Essay: A Contrastive Study between Derivation in English and Arabic

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1. An Overview of Morphological Processes

Morphology, as mentioned above, is a part of linguistics that deals with the rules that govern the structure of words in a language. The main focus of morphology is word-formation. The process of word-formation occurs through a set of morphological processes. It includes affixation, inflection, cliticization, internal change, suppletion, stress and tone placement, compounding, reduplication, conversion, clipping, blends, backformation, acronyms, onomatopoeia, derivation, etc. As a matter of fact, not all languages have these morphological processes in their word-formation system. The idea is that each language has some of the abovementioned processes in its word-formation system.

Affixation is an addition of affix. It is a common morphological process that exists in most languages of the world. An affix is a generic term of three specific terms: prefix, infix and suffix. Prefix is an affix that is attached to the front of the base, e.g. the word ‘reopen’ consists of a base ‘open’ and prefix ‘re-‘. Infix is an affix that added within the base, e.g. the word /katab/ in Arabic has a base consists of three consonants /k, t, b/ and an infix that consists of two vowels. Finally, suffix is an affix which is attached to the end of the base, e.g. the word ‘opened’ consists of a base ‘open’ and a suffix ‘-ed’.

Inflection is a morphological process that deals with addition of affixes that carry grammatical functions; such affixes lead to the change of the words’ form, such as number, gender, case, tense, comparison, etc. Examples of number inflection include plural /s/ e.g., the word ‘books’ consists of two morphemes; free morpheme ‘book’ and bound morpheme /-s/. Another example which refers to inflection of number is third person singular /s/ e.g. ‘plays’ in a sentence like ‘ plays’. One of examples of inflection of number in Arabic is the dual e.g. /taalibaan/ ‘two students’ (m) in which the bound morpheme /-aan/ refers to the dual. Case also is an inflectional morpheme such as /’s/ e.g. Ahmed’s book. Tense also is inflectional morpheme such as past tense /-ed/ ‘played’. In addition, comparison also is inflectional morpheme such as /-er/ for comparative and /-est/ for superlative e.g. taller and tallest.

Cliticization can be defined as words that cannot stand alone as independent morphemes. Examples of clitics include contracted forms such as (‘s for is or has, ‘d for had or would, ‘ve for have, ‘t for cannot, do not, ‘ll for will, etc.) these forms cannot stand alone but must be attached to other words. Another example of clitics in English is the genitive case (‘s) that cannot stand alone without the noun it refers to.

Internal change is a morphological process in which one non-morphemic segment replaces another. Examples of internal change in English include the word ‘teeth’ plural for singular ‘tooth’, ‘get’ present for past ‘got’, ‘sink’ present for past ‘sank’, etc. There are two kinds of internal change: the first kind is ablaut which deals with the vowels alternations that mark grammatical contrasts such as the above examples. The second kind is umlaut:
Umlaut involves the fronting of a vowel under the influence of a front vowel in the following syllable. Historically, this is what is responsible for the use of feet and geese as the plural forms of foot and goose, respectively: the back vowel in the root (originally /o:/) was fronted in anticipation of the front vowel in the old plural suffix /iz/, which was subsequently dropped. (W. O’ Grady et al. 1996: 141)

Suppletion is a morphological process in which a particular root morpheme is substituted by a phonologically unrelated morpheme to indicate a grammatical contrast. Examples of suppletion in English include: the competitive form ‘worse’ and superlative ‘worst’ for the adjective ‘bad’ since there in no phonological similarity between the morphemes ‘worse’ and ‘worst’, and the adjective ‘bad’. The difference between suppletion and internal change is that in internal change only a vowel is changed but other consonants remain the same e.g. ‘sang’ (past) for ‘sing’ (present) in which the initial and final consonants remain the same. In contrast, in suppletion the entire morpheme is changed for example the verb ‘went’ (past) for ‘go’ (present) in which there is no phonological relationships between the segments of the two words.

Stress and tone placement is a morphological process in which the shift of stress or tone produces grammatical contrasts (i.e. change the word class). In English the change in placement of stress in particular word leads to another word of different class e.g. the word (‘subject) with stress on the first syllable is noun while with stress on the second syllable (sub’ject) is verb.

Compounding is a process of word formation by which new words can be created. O’ Grady et al note “the combination of lexical categories (nouns, adjective, verbs, or prepositions) to create larger words (1996:143). Compounding is a famous process in many languages, for example, in English two nouns can be combined to create larger word such ‘arm’ and ‘chair’ leads to new word ‘armchair’, etc. there also compounding between noun and adjective and vice versa. In Arabic, compounding plays a critical role in word formation. Examples in Arabic include noun + noun compounding e.g. ‘Abd’ and ‘Elrahman’ can be compounded to form new noun ‘abdelrahman’.

Reduplication is a morphological process by which a morpheme or a part of it is repeated to create new words. Reduplication process is known in Arabic as ‘Al Tekrar’ e.g. /fatfata/, /zalzala/, etc. In addition, conversion is also a morphological process by which the class particular word is changed into new one as a result of the syntactic environment. O’ Grady et al note “conversion is a process that assigns an already existing word to a new syntactic category (1996:175).” Conversion takes place between nouns and verbs, verbs and noun, and verbs and adjectives, e.g. butter (a bread), (a building) permit, empty (the box), etc.

Clipping is a word formation process but is less productive one as compared with derivation or affixation. It focuses on shortening polysyllabic words into one or more syllables for example a word like ‘administration’ is clipped as ‘admn’ or ‘professor’ as ‘prof’, ‘examination’ as ‘exam’, etc. Blends are a morphological process by which a new word is created from non-morphemic parts of already existing words.

Blending are similar to compounds in that they are produced by combining two words, but parts of the words that are combined are deleted. Smog, from smoke + fog; brunch from ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’; motel, from motor + hotel; infomercial from info +commercial; and urinalysis, from urine + analysis are examples of blends that have attained full lexical status in English. (Fromkin et al: 2007: 97)

Backformation is a morphological process by which affixes are removed so that new words are created. Examples of backformation in English includes ‘transport’ from ‘transportation’, ‘act’ from ‘active’, etc. Acronym is a word formation process in which initials of words are used top form a new word, e.g. ISIS stands for ‘Israeli Secret Intelligence Service’, NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, etc. Moreover, Onomatopoeia is considered also a word formation process in which words are created which (to native speakers at least) sound like the sound they name or the entity that make the sound. Examples in English include: hiss, sizzle, cuckoo, cock-a-doodle-doo, buzz, beep, ding-dong.

In the following sections derivation will be discussed in detail showing the definition, nature and types of derivation both in English and Arabic.
2. Derivation in English
In the preceding section, several kinds of morphological processes (word formation processes) have been discussed briefly due to the concise nature of this paper. This section deals with the most common morphological process, i.e. derivation. The definition, nature and types of derivation will be discussed in detail in this section.

2.1 Definition and Nature of Derivation

Derivation is the formation of new words by adding certain kinds of affixes to bases. According to O’ Grady et al “Derivation forms a word with meaning and/or category distinct form that of its base through the addition of an affix. (1996:144)”

Before discussing the nature of derivation in English, I’d like to shed the light on some of important terms that help readers to understand derivation in English. One of these terms is ‘root’ which is defined as a lexical content morpheme that cannot be analyzed into smaller parts, e.g. ‘books’ consists of a root ‘book’ and affix ‘-s’. Affix is defined as a bound morpheme attached to a stem or root. An affix is divided into three kinds: the first is prefix which is attached to the beginning of a morpheme or stem, e.g., un- in unfair. The second kind is suffix which is attached to the end of a morpheme or stem, e.g., -er in taller. The third kind is infix which is a bound morpheme that is inserted in the middle of another morpheme. It should be noted here that sometimes there is a difference between root and base. A base is defined as the form to which an affix is added.

Derivation, in English, is based on affixation. Let us consider the following example ‘independence’. Accurate morphological analysis of this word reveals that it consists of three morphemes: free morpheme (base) ‘depend’, prefix ‘-in’ and suffix ‘-ence’. The analysis also reveals that the base morpheme is verb that has dependent meaning that is to say it is a lexical morpheme. In addition, both prefix and suffix are bound morphemes. The analysis shows also that the class of the word is changed from verb into noun after the addition of the affixes. Let us consider another example ‘activation’. This word consists of four morphemes and the current picture of this word is formed through three stages. The first stage is adding the suffix ‘-ive’ to the base ‘act’ which is verb to create new word ‘active’ which is classified as an adjective. The second stage is adding the suffix ‘-ate’ to the base ‘active’ which is adjective to create new word ‘activate’ which is classified as a verb. The third stage is adding the suffix ‘-ion’ to the base ‘activate’ to create new word ‘activation’ which is classified as a noun. It is not possible to cover all derivational examples in English in this concise paper but through the above examples the nature of derivation in English becomes clear to the reader.

After the consideration of the above mentioned examples, it becomes clear that derivation depends on two processes which are prefixation and suffixation, i.e. prefix and suffix. It is also clear that derivation process changes the word class, i.e. from noun to verb, verb to noun, from adjective to noun, verb or adverb, from verb to adverb, etc. The most important idea that readers must be familiar with is that derivation process in English is productive. Since productivity is one of main properties of human language, derivation in English is considered the most important morphological process that contributes to the increase of lexicons of English.

2.2 Types of Derivatives

The preceding section revealed that derivation in English depends on affixation which consists of two processes i.e. prefixation and suffixation. This section presents different types of derivatives in English in addition to the affixes used in each type of derivational process.

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