Morphology - Unit Four - Lesson No. 22

Word formation processes

Words can be formed through several processes which include compounding, blending, coinage, conversion, clipping and backformation. In this lesson, you will learn about each process in brief.

1. Compounding

Compounding is one of the most productive word formation processes. Compounding is making a new word out of two separately existing words. For example, black and board are combined to form a new word blackboard. Another example of compounding is the words pick and pocket, being joined to form a new word pickpocket. A compound word is difficult to define. However, the simplest definition is that it is a word which consists of two or more words.  

Compound words are of two types: endocentric and exocentric. An endocentric compound word has its head inside it and one of the words is usually a subtype of the other one. Blackboard is an endocentric compound word because the head is board and blackboard is a type of board. An exocentric word has its head outside it, and it might have to be interpreted or deduced from the context. For example, pickpocket is an exocentric word because it is head is outside it. Pickpocket is not a type of pick or pocket. It means someone who steals from pockets.

2. Blending

Blending is a tricky concept in that it resembles compounds in taking two words as an input for the new word. However, blending takes only a part of the first word and the whole of the second word. For example, smog is blended from smoking and fog.

3. Coinage

Coinage is creating new words and it is less frequent in most languages. Coinage takes place when there is no lexical stock in the lexicon of a language for a given concept. Technology is one of the biggest factors contributing to coinage. For example, internet, wifi, google are just a few examples of coined words.

4. Conversion

Instead of coining a new word, conversion is the change of the function of the word from one grammatical category to another. Take run as an example. It can function as a verb and as a noun. Notice that the word does not lose any parts.

5. Clipping

Clipping is the process of forming new words by reducing existing words, such as deleting a syllable or a morpheme. Clipping mostly affects the latter parts of the word at hand. For instance, advertisement is clipped to ad and laboratory is clipped to lab. It is clear that both clipped form and full form still mean the same.

6. Backformation

Backformation is the process of forming new words by reducing existing words to form new words, and usually of different grammatical category. This process mostly affect nouns to form verbs, but other cases of backformation maintain the grammatical category. For example, televise is formed through backformation of television and the class changed from noun to verb. On the other hand,  transcript is formed from transcription but the grammatical category remains the same.

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