Рефераты. Lexicology of the English Language

developed so called block compounds, that is compound words which have a

uniting stress but a split spelling, such as «chat show», «pinguin suit»

etc. Such compound words can be easily mixed up with word-groups of the

type «stone wall», so called nominative binomials. Such linguistic units

serve to denote a notion which is more specific than the notion expressed

by the second component and consists of two nouns, the first of which is an

attribute to the second one. If we compare a nominative binomial with a

compound noun with the structure N+N we shall see that a nominative

binomial has no unity of stress. The change of the order of its components

will change its lexical meaning, e.g. «vid kid» is «a kid who is a video

fan» while «kid vid» means «a video-film for kids» or else «lamp oil»

means «oil for lamps» and «oil lamp» means «a lamp which uses oil for


Among language units we can also point out word combinations of

different structural types of idiomatic and non-idiomatic character, such

as «the first fiddle», «old salt» and «round table», «high road». There

are also sentences which are studied by grammarians.

Thus, we can draw the conclusion that in Modern English the following

language units can be mentioned: morphemes, splinters, words, nominative

binomials, non-idiomatic and idiomatic word-combinations, sentences.


Word-building is one of the main ways of enriching vocabulary. There are

four main ways of word-building in modern English: affixation,

composition, conversion, abbreviation. There are also secondary ways of

word-building: sound interchange, stress interchange, sound imitation,

blends, back formation.


Affixation is one of the most productive ways of word-building throughout

the history of English. It consists in adding an affix to the stem of a

definite part of speech. Affixation is divided into suffixation and



The main function of suffixes in Modern English is to form one part of

speech from another, the secondary function is to change the lexical

meaning of the same part of speech. ( e.g. «educate» is a verb, «educatee»

is a noun, and « music» is a noun, «musicdom» is also a noun) .

There are different classifications of suffixes :

1. Part-of-speech classification. Suffixes which can form different

parts of speech are given here :

a) noun-forming suffixes, such as : -er (criticizer), -dom (officialdom),

-ism (ageism),

b) adjective-forming suffixes, such as : -able (breathable), less

(symptomless), -ous (prestigious),

c) verb-forming suffixes, such as -ize (computerize) , -ify (micrify),

d) adverb-forming suffixes , such as : -ly (singly), -ward (tableward),

e) numeral-forming suffixes, such as -teen (sixteen), -ty (seventy).

2. Semantic classification . Suffixes changing the lexical meaning of

the stem can be subdivided into groups, e.g. noun-forming suffixes can


a) the agent of the action, e.g. -er (experimenter), -ist (taxist), -ent


b) nationality, e.g. -ian (Russian), -ese (Japanese), -ish (English),

c) collectivity, e.g. -dom (moviedom), -ry (peasantry, -ship

(readership), -ati ( literati),

d) diminutiveness, e.g. -ie (horsie), -let (booklet), -ling (gooseling),

-ette (kitchenette),

e) quality, e.g. -ness (copelessness), -ity (answerability).

3. Lexico-grammatical character of the stem. Suffixes which can be added

to certain groups of stems are subdivided into:

a) suffixes added to verbal stems, such as : -er (commuter), -ing

(suffering), - able (flyable), -ment (involvement), -ation


b) suffixes added to noun stems, such as : -less (smogless), ful

(roomful), -ism (adventurism), -ster (pollster), -nik (filmnik), -ish


c) suffixes added to adjective stems, such as : -en (weaken), -ly

(pinkly), -ish (longish), -ness (clannishness).

4. Origin of suffixes. Here we can point out the following groups:

a) native (Germanic), such as -er,-ful, -less, -ly.

b) Romanic, such as : -tion, -ment, -able, -eer.

c) Greek, such as : -ist, -ism, -ize.

d) Russian, such as -nik.

5. Productivity. Here we can point out the following groups:

a) productive, such as : -er, -ize, --ly, -ness.

b) semi-productive, such as : -eer, -ette, -ward.

c) non-productive , such as : -ard (drunkard), -th (length).

Suffixes can be polysemantic, such as : -er can form nouns with the

following meanings : agent,doer of the action expressed by the stem

(speaker), profession, occupation (teacher), a device, a tool

(transmitter). While speaking about suffixes we should also mention

compound suffixes which are added to the stem at the same time, such as

-ably, -ibly, (terribly, reasonably), -ation (adaptation from adapt).

There are also disputable cases whether we have a suffix or a root

morpheme in the structure of a word, in such cases we call such morphemes

semi-suffixes, and words with such suffixes can be classified either as

derived words or as compound words, e.g. -gate (Irangate), -burger

(cheeseburger), -aholic (workaholic) etc.


Prefixation is the formation of words by means of adding a prefix to the

stem. In English it is characteristic for forming verbs. Prefixes are more

independent than suffixes. Prefixes can be classified according to the

nature of words in which they are used : prefixes used in notional words

and prefixes used in functional words. Prefixes used in notional words are

proper prefixes which are bound morphemes, e.g. un- (unhappy). Prefixes

used in functional words are semi-bound morphemes because they are met in

the language as words, e.g. over- (overhead) ( cf over the table ).

The main function of prefixes in English is to change the lexical meaning

of the same part of speech. But the recent research showed that about

twenty-five prefixes in Modern English form one part of speech from another

(bebutton, interfamily, postcollege etc).

Prefixes can be classified according to different principles :

1. Semantic classification :

a) prefixes of negative meaning, such as : in- (invaluable), non-

(nonformals), un- (unfree) etc,

b) prefixes denoting repetition or reversal actions, such as: de-

(decolonize), re- (revegetation), dis- (disconnect),

c) prefixes denoting time, space, degree relations, such as : inter-

(interplanetary) , hyper- (hypertension), ex- (ex-student), pre- (pre-

election), over- (overdrugging) etc.

2. Origin of prefixes:

a) native (Germanic), such as: un-, over-, under- etc.

b) Romanic, such as : in-, de-, ex-, re- etc.

c) Greek, such as : sym-, hyper- etc.

When we analyze such words as : adverb, accompany where we can find the

root of the word (verb, company) we may treat ad-, ac- as prefixes though

they were never used as prefixes to form new words in English and were

borrowed from Romanic languages together with words. In such cases we can

treat them as derived words. But some scientists treat them as simple

words. Another group of words with a disputable structure are such as :

contain, retain, detain and conceive, receive, deceive where we can see

that re-, de-, con- act as prefixes and -tain, -ceive can be understood as

roots. But in English these combinations of sounds have no lexical meaning

and are called pseudo-morphemes. Some scientists treat such words as simple

words, others as derived ones.

There are some prefixes which can be treated as root morphemes by some

scientists, e.g. after- in the word afternoon. American lexicographers

working on Webster dictionaries treat such words as compound words. British

lexicographers treat such words as derived ones.


Composition is the way of wordbuilding when a word is formed by joining

two or more stems to form one word. The structural unity of a compound

word depends upon : a) the unity of stress, b) solid or hyphonated

spelling, c) semantic unity, d) unity of morphological and syntactical

functioning. These are charachteristic features of compound words in all

languages. For English compounds some of these factors are not very

reliable. As a rule English compounds have one uniting stress (usually on

the first component), e.g. hard-cover, best-seller. We can also have a

double stress in an English compound, with the main stress on the first

component and with a secondary stress on the second component, e.g. blood-

vessel. The third pattern of stresses is two level stresses, e.g. snow-

white,sky-blue. The third pattern is easily mixed up with word-groups

unless they have solid or hyphonated spelling.

Spelling in English compounds is not very reliable as well because they

can have different spelling even in the same text, e.g. war-ship, blood-

vessel can be spelt through a hyphen and also with a break, iinsofar,

underfoot can be spelt solidly and with a break. All the more so that there

has appeared in Modern English a special type of compound words which are

called block compounds, they have one uniting stress but are spelt with a

break, e.g. air piracy, cargo module, coin change, pinguin suit etc.

The semantic unity of a compound word is often very strong. In such cases

we have idiomatic compounds where the meaning of the whole is not a sum of

meanings of its components, e.g. to ghostwrite, skinhead, brain-drain etc.

In nonidiomatic compounds semantic unity is not strong, e. g., airbus, to

bloodtransfuse, astrodynamics etc.

English compounds have the unity of morphological and syntactical

functioning. They are used in a sentence as one part of it and only one

component changes grammatically, e.g. These girls are chatter-boxes.

«Chatter-boxes» is a predicative in the sentence and only the second

component changes grammatically.

There are two characteristic features of English compounds:

a) Both components in an English compound are free stems, that is they

can be used as words with a distinctive meaning of their own. The sound

pattern will be the same except for the stresses, e.g. «a green-house» and

«a green house». Whereas for example in Russian compounds the stems are

bound morphemes, as a rule.

b) English compounds have a two-stem pattern, with the exception of

compound words which have form-word stems in their structure, e.g. middle-

of-the-road, off-the-record, up-and-doing etc. The two-stem pattern

distinguishes English compounds from German ones.


Compound words in English can be formed not only by means of composition

but also by means of :

a) reduplication, e.g. too-too, and also by means of reduplicatin

combined with sound interchange , e.g. rope-ripe,

b) conversion from word-groups, e.g. to micky-mouse, can-do, makeup etc,

c) back formation from compound nouns or word-groups, e.g. to

bloodtransfuse, to fingerprint etc ,

d) analogy, e.g. lie-in ( on the analogy with sit-in) and also phone-in,

brawn-drain (on the analogy with brain-drain) etc.


1. According to the parts of speech compounds are subdivided into:

a) nouns, such as : baby-moon, globe-trotter,

b) adjectives, such as : free-for-all, power-happy,

c) verbs, such as : to honey-moon, to baby-sit, to henpeck,

d) adverbs, such as: downdeep, headfirst,

e) prepositions, such as: into, within,

f) numerals, such as : fifty-five.

2. According to the way components are joined together compounds are

divided into:

a) neutral, which are formed by joining together two stems without any

joining morpheme, e.g. ball-point, to windowshop,

b) morphological where components are joined by a linking element :

vowels «o» or «i» or the consonant «s», e.g. {«astrospace», «handicraft»,


c) syntactical where the components are joined by means of form-word

stems, e.g. here-and-now, free-for-all., do-or-die .

3. According to their structure compounds are subdivided into:

a) compound words proper which consist of two stems, e.g. to job-hunt,

train-sick, go-go, tip-top ,

b) derivational compounds, where besides the stems we have affixes, e.g.

ear-minded, hydro-skimmer,

c) compound words consisting of three or more stems, e.g. cornflower-

blue, eggshell-thin, singer-songwriter,

d) compound-shortened words, e.g. boatel, tourmobile, VJ-day, motocross,

intervision, Eurodollar, Camford.

4. According to the relations between the components compound words are

subdivided into :

a) subordinative compounds where one of the components is the semantic

and the structural centre and the second component is subordinate; these

subordinative relations can be different:

with comparative relations, e.g. honey-sweet, eggshell-thin, with

limiting relations, e.g. breast-high, knee-deep, with emphatic relations,

e.g. dog-cheap, with objective relations, e.g. gold-rich, with cause

relations, e.g. love-sick, with space relations, e.g. top-heavy, with time

relations, e.g. spring-fresh, with subjective relations, e.g. foot-sore etc

b) coordinative compounds where both components are semantically

independent. Here belong such compounds when one person (object) has two

functions, e.g. secretary-stenographer, woman-doctor, Oxbridge etc. Such

compounds are called additive. This group includes also compounds formed by

means of reduplication, e.g. fifty-fifty, no-no, and also compounds formed

with the help of rhythmic stems (reduplication combined with sound

interchange) e.g. criss-cross, walkie-talkie.

5. According to the order of the components compounds are divided into

compounds with direct order, e.g. kill-joy, and compounds with indirect

order, e.g. nuclear-free, rope-ripe .


Conversion is a characteristic feature of the English word-building

system. It is also called affixless derivation or zero-suffixation. The

term «conversion» first appeared in the book by Henry Sweet «New English

Grammar» in 1891. Conversion is treated differently by different

scientists, e.g. prof. A.I. Smirntitsky treats conversion as a

morphological way of forming words when one part of speech is formed from

another part of speech by changing its paradigm, e.g. to form the verb «to

dial» from the noun «dial» we change the paradigm of the noun (a

dial,dials) for the paradigm of a regular verb (I dial, he dials, dialed,

dialing). A. Marchand in his book «The Categories and Types of Present-day

English» treats conversion as a morphological-syntactical word-building

because we have not only the change of the paradigm, but also the change of

the syntactic function, e.g. I need some good paper for my room. (The noun

«paper» is an object in the sentence). I paper my room every year. (The

verb «paper» is the predicate in the sentence).

Conversion is the main way of forming verbs in Modern English. Verbs can

be formed from nouns of different semantic groups and have different

meanings because of that, e.g.

a) verbs have instrumental meaning if they are formed from nouns denoting

parts of a human body e.g. to eye, to finger, to elbow, to shoulder etc.

They have instrumental meaning if they are formed from nouns denoting

tools, machines, instruments, weapons, e.g. to hammer, to machine-gun, to

rifle, to nail,

b) verbs can denote an action characteristic of the living being denoted

by the noun from which they have been converted, e.g. to crowd, to wolf,

to ape,

c) verbs can denote acquisition, addition or deprivation if they are

formed from nouns denoting an object, e.g. to fish, to dust, to peel, to


d) verbs can denote an action performed at the place denoted by the noun

from which they have been converted, e.g. to park, to garage, to bottle, to

corner, to pocket,

e) verbs can denote an action performed at the time denoted by the noun

from which they have been converted e.g. to winter, to week-end .

Verbs can be also converted from adjectives, in such cases they denote

the change of the state, e.g. to tame (to become or make tame) , to clean,

to slim etc.

Nouns can also be formed by means of conversion from verbs. Converted

nouns can denote:

a) instant of an action e.g. a jump, a move,

b) process or state e.g. sleep, walk,

c) agent of the action expressed by the verb from which the noun has been

converted, e.g. a help, a flirt, a scold ,

d) object or result of the action expressed by the verb from which the

noun has been converted, e.g. a burn, a find, a purchase,

e) place of the action expressed by the verb from which the noun has been

converted, e.g. a drive, a stop, a walk.

Many nouns converted from verbs can be used only in the Singular form and

denote momentaneous actions. In such cases we have partial conversion. Such

deverbal nouns are often used with such verbs as : to have, to get, to take

etc., e.g. to have a try, to give a push, to take a swim .


In cases of conversion the problem of criteria of semantic derivation

arises : which of the converted pair is primary and which is converted from

it. The problem was first analized by prof. A.I. Smirnitsky. Later on P.A.

Soboleva developed his idea and worked out the following criteria:

1. If the lexical meaning of the root morpheme and the lexico-grammatical

meaning of the stem coincide the word is primary, e.g. in cases pen - to

pen, father - to father the nouns are names of an object and a living

being. Therefore in the nouns «pen» and «father» the lexical meaning of the

root and the lexico-grammatical meaning of the stem coincide. The verbs

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