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ELE 3103 English For Language Teachers

Word Structure Word Formation Processes


Word Structure

The admissible arrangement of sounds in words The academic study of the structure and form of words is called morphology including inflection, derivation, and the formation of compounds At the basic level, words are made of "morphemes." These are the smallest units of meaning: roots and affixes (prefixes and suffixes). (Refer lecture on morphology)

Word Formation

Word formation is the creation of a new word. Some different types of word formation are:

Derivation Compounding Back formation Clippings Eponyms Acronyms Blends Onomatopoeia


Derivation is used to form new words. It is when words have been developed or produced from another word, as with happiness and un-happy from happy or determination from determine. Another kind of affix is used in order to form variants of the same words, as with determine/determining/determin-ed.

Some common affixes in English are:

(Thornbury, S. An A-Z of ELT, 2006)


affix inimilunmis sub re -ship -ify -ise, -ize -ish -ation -er, -or -able/ -ible -ly

meaning not

added to adjectives

example Insane Impure Illiterate unclear mislead subway rewrite friendship simplify, beautify nationalize warmish exploration teacher, actor drinkable 5 slowly


wrongly beneath again, back status, condition causative process somewhat state, action actor ability in the manner

verbs nouns, adjectives, verbs verbs nouns adjectives and nouns nouns, adjectives adjectives verbs verbs verbs adjectives

Derivational Suffix

Applied to words and change them into words of another category e.g. the derivational suffix ly changes adjective into adverbs (slow slowly). Some other examples are

adjective to- noun: -ness (slow slowness) adjective to-verb: -ise (modern modernise) noun-to-adjective: -al (recreation recreational) noun-to-verb: -fy (glory glorify) verb- to-adjective: -able (drink drinkable) 6

Derivational Suffix

Some examples:

adjective to- noun: -ness (slow slowness) adjective to-verb: -ise (modern modernise) noun-to-adjective: -al (recreation recreational) noun-to-verb: -fy (glory glorify) verb- to-adjective: -able (drink drinkable) verb-to-noun (abstract): -ance (deliver deliverance) 7 verb-to-noun (concrete): --er (write-writer)

Derivational Prefix

A prefix (write re-write; lord overlord) will rarely change category in English. The derivational prefix un- applies to adjectives (healthy unhealthy), some verbs (do undo), but rarely nouns.

Derivational Prefix

A few exceptions are the prefixes en- and be-. En- (em-) is usually used as a transitive marker on verbs, but can also be applied to adjectives and nouns to form transitive verb: circle (verb) encircle (verb); but rich (adj) enrich (verb), large (adj) enlarge (verb), rapture (noun) enrapture (verb), slave (noun) enslave(verb).


Compounding is when two or more words are joined together to form a new word as with home + work homework and pick + pocket pickpocket. Some compounds are written as single words. There are shown as headwords in the dictionary. The pronunciation and stress for these words are given in the normal way.



For example: housework. Some are written as separate words, for example black belt, or hyphenated words, for example sister-in-law. Usually the main stress of these compounds is on the first word but the dictionary will tell you by showing the stress marks


Some examples of compound words shortbread newsprint tail like tail light daisy wheel teapot fishbowl waistline warm-blooded thick-skinned


Back-formation is a word formed by removing or changing the beginning or end of a word that already exist. For example, cheeseburger is a back-formation from hamburger. Another example is the noun resurrection was borrowed from Latin, and the verb resurrect was then back formed hundreds of years later from it by removing the -ion suffix.


This segmentation of resurrection into resurrect + ion was possible because English had many examples of Latinate words that had verb and verb+-ion pairs in these pairs the ion suffix is added to verb forms in order to create nouns (such as, insert/insertion, project/projection, etc.). Other examples include editor (1649) edit (1791), television (1907) televise (1927)


Televisionhas given televise on the model of revise/revision, and donation has given donate on the model of relate/relation. Babysitter and stage manager have given babysit and stage manage for obvious reasons. More remote was the surprising lase from laser (the latter an acronym for 'lightwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation'), recorded from 1966. The French word liaison came into English with its modern meaning 'interrelation' in the early nineteenth century; a liaison officer is the go-between who represents one military group to another."

(W.F. Bolton, A Living Language: The History and Structure of English, Random House, 1982)



Clipping is one of the ways new words are created in English. It involves the shortening of a longer word, often reducing it to one syllable. Many examples are very informal or slang. Some examples are ad from advertisement, maths from mathematics and bro from brother.



Definition: Shortening a polysyllabic word by deleting one or more syllables Examples: Facsimile fax Hamburger burger Gasoline Advertisement Omnibus


Eponym is a word derived from the name of a real, fictional, mythical or spurious character or person. Most eponyms originate from a persons surname: boycott, for instance, from the Irish landlord Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott; dahlia from the Swedish botanist Anders Dahl; the sousaphone, from the American bandmaster John Philip Sousa; and volt, from the Italian physicist Count Alessandro Volta. 18


cardigan: a knitted garment, such as a sweater or jacket, that opens down the full length of the front. Named after the Seventh Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell (1797 1868), a British army officer. maverick: one who refuses to abide by the dictates of a group; a dissenter. Possibly after Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803 1870), an American lawyer and cattleman who left the calves in his herd unbranded. sandwich: named after John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich (17181792), a British politician.



Acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WHO for World Health Organisation, of by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio detecting and ranging. Words derive from the initial of several words

severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus SCUBA


Other examples of Acronyms:

b) c)

e) f) g)

Radar FYI TGIF a.k.a Html www SWOT

a) b) c) d) e) f) g)

Radio detecting and ranging For Your Information Thanks God Its Friday also known as Hypertext mark-up language World wide web Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats


Blending is one of the many ways new words are made in English. It refers to joining the beginning of one word and the end of another to make a new word with a new meaning. Example Smog, from smoke and fog, and brunch, from breakfast and lunch, are examples of blends.

7. Onomatopoeia

Definition: Words created to sound like the thing that they name. Japanese Tagalog Indonesian


Cock-a-doo Kokekokko Kuk-kakauk Kukuruyuk





Think of an example in the Malaysian context



I'm getting married in the morning! Ding dong! the bells are gonna chime." (Lerner and Loewe, "Get Me to the Church on Time," My Fair Lady) "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is." (slogan of Alka Seltzer, U.S.)

"Plink, plink, fizz, fizz" (Alka Seltzer, U.K.) "Klunk! Klick! Every trip" (U.K. promotion for seat belts)

"Bang! went the pistol, Crash! went the window


Now try the exercise that is given

Thank you