The study of the processes by means of which a language forms new words out of newly coined ( rare ) or already existing morphemes in the language.

Examples of processes of English word-formation are:

  • derivation
  • compounding
  • miscellaneous processes ( blending , clipping , acronymics , etc. )

A summary of word-formation processes in English can be found here: english_word-formation_processes.pdf

Word-Formation Process Basic Rule / Structure Examples
Primary word-formation, i.e. the coining of new words not based on existing material word-manufacture / root creation formation of a new word without morphological, phonological, orthographical motivation hoover, quark (from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake )
onomatopoeia words that reflect / imitate sounds swoosh, boing, gobbledegook
Secondary word-formation, i.e. from already existing morphemes of the language compounding 2 or more potentially free morphemes / roots are combined to form a new lexical unit. Semantic classification for compound nouns (relation head to cpd.): (1) endocentric compounds; (2) exocentric / bahuvrihi compounds; (3) appositional compounds; (4) copulative / dvandva compounds (1) houseboat – endocentric compound; (2) paleface (person) - exocentric / bahuvrihi compound; (3) girlfriend - the girl is a friend, the friend is a girl) - appositional cpd.; (4) Rank-Hovis, prince-consort (prince and consort at the same time)- copulative / dvandva compound
neo-classical combining / compounding at least one initial / final combining form ( ICF / FCF) (morphemes of Greek or Latinate origin) is combined with a free morpheme or another neo-classical combining form into a new lexical unit; -o- is often inserted to make a free English lexeme compatible with the Latinate or Greek combining form biology, television, bio-science, jazzophile
affixation: prefixation a prefix (bound morpheme) is added to the beginning of a free morpheme / word to form a new lexical unit unkind, remake - class-maintaining; befriend, ablaze, encage - class-changing
suffixation a suffix (bound morpheme) is added to the end of a free morpheme / word to form a new lexical unit national, friendship, brotherhood
back-formation a (diachronic) process where what appears to be a suffix is removed from a lexeme to form a new lexical item, usu. belonging to a different word-class. “Back-formation is the formation of a new lexeme by the deletion of a suffix, or supposed suffix, from an apparently complex form by analogy with other instances where the suffixed and non-suffixed forms are both lexemes.” Bauer, 1983: 64. to lase from laser (the device laser must have existed before a verb for the activity carried out by means of the device was formed), lech from lecher in analogy to love : lover
conversion “(…) the change of form class of a form without any corresponding change of form.” Bauer, 1983: 32. down (adverb: calm down, adj.: he was really down (= depressed) after meeting; prep.: he ran down the street, verb: he downed the beer, noun: he's had his ups and downs, the teacher has a down on him)
clipping “(…) process whereby a lexeme (simplex or complex) is shortened, while still retaining the same meaning and still being a member of the same form class.” ibid.: 233 which part of the lexeme is shortened is unpredictable back-clipping - mag from magazine; foreclipping - loid from celluloid, bus from omnibus; fore- and back-clipping - flu from influenza
blending “(…) a new lexeme formed from parts of two (or possibly more) other words in such a way there is no transparent analysis into morphs.” ibid.: 234 motel from motorist's hotel, shoat from sheep and goat, ballute from balloon and parachute
acronymics “(…) a word coined by taking the initial letters of the words in a title or phrase and using them as a new word.” ibid.: 237. The term acronym is used only when the sequence of letters can be pronounced as one word. NATO, laser, Wasp (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)
alphabetisation see acronym: but the letters are pronounced individually, not as a word. USA, USSR, REM, VIP