Word Formation

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 19 September 2016

Word Formation

Language is always changing, a continuous state of renewal. In order to understand this process one needs to understand the origin of words. Etymology, according to Yule(2006) is “the study of the origin and history of a word” (p. 35). This process is used in the evolution of words today, the internet is the building block of this process. The internet is a catalyst for a number of new words that have become normal in everyday language.

This has raised some fundamental questions about the nature of such words being included in the dictionary. This essay will argue that although change is inevitable, it is adamant that not all these new words are so easily accepted and placed in dictionaries. This essay begins by defining the word formation processes focusing on seven main, commonly used processes with examples of how they are used to create or change words in modern day society. It then identifies the use of these processes in the creation of new words through the internet.

Finally, the essay briefly outlines and uses the French language as an example of how they diligently protect and keep their language pure from modernized words, but also illustrates types of different new word formation in the French language. The word formation processes are the ways in which words are formed. In order to understand the evolution of words today, it is essential to understand these processes. Firstly, one of the most common processes is called borrowing, this is simply to adopt words from other languages.

One example of this is the word croissant, borrowed from the French. On the other hand, one of the most uncommon processes is coinage, the creation of innovative or completely new words. These words can be brand names that become a part of everyday language such as the word hoover, which was initially the surname of the person who iniated the launch of the well known vacuum cleaner. The word hoover took on a new meaning, it became a term for vacuum cleaning, and Instead of cleaning the floor one could hoover it.

Compounding and Blending are similar processes, compounding is the union of two single words to create one word such as roommate. Similarly, Blending is the combining of two words to create one new word with a different meaning. For example, the word breakfast and lunch when blended is called brunch. Clipping and backformation are both processes that deduct or reduce that word. This is common for words that contain more syllables in order to make everyday conversations easier. The word television, when clipped is converted into the word telly.

However, when the process of backformation takes place, it becomes televise which according to Yule is shortened to produce a word with new meaning. The last word formation process is conversion, this is simply to change from a noun to a verb or vice versa, which changes the role of how that word is used. Words are not restricted to the confines of one particular word formation process, but can go through multiple processes where a word is slightly changed each time. Whatever processes are used, word formation processes are used constantly on the World Wide Web to create new words.

It can be seen that the internet is the cornerstone of new words and that language is changing through it. New words are constantly created and frequently used in an instant, this makes it difficult for dictionary makers to judge whether these words are dictionary worthy due to the fact that they may be a passing trend or have no proper meaning. There are a number of words that have been created and are now presented in the dictionary. Some examples of this, according to Holhan(2006) is the word Google and Blog.

Google, which was coined in the 1920’s, is recorded as a “transitive verb” thats describes the action of using the famous search engine on the internet. The word Blog which originates from the word weblog, a term used to describe a person’s log of actions or train of thoughts on the internet. This is an as example of the word formation process of clipping. Holhan agrees that both of these words have actual etymologies, that is they both stem from another word and they have a legitimate meaning.

On the other hand, there are those words that seemingly take this word formation process too far, such as the word Vlog. This is the process of blending video and blog to make Vlog. Holhan indicates that there is “higher standards” for words to be dictionary worthy. The fact that the Internet is a part of connecting the world makes it harder to reject commonly used words. However, although times are changing, there should be a system in place to preserve the English language like that of the French.

According to Ayres-Bennett (2011) the French are a nation that resists the adoption of other languages in order to pursue and maintain the purity of their language. Colchester (2009) reiterates this by stating that they are Advocates of linguistic correctness and that the French bureaucrats continue to work hard to keep their language pure by diligently creating equivalents for English terms. However, there are 300 new words introduced each year, spot new English words and create and define French alternatives before the English catches on.

In this way new words can be introduced that are similar to the English term without contaminating the French language (Colchester, 2009). A word needs to be approved by three organizations and then receive the government minister’s seal of approval before a word is certified to be a French equivalent; such a process can take years. According to Jamieson (2010) the French government replaces English words such as buzz for ramdam and chat for eblabla. The World Wide Web replaced with toil d’araignee which literally means global spider web (Colchester, 2009).

More recently New French internet terms have been introduced that reflect the times we live in are reseau meaning social-social network and mobinaute for mobile internet (Robert, 2011). In all, it is possible to conclude that although language is continuously changing it is wise that one establishes what language is appropriate for our dictionaries, and to keep what is “internet jargon” as common knowledge amongst individuals. If the English is to continue to evolve, one can argue that it is wise to have a discerning approach to the acceptance of words as the French do.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 19 September 2016

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