Morphology Paper

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  • Topic: Word formation, Affix, Morpheme
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The Chinese University of Hong Kong
MA in English Language Teaching
ETM6702 Morphology and Syntax for English Language Teaching

Name: Chan Lester Theodore Student ID: 05412430 Date: 31st October 2005

Assignment 1
Discuss the processes by which new words come into a language. Give examples to support each process.

New words come into a language by different means. Many of them are inherited from early stages of the language. Others are created by considering the morphemes, the spelling or the phonological pattern of the words. In order to understand different word formation processes, it is important to understand the concept of morphemes, roots and affixes, etc. The following are the processes by which new words come into a language.  

These words are formed from the initials of a group of words that refers to one concept so that it is easier for people to name it. There are lots of examples of acronyms. Many of them are names of organizations. For example, HKEAA refers to the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority; EMB refers to Education and Manpower Bureau and IRD refers to the Inland Revenue Department. Some acronyms can be pronounced as a word. For example, laser for light amplification through the stimulated emission of radiation and AIDS for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Sometimes, acronyms can be formed in such a way that the word is pronounceable. For example, in order to make Standing Committee on Language Education and Research pronounceable, instead of using SCLER, the acronym SCOLAR is used.  

Backformation is the process of deriving a new word from an existing word that is assumed to be a derivative of it. For example, pairs of words such as revision and revise; supervision and supervise and donation and donate. Actually revision, supervision and donation are the old words and we take off what looks like the typical affix –ion to make them verbs, revise, supervise and donate. We also know that the person representing a particular occupation usually ends with –er or -or, such as teacher and instructor. It is assumed that if the affixes –er and –or are taken away from words like those, a verb will be created. For example, the verb edit is actually ‘back-formed’ from the noun editor.

Blending is the process of combining two words to form one new word. It is done by combining derivational affixes or bound morpheme with existing words. The meaning of the new word formed can be deduced from the original words. For example, the word brunch is formed by combining the beginning of the word breakfast and the ending of the word lunch. The meaning is clear when the original words are known. It means a meal typically eaten late in the morning as a combination of a late breakfast and an early lunch (according to Dictionary.Com). The word formed (i.e. blend) usually has the same size as its constituents, or the size of the second element.

Many new words are actually borrowed from other languages. English borrowed a lot of French words. It is the process in which English speakers imitate a word from a foreign language and adapt it into its own phonological or grammatical system, especially when there is no such equivalent word in English. For example, the borrowed French word petite is used to describe females who are small and slender. English borrowed words from many different languages. Examples include: alcohol (Arabic), rouge (French), piano (Italian), barbecue (Spanish), robot (Czech), sashimi (Japanese), yoghurt (Turkish), dim-sum (Chinese).

Clipping / truncation
Clipping or truncation is the process of shortening a longer word by cutting off the beginning or the end of a word or both. This is different from back-formation in that it does not change the part of speech of the word. Most clipped words have only one to two syllables and are usually based on the first part of the word. For example, exam is from examination,...
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