Word formation

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Word formation

New words enter the English language in a range of ways. One common source of new words is to borrow them from other languages. For example, café is originally a French word that was borrowed into English in the late 19th century. The most frequent strategy for creating new words from English language resources is the use of derivational morphology. However, there are several more ways that words are formed. These include: backformation, base modification, conversion (also called "shape sharing"), compounding, clipping, blending, reduplication and initialism.


1. Backformation

2. Base modification

3. Conversion

4. Compounding

5. Clipping

6. Blending

7. Reduplication

8. Initialisms

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Backformation is a process by which word is mis-analysed as having an affix because it has a similar form to a word with an affix. The "affix" is then removed to make a new word; for example, editor historically is a word with one morpheme only, but, because of words like baker and actor (verb + nominaliser suffix) the word was reanalysed as edit + or, resulting in the formation of the more recent verb edit.

Base modification

A number of English lexemes have different senses depending on how the word is stressed. For example the noun REcord exists in a pair with the verb reCORD. Other words that do this include: addict, console, compress, conduct, contract, discharge, export, recall, permit, and torment.


Conversion is when a word is changed from one part of speech to another without changing form or pronunciation, for example, the noun input used as a verb (to) input. There are many noun / verb pairs in English that are related by conversion. Consider the following body parts as examples: head, face, shoulder, arm, hand, finger, stomach, leg.


Compounding is when two bases are joined together to make a new word. These can be the same part of speech (for example, the two verbs break and dance forming the compound verb breakdance), or different (for example, the noun stress and the adjective related forming the compound adjective stress-related).


Clipping involves omitting part of the base of a word, so the shortened version becomes a word in its own right (for example, barbequebarbie, or microphonemike).


Blending is when part of one word is joined to part of another word (for example, gigantic + enormousginormous).


Reduplication is the process of forming compound words by repeating all or part of a word (for example, no-no, higgledy-piggledy or mish-mash).


Initialisms are formed by combining the initial letter (or sometimes letters) of a word.

If the new word can be pronounced as it is spelt, it is called an acronym (for example, Aboriginal and Torrres Strait Islander CommissionATSIC).

If the letter names are still pronounced, it's called an abbreviation (for example, digital video (or versatile) discDVD).

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Word formation

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