Word formation in English and Vietnamese: a contrastive analysis Pham Thi Hong Ly
HCMC University of Pedagogy
Language is a principal mean used by human beings to exchange information and communicate with each other. We use language to discuss a wide range of topics which distinguishes us with animals. In other words, language is a vital tool of communication. In order to share ideas and feelings effectively besides using gestures, intonation in speech…; a large vocabulary is also considered as a useful way. The more vocabularies you have, the clearer and more accurate ideas you express. And one of the most common ways to enrich vocabulary is word formation. It is a study of words, dealing with construction or formation of words in a certain language. As a learner of English and an English teacher in the future, I do this research to mention the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese word formation. And then, some common errors that Vietnamese learners often make are discussed. I hope that the information in this paper will be helpful in getting a deeper look about word formation in the two languages, English and Vietnamese.
According to Oxford Dictionary, a word is a single unit of language which means something and can be spoken or written. According to Nguyen Thien Giap, word is the smallest unit of language, independently in meaning and form. Another definition of word is that “A word is a unit of language that carries meaning and consists of one or more morphemes which are linked more or less tightly together, and has a phonetic value” (Wikipedia). For this definition, it is simply said that word is formed from morphemes, the smallest units of meaning that a word can be divided into. There are two kinds of morphemes in English and Vietnamese words. They are free morpheme and bound morpheme. Free morpheme can occur on their own as an independent word such as man, lamp, green, black…in English or nhà, đẹp, đi, tốt in Vietnamese... Bound morpheme can not stand alone without attached to other morphemes. However, there are differences in Vietnamese and English bound morphemes. In English, bound morphemes are suffixes such as -ly, -ed, -ity… or prefixes like un-, im-, anti-… On the contrary, Vietnamese bound morphemes are separate words serve as either compounding or reduplicative elements, for example, tắc kè, bàng bạc, ăng ten… if we split them off they still has their own meaning but it is not related to the meaning of the whole compound word. In other words, adding bound morphemes into an English word can form a new word whose meaning is related to the original one, but it is unlike in Vietnamese. In short, there are many differences in word formation in English and Vietnamese though both of them are formed by morphemes. Word formation in English
There are some ways to build a new word. They are affixation, compounding, and other devices like conversion, clipping, blend and reduplication. Affixation
Affixation is a method in which an affix is attached to a root. English words consist of two elements: root which is considered obligatory and carries lexical meaning and affix which is optional and carries grammatical meaning or supplemental- lexical meaning. Let us take the word “teacher” as an example. In the word “teacher”, “teach” is the root which means “educate or train” and “-er” is the affix that cannot stand alone. When attached to the root, “-er” supplements to the root with meaning of “a person”.
There are many kinds of affix. It can be divided into two kinds in terms of position. According to Megginson, they are prefix and suffixes. Moreover, even the words prefix, suffix and affix are all formed from “fix” by the use of prefixes:
ad- + “fix” (attached) = “affix”
pre- + “fix” (attached) = “prefix”...