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Essay: Minor word-formation processes in English: abbreviation, clipping, blending, and back-formation

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‘Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations.’ – Edward Sapir

Linguistics is the scientific study of language.There are three aspects to this study: language form, language meaning, and language in context (Wikipedia:Linguistics).There is a separate name for the study of words structures, their forms and rules : Morphology.If we want to elaborate on the word-formations we have to know what a word really is.Well, of course we all know what a word is but we are not exactly aware of its structure. Words are the smallest units of language.They can function as a separate units ( so they are independent), they do not depend on the other words and they can easily change position. Some words are structured from two or more pieces ( Comlex words e.g. lonely) or their structure is in one piece and we cannot divide it ( e.g. play ).the smallest gramatical units of language are called morphemes.

In the world of linguistics, word-formation is the creation of a new word (wikipedia:word formation). In some way it is a contrast to the semantic change in wich the meaning of the single word changes. With understaning word-formation in great depth we have to know the basics of ethymology wich is the history of words, their orgins and how their form and meaning have changed over time (wikipedia:ehymology). There are a lot of types of word formation. We can distinguish for instance : Derivations, Neologisms, Compoundings,Affixations, Clippings, Blendings, Abbreviations or Back formations. But now, we will take a closer look at the last four types .

Clipping is a type of Abbreviation but here the part of the word is ‘clipped’ off the rest part of it. The meaning of this ‘shortened’ word means exactly the same as its original form. For example the clipping ‘burger’ is created by clipping off the beginning of the word hamburger’. This word formation procceses are not classified as words belonging to the standard vocabulary of language. Those are terms of special groups where a hint is crucial to understand the whole meaning e.g. exam(ination), lab(oratory) etc.

We can distinguish four types of Clipping :

1. Back clipping
2. Fore-clipping
3. Middle clipping
4. Complex clipping

Back clipping is probably the famous one. In this type of clipping the beginning is saved and this is the last part, syllable of the word which is clipped off : doc (doctor), gym (gymnasium).

Fore-clipping is the opposite of the back clipping. The final part is kept : net (internet), bot (robot).

Middle clipping ,as the name suggests, is the retention of the middle part of the word : fridge (refrigerator), jams(pyjamas).

Complex clipping are used in compounds. One part od the original compound stays the same : cablegram ( cable telegram), op art (optical art ).

Blending i.e. a blend word or just a blend is a word created from the part of two or more other separate words.these part are sometimes, but nt always, a morphemes (wikipedia:Blend word). Typically it is a beginning of the one word and the end of another : smoke and fog -> smog, gasoline and alcohol : gasohol.

John Algeo, the Professor Emeritus of English in the University of Georgia proposed to divide blending into three categories :

1.Phonemic Overlap: a syllable or part of a syllable is shared between two words
2.Clipping: the shortening of two words and then compounding them
3.Phonemic Overlap and Clipping: shortening of two words to a shared syllable and then compounding (wikipedia : blend word)

The blend words are formed in the different methods. The beginning of the word with the end of another, the beginning of two words are linked or the sounds from the two words are blended for example ‘slithly’ which was created from the lithe and slimy. Blend words can be easily mistaken with the compound words.But in the compound words the meaning of the created word may be different from its original parts in isolation for example ‘darkroom’ doesnt mean that the room is dark but is is a room in which photographic materials are processed. Blended words are also referred to as portmanteaus (brighthubeducation/word formation).

Abbreviation is a shortened phrase or a single word which we use everyday .Those were mainly created to save the space ( space-saving). They usually contain the letters or a group of letters taken from the particular word but not always, they can be created by substitution or other alliteration. Abbreviations are often classified into three types: letter-based, syllable-based , and hybrid (dictionary.com/abbreviations)

In English abbreviations were used practically from the beginning. In the old English poem Beowulf we can find some abbreviations (e.g. & for and).Then in 16 century and later the use of abbreviations rose with the standardisation of English language.For example, the name of the famous furniture company IKEA is an abbreviation of the : Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. So, here we have the first letters of the every single word taken from the whole name and each letter is pronounced but not as a sentence.

There are a lot of types of abbreviations. An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word for instance : AIDS, NATO (wikipedia:acronym). A plural abbreviation can be created by doubling initial letters : pp (pages). An initialism is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of its various word elements, but it is read as a series of letters: ATM, BBC (dictionary.com/abbreviations). Aphesis is simply omitting an unstressed vowel from the beginning of the word : ’cause (because). Similarly to the Aphesis but not exactly the same is Apheresis when the first syllable or syllables are omitted : phone (telephone).

The last one is back-formation and it is the process of creating a new lexeme, usually by removing actual or supposed affixes (wikipedia:back-formation). The term back-formation was created by James Murray, Scottish lexicographer and who was also the primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary from 1879 until 1915 (wikipedia:James Murray)

Back-formation is different from Clipping because it can change the meaning or the part of speech whereas clipping is just a shortening from a longer word without changing signification. Back formation has given us a common words such as televis (from television ), aggress ( from aggression) or housekeep (from housekeeper ) and so on. Mostly, changes occurred at the end of the word. Back-formations based on the changes at the beginning so by dropping prefixes are rather less common.

Word formations are very important and have brought a lot to the world of linguistic practically from the beginning of our civilisation. The desire to simplify the system of language heavily influenced the development of creating new words. These are very helpful and important for people in common usage and are making their lives better and for sure easier. Those also enrich people’s vocabulary and broaden their knowledge about the language.

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