Using of the word "fire"

The use of the word fire is universally diverse and flexible in the context of the English language.

This essay will attempt to deconstruct and examine various aspects of English Linguistics from the following perspectives of phonetics, morphology, semantics, syntax, sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics.

Firstly, phonetics studies the pronunciation of a speakers language. One of the aspects it deals with is how humans utter and vocalise words, and how even English speakers deliver differently. For example, in the context of ‘fire’ when [f] is pronounced the lower lip is brought into contact with the upper teeth and forcing air out of the mouth while the vocal folds vibrate lower and nasal activity is halted.

Additionally, phonetics include a phonemic transcription of the word ‘fire’, which is available in both two different rhotic accents of English:

British English – /?fa??(r)/

Rhotic American English – /?fa??r/

From the above shown, British English is non-rhotic where /r/ is pronounced before a vowel. While in American English is rhotic which means that /r/ is pronounced and is stressed.

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This means that the latter pronounces the word ‘r’ clearly while the former overlooks in the pronunciation of ‘r’ in ‘fire’.

Secondly, morphology studies the smallest meaning units of a language. Furthermore, it focuses on the structure of words and how meaningful parts of words combine. The primary point is that a morpheme must be able to stand alone, it is to leave meaning independently of its general context. There are two different classes of suffixes, which are inflectional and derivational.

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Firefly = fire + fly

2 morphemes

Inflectional suffixes are needed to make a sentence grammatically correct. Although they add little meaning to the word, the word does not change word class from one to another. Consequently, these suffixes can be useful in helping to determine whether a word is a noun, verb, adjective or adverb. As the words ‘fired’, ‘fires’ and ‘firing’ are all verbs.

-s, -ed, -ing, -en, -er and -est are just a few cases of inflectional suffixes.

By taking the word ‘fire’ and adding ‘-s’, resulting in ‘fires’ may demonstrate plurality. For example, ‘the adults made fires outside the camp’. From this, by adding the suffix does not change the meaning of the sentence nor does it change the speech. However, it only adds grammatical info to the sentence.

Derivational suffixes are used to make new words. Notably, it changes the meaning of the word. Oftentimes, the word class changes. For example, the noun “danger” can be changed into an adjective by adding the suffix “ous”, resulting in the adjective “dangerous”. This may seem impossible with using ‘fire’. For example, by adding the suffix ‘-y’ results in ‘firey’ which is not an existing word in English. Though the word ‘fiery’ does exist and is valid it is not derived from the word ‘fire’. Nevertheless, by adding the adjective suffix ‘-able’ to ‘fire’ results in ‘fireable’ which changes the noun to an adjective. The literal meaning of the word would be ‘able to be fired’ in the context of using a weapon like a gun.

Additionally, compounds are formed out of two separate words. For example, fire hydrant, firefly, firefighter, fireworks, firemen and fireplace.

Thirdly, semantics studies the meaning of words. As well as focuses on the relationship between words and phrases and their meanings as it serves to build sentences.

The person lit the fire. – the fire lit the person. So, in both sentences, the same word occurs. However, the meaning of each sentence is quite different from the other. The meaning of the sentence does not solely depend on words, but also word order, pronunciation, etc. In its core, demonstrates what a sentence means and why it means, what it means, is what is introduced to in semantics as looking for the semantic role.

One of the areas that it concerns with is lexical semantics which deals with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them. Synonyms are words that mean the same but sound different. Two words are synonymous if they ‘mean the same thing.’ Consider the following words:

Blaze, flame, heat, inferno, lit

All of these are common words for fire. However, true synonyms are hard to find in a language. An example would be the following:

She got rid of the fire – She got rid of the inferno

Taking the word ‘inferno’ would change the meaning. The literal meaning is ‘a large uncontrollable fire’. Other than that, antonyms are words that are opposite in meaning, all classes of words can have antonyms. For example:

Fire – water

Lit – extinguish

Fourthly, syntax studies the structure of sentences. How words and phrases combine to form sentences. In contrast to semantics, the syntax does not study the meaning but the format. Sentences can be categorised under the aspects of grammatically and acceptability. So, a sentence can make no sense and still be correct. For example:

He saw the house cat extinguished the fire with a cup of water – the sentence is nonsense, but grammatically correct.

In this case, acceptability refers to the meaning content of the sentence must be clear, understandable or acceptable to the reader. The example given may sound contradictory since a sentence is supposedly grammatically correct and complete.

Another detail in syntax is that of changing an active sentence into a passive one. In an active sentence, the subject acts upon the object. While in passive, the object is acted upon the subject. Both meanings remain the same but the sequence of the words (object and subject) changes. Besides, the subject of the active becomes the object of the passive preceded by the word “by.”


Subject + verb + object

The fire consumed the building


Object + verb + Subject

The building was consumed by the fire.

Fifthly, sociolinguistics studies how language is used in society. The field reads the correlation between languages and social position along with the attitude perceived. The formal meaning society understands with ‘fire’ perhaps ‘fuel in a state of combustion’ or ‘the firing of weapons’. However, with the introduction of technology in the current era, basic words like ‘fire’ have evolved than just burning. With this in mind, ‘fire’ has become a slang and is popularised by Millennials (age group 1980-1994) and Generation Z (1995-2012). Majority of social media active users are comprised of these age groups. Platforms such as Instagram and Twitter serve where slang like ‘fire’ is used informally. It has a variety of meanings, but it is commonly used to describe something as ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’. A synonym of fire, ‘lit’ also means to describe something ‘incredible’ or ‘flashy’. The popularity of slang may be due to the aspect of inclusivity. Where the sense of belonging and familiarity is present, especially with social media. With communication being easily accessible and English speakers amount to 20 per cent of the world’s population. There would be no doubt of slang growing popularity among youth.

Finally, psycholinguistics studies on the acquisition of language, speech and understanding. To begin, this essay conducted on six children between one to ten years old attempting to pronounce the word ‘fire’ with consent from their respective parents:

Zayn is twenty-three months old, he is still babbling and pronounced the only the vowels of ‘fire’.

Zishan and Imani are four years old and is pronounced ‘fire’ in a rhotic accent, both can comprehend simple sentences and can barely speak fluently in complete sentences. However, while his siblings Zia and Zara said the ‘r’ clearly at the end of ‘fire’, Zishan had ended the word by pronouncing it like the word ‘you’.

Daniella is five years old, she is the only one who pronounced ‘fire’ in a non-rhotic accent. This may be due to her upbringing as she grew up watching a British television series ‘Peppa pig’, as well as both her parents are fluent English speakers and lives in a majority English speaking household.

Zara is eight years old and pronounced ‘fire’ in a rhotic accent, she is fluent in speaking English. She also speaks fast and is confused when faced with complex sentences. Also, Zia is ten years old and pronounced ‘fire’ in a rhotic accent clearly, she is also fluent and uses English daily to communicate. Both siblings along with Zayn and Zishan grew up in Malay and English speaking household.

In conclusion, ‘fire’ is a simple word that even the youngest of children can comprehend. It is a word that is universally favoured and used in young age groups and has become a word that brings inclusivity and acceptance. Moreover, ‘fire’ related words are still used every day and is what surrounds in daily life. How a word is structured can either make a small or large impact on the meaning. With this said, the linguistic perspectives help readers to understand that there is more to the word ‘fire’ and it continues to grow and evolve in the future.

Cite this page

Using of the word "fire". (2019, Nov 28). Retrieved from

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