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CHARACTERISTICS OF ENGLISH WORDBUILDING
1.- Derivation (affixation)- By adding a morpheme to the base:
a.- a prefix: before the base: co-author
b.- a suffix: after the base: drive-er
2.- Composition (compounding)- By adding a base to another base: tea+pot
3.- Conversion (zero affixation)- The same word works in a different morphological function. It
changes its grammatical category: drive (verb) and drive (noun).
2. DERIVATION OR AFFIXATION
Prefixation. Prefixes do not generally alter the word-class of the base (except number 10) but suffixation
often does. They normally have a light stress: ,pre’fabricated. The main prefixes are:
1.- Negative prefixes:
un- (the opposite of, not): unkind, unexpected
non- (not): non-existent, non-profit, non-stop
in- (the opposite of, not): impolite, illegible, irreal
dis- (the opposite of, not): disloyal, disagree, disfavour
a- (lacking in, of): amoral, anarchy
2.- Restrictive or Privative prefixes:
un- (reverse action, to deprive of): untie, unearth
de- (to remove): decode, deforestation
dis- (the opposite of, not): disinfect, discoloured, discontent
3.- Pejorative prefixes:
mis- (wrongly): misconduct, misleading
mal- (badly): maltreat, malodorous, malfunction
pseudo- (false): pseudo-intellectual.
4.- Prefixes of degree or size:
arch-duke (highest)
super-man (more than)
sub-human (less than)
over-dressed (too much)
under-priviledged (too little)
hyper-critical (extremely)
ultra-violet (extremely)
mini-skirt (little)
5.- Prefixes of attitude:
co-pilot (with), counter-revolution (in opposition to), anti-social (against), pro-communist (on the side of)
6.- Locative prefixes:
super-structure (over), sub-way (beneath), inter-national (among), trans-atlantic (across)
7.- Prefixes of time and order:
fore-knowledge, pre-marital (before), post-war (after), ex-husband (former), re-build (again)
8.- Number prefixes: (one, two, three, many)
uni-lateral, mono-theism, bi-lingual, tri-partite, multi-racial, poly-syllabic.
9.- Others: auto-biography (=self), neo-Gothic (new), pan-African (all), proto-type (original, first), semicircle (half), vice-president (second)
10.- Conversion prefixes: witch > be-witch; slave > en- slave; float > a-float.
Suffixation: grammatical suffixes are not important for the wordbuilding. The main suffixes are:
1.- N > N.
a.- occupational : gang-ster, engine-er.
b.- diminutive or female: book-let, kitchen-ette, wait-ress, dad-d-y, aunt-ie.
c.- status, domain: boy-hood, friend-ship, king-dom, demo-cracy, slav(e)-ery.
2.- N, ADJ > N, ADJ: Israel-ite, Indondes-ian, Chin-ese, social-ist, ideal-ism.
3.- VB > N: driv(e)-er, act-or, inhabit-ant, employ-ee, explot-ation, amaze-ment, refus-al, driv(e)-ing.
4.- ADJ > N: happi-ness, san-ity.
5.- N, ADJ > VB: simpl-ify, real-ize, sad-d-en.
6.- N > ADJ: use-ful, home-less, child-like, grass-y, fool-ish, Darwin-ian, crim-i-nal, hero-ic,
sess-itive, virtu-ous.
7.- VB > ADJ: read-able.
8.- ADJ > ADJ: young-ish.
9.- Adverb suffixes: happi-ly, back-wards, weather-wise.
3. COMPOUNDING
We can find two ways;
1.- Noun compounds:
a.- Subject and verb compounds; sun-rise, head-ache
b.- Verb and object compounds; song-writer, record-player
c.- Verb and adverbial compounds; swimming-pool, typing-paper, home-work, baby-sitter
2.- Verbless compounds:
- N+N: girl-friend, frog-man, motor-cycle.
- ADJ+N: dark-room, mad-man.
- N+ADJ: home-sick, duty-free.
- ADJ+ADJ: deaf-mute, British-American.
- N+-ing form: heart-breaking, mouth-watering.
- N+-ed form: hand-made, self-employed.
- ADJ+ADV (ing/ed): good-looking, new-laid.
- N+VB: baby-sit, sight-see.
4. CONVERSION
The word can change into a different class or into a different feature of the same class:
1.- Into a different class: VB > N: love, answer.
ADJ > N: comic, marrieds.
N > VB: knife, brake.
ADJ > VB: calm, dry.
2.- Into a different feature of the same class:
a.- Nouns: non-countable > countable: three coffees
countable > non-countable; a n2 of floor
proper > common: a Rolls-Royce
b.- Verbs: intransitive > transitive: run the water!
transitive > intransitive: the door opened
c.- Adjectives: non-gradable > gradable: a very legal boy
stative > dynamic: He's just being friendly
3.- Minor changes of conversion:
a. from closed-system to nouns: This book is a must for the student of physics
b. from phrases to nouns: whenever I gamble, my horse is one of the also-runs
c. from phrases to adjectives: an under-the-weather feeling
d. from affixes to nouns: patriotism, and any other isms you’d like to name
5. MINOR TYPES:
- BACKFORMATION: from housekeep to housekeeper, to beg from beggar.
- REDUPLICATION: different vowel (ping-pong) or the same word (bye-bye). They are used to imitate
sounds (tick-tock), to suggest alternating movements (seesaw), nonsense (wishy-washy) or to
intensify (tip-top). They admit suffixes: riff-raffing and conversion ( a zig-zag course)
- SHORTENINGS: Clippped words: beginning (the vac), end (phone), middle (flu) retained
- Family circle: bike, Sam
- Place names: the Troc
- Common names: pop, doc, ad, sal (ary), gym...
- BLENDS OR PORTMANTEAU WORDS: Oxbridge, brunch, motel
ALPHABETIC SHORTENINGS OR ACRONYMS: many are pronounced as words: radar (radio
detecting and ranging). The letters represent full words: SOS, M.A. or elements of the same word: TV.