However, after conversion, if you total (= verb) your car, and your insurance company gives you the runaround (= noun), then you will have a double sense of the negative.
Acronyms are new words formed from the initial letters of a set of other words. These can be forms such as CD (“compact disk”) or VCR (“video cassette recorder”) where the pronunciation consists of saying each separate letter. More typically, acronyms are pronounced as new single words, as in NATO, NASA or UNESCO. These examples have kept their capital letters, but many acronyms simply become everyday terms such as laser (“light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”), radar (“radio detecting and ranging”), scuba (“self-contained underwater breathing apparatus”) and zip (“zone improvement plan”) code. You might even hear talk of a snafu, which is reputed to have its origins in “situation normal, all fouled up,”.
Names for organizations are often designed to have their acronym represent an appropriate term, as in “mothers against drunk driving” (MADD) and “women against rape” (WAR). Some new acronyms come into general use so quickly that many speakers do not think of their component meanings. Innovations such as the ATM (“automatic teller machine”) and the required PIN (“personal identification number”) are regularly used with one of their elements repeated, as in I sometimes forget my PIN number when I go to the ATM machine.
In our list so far, we have not dealt with what is by far the most common wordformation process to be found in the production of new English words. This process is called derivation and it is accomplished by means of a large number of small “bits” of the English language which are not usually given separate listings in dictionaries. These small “bits” are generally described as affixes. Some familiar examples are the elements un-, mis-, pre-, -ful, -less, -ish, -ism and -ness which appear in words like unhappy, misrepresent, prejudge, joyful, careless, boyish, terrorism and sadness.
Prefixes and suffixes
Looking more closely at the preceding group of words, we can see that some affixes have to be added to the beginning of the word (e.g. un-, mis-). These are called prefixes. Other affixes have to be added to the end of the word (e.g. -less, -ish) and are called suffixes. All English words formed by this derivational process have either prefixes or suffixes, or both. Thus, mislead has a prefix, disrespectful has both a prefix and a suffix, and foolishness has two suffixes.
There is a third type of affix, not normally used in English, but found in some other languages. This is called an infix and, as the term suggests, it is an affix that is incorporated inside another word. It is possible to see the general principle at work in certain expressions, occasionally used in fortuitous or aggravating circumstances by emotionally aroused English speakers: Hallebloodylujah!, Absogoddamlutely!. In the film Wish You Were Here, the main character expresses her aggravation (at another character who keeps trying to contact her) by screaming Tell him I’ve gone to Singabloodypore!. The expletive may even have an infixed element, as in godtripledammit!.
Although we have concentrated on each of these word-formation processes in isolation, it is possible to trace the operation of more than one process at work in the creation of a particular word. For example, the term deli seems to have become a common American English expression via a process of first borrowing delicatessen (from German) and then clipping that borrowed form. If someone says that problems with the project have snowballed, the final word can be analyzed as an example of compounding in which snow and ball were combined to form the noun snowball, which was then turned into a verb through conversion. Forms that begin as acronyms can also go through other processes, as in the use of lase as a verb, the result of backformation from laser. In the expression waspish attitudes, the acronym WASP (“white Anglo-Saxon Protestant”) has lost its capital letters and gained a suffix (-ish) in the derivation process.
An acronym that never seems to have had capital letters comes from “young urban professional”, plus the -ie suffix, as in hypocorism, to produce the word yuppie (first recorded in 1984). The formation of this new word, however, was helped by a quite different process, known simply as analogy, whereby new words are formed to be similar in some way to existing words. Yuppie was made possible as a new word by analogy with the earlier word hippie and another short-lived analogy yippie. The word yippie also had an acronym basis (“youth international party”) and was used for some students in the USA who were protesting against the war in Vietnam. One joke has it that yippies just grew up to be yuppies. And the process continues. Another analogy, with the word yap (“to make shrill noises”), helped label some of the noisy young professionals as yappies.
فيلسوف العرب .. أول من حمل لواء الفلسفة في الإسلام
عاشوراء.. دروسٌ وعِبَر (5)
الإمامُ زينُ العابدينَ عليهِ السَّلامُ في مجلسِ يزيد
عاشُوراء.. دروسٌ وعِبَر (4)
عاشوراء.. دروسٌ وَعِبَر (3)
عاشوراءُ.. دروسٌ وعِبَر (2)
عاشُوراء.. دروسٌ وعِبَر (1)
ما ضرورةُ تهيئةِ العَوائلِ قبلَ حُلولِ المُصيبَةِ؟ عائلةُ الإمامِ الحُسينِ-عليهِ السَّلامُ- أُنموذجاً
دورُ الأمّ والزَّوجَةِ الصالحَةِ في كربلاء
الحسن والحسين الإمتداد الطبيعي لرسول الله
البنوّة السنخيّة بين الإمام الحسين وجدّه رسول الله
الأدلّة على مشروعية زيارة القبور
ما الفرق بين المناداة والمناجاة ؟
سيبقى الحسين صوتاً مجلجلاً تخشع له القلوب والضمائر
لماذا نحيي ذكرى عاشوراء؟
(لعبتْ هاشمُ بالملكِ فلا... خبرٌ جاءَ ولا وحيٌ نزل) تلخيصٌ لمنهج الضلالة الذي جابهه الحُسين (عليه السلام)
في ذكرى عاشوراء نستجلي الحسين (عليه السلام) فكرةً وموقفاً وإباء
أصحاب الإمام الحسين (عليه السلام) صفوة المسلمين ومخاض مدرسة النبوة
ما هِيَ أولَويّاتُ التعلُّمِ بالنِسبَةِ للمرأةِ؟
خمسةُ ألوانٍ في بيتِكَ تُشعِرُكَ بالسَّعادَةِ
كيفَ نُنشِئُ أسرَةً صالحةً؟
سَبعَةُ نشاطاتٍ لتخفيفِ التَّنَمُّرِ الأُسريّ
سَبعُ عِباراتٍ تحفيزيّةٍ لبعضِ المشاهِير
دورُ أهلِ البَيتِ (عَليهِمُ السَّلامُ) في المُحافَظةِ على البِناءِ الأُسَريِّ
أخلاقُكَ بعدَ مَمَاتِكَ!
كيفَ تُصَمِّمُ أهدافَكَ؟
هل يُمكِنُ تأهيلُ الأطفالِ تربوياً
إنشاء أدمغة مصغرة في المختبر تحاكي مرض باركنسون أملا في إيجاد علاج له
الأمم المتحدة تحذر من الذكاء الاصطناعي غير الخاضع للرقابة و انتهاكه لحقوق الإنسان
جلد متحجر يكشف لأول مرة عن شكل ديناصورات نادرة آكلة للحوم
نيوزيلندا..اكتشاف أحافير لطيور البطريق العملاقة
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العتبة العلوية المقدسة... دار أبي طالب للطباعة ينجز آلاف المطبوعات الخاصة بزيارة الأربعين
شَهِد تأبين المتوفين من خَدَمة أمير المؤمنين(ع) ... العتبة العلوية تقيم مجلس عزاء الإمام الحسن(عليه السلام) بدار ضيافة الإمام علي – صور -
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