Word Structure and Word Formation (Word Building)

Word Structure and Word Formation
(Word Building)
Word formation is the branch of lexicology
that studies the structure of existing words and
the patterns on which a language builds new
The morpheme (Gr. morphe “form” + -eme
“the smallest distinctive unit”) is the smallest
meaningful unit of language.
• Morphemes do not occur as free forms but
only as constituents of words.
• They possess meanings of their own.
Classes of morphemes
• Roots (or radicals)
• Affixes
The root is the morpheme that expresses the
lexical meaning of the word, e.g. teach – teacher –
Affixes are morphemes that modify the
meaning of the root. An affix added before the root
is called a prefix (e.g. unsafe, mispronounce); and
an affix added after the root is called a suffix (e.g.
heartless, kindness).
Suffixes and inflexions
Inflexions are morphemes used to change
grammatical forms of the word: e.g. to work –
works – worked – working. Inflexions carry
grammatical meaning of the word.
Types of word-forming (wordbuilding) in the English language
• Affixation
• Conversion
• Word-composition
The process of affixation consists in
coining a new word by adding an affix or several
affixes to a base.
A base (stem) is the form to which an affix
is added. E.g. blacken; unmanageable
Words produced by the process of
affixation are called derived words or
derivatives (производное слово, дериват).
• Prefixation: usual (adj.) – unusual (adj.)
• Suffixation: care (n.) – careless (adj.)
Classification of suffixes
• Origin: Native (-er, -dom, -ship, -ness), French
(-ance, -ment, -age), Latin (-tion, -ate, -ute),
Greek (-ism, -ize), etc.
• Meaning, e.g. –er: the agent of the action
(worker, driver); -ess: feminine gender (lioness,
governess); -ry and –dom: collectivity
(peasantry, officialdom); -ish: insufficiency of
quality (greenish – зеленоватый, youngish –
Classification of suffixes (continued)
• Part of speech, e.g. noun-forming suffixes: –
er, -ness, -ment (teacher, tenderness,
government); adjective-forming suffixes: –ish,
-ful, -ess, -y (bookish, meaningful, careless,
cloudy); verb-forming suffixes: -ate, -fy, -ize
(facilitate, terrify, socialize), adverb-forming
suffixes: -ly, -ward, -wise (quickly, upward,
likewise), etc.
Classification of suffixes (continued)
• Productivity, i.e. the ability to make new words.
Productive affixes are ones, which take part in deriving
new words in this particular period of language
development, e.g. –er, -ing, -ness, -y, -ish, -able, -ate,
etc. Non-productive suffixes are those which are not
able to form new words in the period in question, -th
(truth), -hood (childhood), -ship (scholarship).
NB! Productivity ≠ frequency of occurrence. E.g. suffixes
–ful, -ly, -ant, -ent, -al are frequent but non-productive.
Classification of prefixes
• Origin: Native (un-), Latin (ab-, bi-, de-, super-)
• Meaning, e.g. negative prefixes: un- (ungrateful),
non- (nonpolitical), in- (incorrect), dis- (disloyal),
a- (amoral); prefixes of time and order: fore(foretell), pre- (pre-war), post- (post-war), ex- (expresident); prefixes of size and degree: hyper(hyperactive), mega- (mega-mall), mini(minivan), super- (superman), ultra- (ultrathin);
prefix of repetition: re- (rebuild, rewrite), etc.
Classification of prefixes (continued)
• Productivity, i.e. the ability to make new
words, e.g. un-, re-, dis- are productive.
• Conversion consists in making a new word
from some existing word by changing the
category of a part of speech, while the
morphemic shape of the original word
remains unchanged, e.g. work – to work,
paper – to paper.
Properties of the converted words
• The new word acquires a meaning, which
differs from that of the original one though it
can be easily associated with it, e.g. yellow - to
• The converted word also acquires a new
paradigm and a new syntactic functions,
which are peculiar to its new category as a
part of speech.
Properties of the converted words
-s (plural)
-’s (possessive case)
case, Predicative
to garden
-s (3d person sing.)
-ing (Pres. Part., Gerund)
The most common types of
conversion in English
• Verbs derived from nouns: to ship, to dog
(преследовать), to wolf (жадно есть)
• Nouns derived from verbs: a try (попытка), a
catch (улов), a find (находка), a cut (порез)
• Verbs derived from adjectives: to pale
(бледнеть), to empty (опустошить), to grey
(седеть), to tidy (привести в порядок)
Less common types of conversion in
• nouns derived from adjectives: a bitter
(горечь), the poor, a final
• verbs/nouns derived from prepositions: out
(e.g. diplomats were outed from the country;
ins and outs – входы и выходы).
Types of semantic relations between the
converted word and the original word
• The name of tool – an action performed by this tool:
hammer – to hammer, brush – to brush, nail – to nail
• The animal name – action typical to this animal:
monkey – to monkey (обезьянничать), wolf – to wolf
(жадно есть)
• Part of body – action performed by it: back – to back,
hand – to hand, shoulder – to shoulder
• Name of occupation – an action typical of it: cook – to
cook, nurse – to nurse
• The name of a place – the process of occupying the
place: room – to room, place – to place, etc.