Word-composition is a productive type of
word-building, in which new words are
produced by combining two or more stems. E.g.:
campsite, bluebird, whitewash, in-laws,
Types of composition
• Neutral
• Morphological
• Syntactic
Neutral compounds
Two stems are joined together without any
connecting elements (i.e. they are juxtaposed):
scarecrow, goldfish, crybaby (плакса).
Subtypes of neutral compounds
• simple neutral compounds - consist of simple
affixless stems: sunflower, bedroom, blackbird
• derivational, or derived compounds - have
affixes in their structure: long-legged, broadminded, globe-trotter
• contracted compounds - have a shortened
stem in their structure (усеченный корень):
H-bag (handbag), TV-set (television set), Abomb (atomic bomb), V-day (victory day)
Morphological and syntactic
Morphological compounds - components
are joined by a linking element (‘o’, ‘i’, ‘s’):
videophone, microchip; tragicomic, handicraft;
Syntactic compounds are formed by the
whole fragments of speech: man-of-war
(военный корабль), forget-me-not, mother-inlaw.
Types of word-composition
Types of compounds according to
their meaning
• Non-idiomatic - compounds whose meanings
can be described as the sum of the meanings
of their components: classroom, bedroom,
homeland, evening-gown.
• Idiomatic - the meaning of the compounds
cannot be described as a mere sum of its
components: blackboard, football, lady-killer;
ladybird, tallboy (тумбочка), bluestocking.
The criteria for distinguishing between a
compound and a word-combination
• The graphic criterion: tallboy, waterfall, nightgown, film-star.
• The semantic criterion: E.g. tallboy - a tall boy
• The phonetic criterion:
́greenhouse, b
́ lakkbird, t́ allboy green ́house, blakk ́bird, tall ́boy.
The criteria for distinguishing between a
compound and a word-combination
• Morphological criterion:
blackbird – a black bird
blackbirds – the blackest birds I’ve ever seen; a
black night bird
Exceptions: passers-by, parks-supervisor
Abbreviation (contraction,
• Initial shortening: NASA - National
Aeronautics Space Administration, NATO –
North Atlantic Treaty Organization, BBC – the
British Broadcasting Corporation, MP –
Member of Parliament
• Clipping: prof, burger, bike, phone, specs,
fridge, flu
• Blending: brunch (breakfast+lunch), smog
(smoke+fog), heliport (helicopter+aeroport).
Minor types of word-building
• Onomatopoeia [ˌɔnəˌmætə'piːə]: hiss, buzz,
meow, cock-a-doodle-doo, cuckoo.
• Reduplication: bye-bye, ta-ta; ping-pong, chitchat (болтовня, сплетничать), shilly-shally
(колебаться), walkie-talkie, mish-mash
• Back-formation: baby sitter => to babysit,
beggar => to beg, burglar => to burgle, cobbler
=> to cobble
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