Types of shortenings and their function in modern english

The theoretical and practical value of english lexicology. The connection of lexicology with phonetics, stylistics, grammar. Substantivization of adjectives, criteria of semantic derivation. Syntactical classification of phraseological units, antonyms.

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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.

Seminar 2. Affixation

Bibliography: 1. .. . . 1986. ,pp.77-101

I. Answer the questions:

1.What are the ways of enriching vocabulary?

2.What is affixation?

3.What is the main function of a suffix?

4.What is the secondary function of a suffix?

5.What are the classifications of suffixes?

6.What are semi-suffixes?

7.What is prefixation?

8. What is the main function of a prefix?

9.What is the classification of prefixes?

10.What are the origins of prefixes?

11.What are the disputable issues concerning prefixes?

II. Analyze the following derived words, point out suffixes and prefixes and classify them from different points of view:

to embed nourishment unsystematic

to encourage inwardly to accompany

translatorese dispensable clannishness

to de-restrict workaholic jet-wise

reconstruction to overreach thoroughly

afterthought foundation childishness

transgressor to re-write completenik

gangsterdom pleasure concentration

refusenik counter-culture brinkmanship

allusion self-criticism to computerize

slimster reservation translation

III. Speak on the following topics:

1.Classification of suffixes according to the part of speech they form.

2.Classification of suffixes according to the stem they are added to.

3.Classification of suffixes according to their meaning.

4.Classification of suffixes according to their productivity.

5.Classification of suffixes according to their origin.

6.Classification of prefixes according to their meaning.

7.Classification of prefixes according to their origin.

8.Classification of prefixes according to their productivity.


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 hyphenated 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.

Ways of forming compound words.

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.

Classifications of English compounds.

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, sportsman),

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:

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 .

Seminar 3. Compound words

Bibliography: .. . . 1986, pp.77-101

I. Answer the questions:

II. Analyze the following compound words:

note-book speedometer son-in-law

to job-hop brain-gain video-corder

fair-haired forget-me-not Anglo-Russian

teach-in back-grounder biblio-klept

theatre-goer well-dressed bio-engineer

to book-hunt mini-term to baby-sit

blood-thirsty good-for-nothing throw-away

do-gooder skin-head kleptomania

sportsman para-trooper airbus

bus-napper cease-fire three-cornered

tip-top brain-drain bread-and-butter

III. Compare the structure of the following words:

demagougery tablewards heliport

tobbacoless money-wise non-formal

booketeria go-go motel

counter-clockwise to frontpage productivity

giver-away newly-created nobody

IV. Speak on the following topics:

1.Characteristic features of compound words in different languages.

2.Characteristic features of English compounds.

3.Classification of compound words according to their structure.

4.Classification of compound words according to the joining element.

5.Classification of compound words according to the parts of speech.

6.Classification of compound words according to the semantic relations between the components.

7. Ways of forming compound words.


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 paper,

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 .

Criteria of semantic derivation

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 to pen and to father denote an action, a process therefore the lexico-grammatical meanings of the stems do not coincide with the lexical meanings of the roots. The verbs have a complex semantic structure and they were converted from nouns.

2. If we compare a converted pair with a synonymic word pair which was formed by means of suffixation we can find out which of the pair is primary. This criterion can be applied only to nouns converted from verbs, e.g. chat n. and chat v. can be compared with conversation - converse.

3. The criterion based on derivational relations is of more universal character. In this case we must take a word-cluster of relative words to which the converted pair belongs. If the root stem of the word-cluster has suffixes added to a noun stem the noun is primary in the converted pair and vica versa, e.g. in the word-cluster : hand n., hand v., handy, handful the derived words have suffixes added to a noun stem, that is why the noun is primary and the verb is converted from it. In the word-cluster: dance n., dance v., dancer, dancing we see that the primary word is a verb and the noun is converted from it.

Substantivization of adjectives

Some scientists (Yespersen, Kruisinga ) refer substantivization of adjectives to conversion. But most scientists disagree with them because in cases of substantivization of adjectives we have quite different changes in the language. Substantivization is the result of ellipsis (syntactical shortening ) when a word combination with a semantically strong attribute loses its semantically weak noun (man, person etc), e.g. a grown-up person is shortened to a grown-up. In cases of perfect substantivization the attribute takes the paradigm of a countable noun , e.g. a criminal, criminals, a criminal's (mistake) , criminals' (mistakes). Such words are used in a sentence in the same function as nouns, e.g. I am fond of musicals. (musical comedies).

There are also two types of partly substantivized adjectives:

those which have only the plural form and have the meaning of collective nouns, such as: sweets, news, empties, finals, greens,

those which have only the singular form and are used with the definite article. They also have the meaning of collective nouns and denote a class, a nationality, a group of people, e.g. the rich, the English, the dead .

Stone wall combinations

The problem whether adjectives can be formed by means of conversion from nouns is the subject of many discussions. In Modern English there are a lot of word combinations of the type , e.g. price rise, wage freeze, steel helmet, sand castle etc.

If the first component of such units is an adjective converted from a noun, combinations of this type are free word-groups typical of English (adjective + noun). This point of view is proved by O. Yespersen by the following facts:

1. Stone denotes some quality of the noun wall.

2. Stone stands before the word it modifies, as adjectives in the function of an attribute do in English.

3. Stone is used in the Singular though its meaning in most cases is plural,and adjectives in English have no plural form.

4. There are some cases when the first component is used in the Comparative or the Superlative degree, e.g. the bottomest end of the scale.

5. The first component can have an adverb which characterizes it, and adjectives are characterized by adverbs, e.g. a purely family gathering.

6. The first component can be used in the same syntactical function with a proper adjective to characterize the same noun, e.g. lonely bare stone houses.

7. After the first component the pronoun one can be used instead of a noun, e.g. I shall not put on a silk dress, I shall put on a cotton one.

However Henry Sweet and some other scientists say that these criteria are not characterisitc of the majority of such units.

They consider the first component of such units to be a noun in the function of an attribute because in Modern English almost all parts of speech and even word-groups and sentences can be used in the function of an attribute, e.g. the then president (an adverb), out-of-the-way vilages (a word-group), a devil-may-care speed (a sentence).

There are different semantic relations between the components of stone wall combinations. E.I. Chapnik classified them into the following groups:

1. time relations, e.g. evening paper,

2. space relations, e.g. top floor,

3. relations between the object and the material of which it is made, e.g. steel helmet,

4. cause relations, e.g. war orphan,

5. relations between a part and the whole, e.g. a crew member,

6. relations between the object and an action, e.g. arms production,

7. relations between the agent and an action e.g. government threat, price rise,

8. relations between the object and its designation, e.g. reception hall,

9. the first component denotes the head, organizer of the characterized object, e.g. Clinton government, Forsyte family,

10. the first component denotes the field of activity of the second component, e.g. language teacher, psychiatry doctor,

11. comparative relations, e.g. moon face,

12. qualitative relations, e.g. winter apples.

Seminar 4. Conversion

Bibliography:1. .. . . 1986. ,pp.77-101

I. Answer the questions:

II. Analyze the following lexical units:

to eye a find to slim

a grown-up to airmail steel helmet

London season resit sleep

a flirt a read handout

to weekend a build-up supersonics

a non-formal to wireless to submarine

to blue-pencil to blind - the blind - blinds

distrust a jerk to radio

news have-nots the English

to co-author to water to winter

a sit-down mother-in-law morning star

undesirables a walk a find

dislike log cabin finals

III .Speak on the following topics :

Conversion as a way of wordbuilding.

Different points of view on the nature of conversion.

Semantic groups of verbs which can be converted from nouns.

The meanings of verbs converted from adjectives.

Semantic groups of nouns which can be converted from verbs.

Substantivised adjectives.

Characteristic features of combinations of the type stone wall.

Semantic groups of combinations of this type.


In the process of communication words and word-groups can be shortened. The causes of shortening can be linguistic and extra-linguistic. By extra-linguistic causes changes in the life of people are meant. In Modern English many new abbreviations, acronyms , initials, blends are formed because the tempo of life is increasing and it becomes necessary to give more and more information in the shortest possible time.

There are also linguistic causes of abbreviating words and word-groups, such as the demand of rhythm, which is satisfied in English by monosyllabic words. When borrowings from other languages are assimilated in English they are shortened. Here we have modification of form on the basis of analogy, e.g. the Latin borrowing fanaticus is shortened to fan on the analogy with native words: man, pan, tan etc.

There are two main types of shortenings : graphical and lexical.

Graphical abbreviations

Graphical abbreviations are the result of shortening of words and word-groups only in written speech while orally the corresponding full forms are used. They are used for the economy of space and effort in writing.

The oldest group of graphical abbreviations in English is of Latin origin. In Russian this type of abbreviation is not typical. In these abbreviations in the spelling Latin words are shortened, while orally the corresponding English equivalents are pronounced in the full form,e.g. for example (Latin exampli gratia), a.m. - in the morning (ante meridiem), No - number (numero), p.a. - a year (per annum), d - penny (dinarius), lb - pound (libra), i. e. - that is (id est) etc.

Some graphical abbreviations of Latin origin have different English equivalents in different contexts, e.g. p.m. can be pronounced in the afternoon (post meridiem) and after death (post mortem).

There are also graphical abbreviations of native origin, where in the spelling we have abbreviations of words and word-groups of the corresponding English equivalents in the full form. We have several semantic groups of them :

a) days of the week, e.g. Mon - Monday, Tue - Tuesday etc

b) names of months, e.g. Apr - April, Aug - August etc.

c) names of counties in UK, e.g. Yorks - Yorkshire, Berks -Berkshire etc

d) names of states in USA, e.g. Ala - Alabama, Alas - Alaska etc.

e) names of address, e.g. Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr. etc.

f) military ranks, e.g. capt. -captain, col. - colonel, sgt - sergeant etc.

g) scientific degrees, e.g. B.A. - Bachelor of Arts, D.M. - Doctor of Medicine . ( Sometimes in scientific degrees we have abbreviations of Latin origin, e.g., M.B. - Medicinae Baccalaurus).

h) units of time, length, weight, e.g. f. / ft -foot/feet, sec. - second, in. -inch, mg. - milligram etc.

The reading of some graphical abbreviations depends on the context, e.g. m can be read as: male, married, masculine, metre, mile, million, minute, l.p. can be read as long-playing, low pressure.

Initial abbreviations

Initialisms are the bordering case between graphical and lexical abbreviations. When they appear in the language, as a rule, to denote some new offices they are closer to graphical abbreviations because orally full forms are used, e.g. J.V. - joint venture. When they are used for some duration of time they acquire the shortened form of pronouncing and become closer to lexical abbreviations, e.g. BBC is as a rule pronounced in the shortened form.

In some cases the translation of initialisms is next to impossible without using special dictionaries. Initialisms are denoted in different ways. Very often they are expressed in the way they are pronounced in the language of their origin, e.g. ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States) is given in Russian as , SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) was for a long time used in Russian as , now a translation variant is used ( - ). This type of initialisms borrowed into other languages is preferable, e.g. UFO - , C - JV etc.

There are three types of initialisms in English:

a) initialisms with alphabetical reading, such as UK, BUP, CND etc

b) initialisms which are read as if they are words, e.g. UNESCO, UNO, NATO etc.

c) initialisms which coincide with English words in their sound form, such initialisms are called acronyms, e.g. CLASS (Computor-based Laboratory for Automated School System).

Some scientists unite groups b) and c) into one group which they call acronyms.

Some initialisms can form new words in which they act as root morphemes by different ways of wordbuilding:

a) affixation, e.g. AWALism, ex-rafer, ex- POW, to waafize, AIDSophobia etc.

b) conversion, e.g. to raff, to fly IFR (Instrument Flight Rules),

c) composition, e.g. STOLport, USAFman etc.

d) there are also compound-shortened words where the first component is an initial abbreviation with the alphabetical reading and the second one is a complete word, e.g. A-bomb, U-pronunciation, V -day etc. In some cases the first component is a complete word and the second component is an initial abbreviation with the alphabetical pronunciation, e.g. Three -Ds (Three dimensions) - .

Abbreviations of words

Abbreviation of words consists in clipping a part of a word. As a result we get a new lexical unit where either the lexical meaning or the style is different form the full form of the word. In such cases as fantasy and fancy, fence and defence we have different lexical meanings. In such cases as laboratory and lab, we have different styles.

Abbreviation does not change the part-of-speech meaning, as we have it in the case of conversion or affixation, it produces words belonging to the same part of speech as the primary word, e.g. prof is a noun and professor is also a noun. Mostly nouns undergo abbreviation, but we can also meet abbreviation of verbs, such as to rev from to revolve, to tab from to tabulate etc. But mostly abbreviated forms of verbs are formed by means of conversion from abbreviated nouns, e.g. to taxi, to vac etc. Adjectives can be abbreviated but they are mostly used in school slang and are combined with suffixation, e.g. comfy, dilly, mizzy etc. As a rule pronouns, numerals, interjections. conjunctions are not abbreviated. The exceptions are: fif (fifteen), teen-ager, in one's teens (apheresis from numerals from 13 to 19).

Lexical abbreviations are classified according to the part of the word which is clipped. Mostly the end of the word is clipped, because the beginning of the word in most cases is the root and expresses the lexical meaning of the word. This type of abbreviation is called apocope. Here we can mention a group of words ending in o, such as disco (dicotheque), expo (exposition), intro (introduction) and many others. On the analogy with these words there developed in Modern English a number of words where o is added as a kind of a suffix to the shortened form of the word, e.g. combo (combination) - , Afro (African) - etc. In other cases the beginning of the word is clipped. In such cases we have apheresis , e.g. chute (parachute), varsity (university), copter (helicopter) , thuse (enthuse) etc. Sometimes the middle of the word is clipped, e.g. mart (market), fanzine (fan magazine) maths (mathematics). Such abbreviations are called syncope. Sometimes we have a combination of apocope with apheresis,when the beginning and the end of the word are clipped, e.g. tec (detective), van (avanguard) etc.

Sometimes shortening influences the spelling of the word, e.g. c can be substituted by k before e to preserve pronunciation, e.g. mike (microphone), Coke (coca-cola) etc. The same rule is observed in the following cases: fax( facsimile), teck (technical college), trank (tranquilizer) etc. The final consonants in the shortened forms are substituded by letters characteristic of native English words.

Secondary ways of wordbuilding

Sound interchange is the way of word-building when some sounds are changed to form a new word. It is non-productive in Modern English, it was productive in Old English and can be met in other Indo-European languages.

The causes of sound interchange can be different. It can be the result of Ancient Ablaut which cannot be explained by the phonetic laws during the period of the language development known to scientists., e.g. to strike - stroke, to sing - song etc. It can be also the result of Ancient Umlaut or vowel mutation which is the result of palatalizing the root vowel because of the front vowel in the syllable coming after the root ( regressive assimilation), e.g. hot - to heat (hotian), blood - to bleed (blodian) etc.

In many cases we have vowel and consonant interchange. In nouns we have voiceless consonants and in verbs we have corresponding voiced consonants because in Old English these consonants in nouns were at the end of the word and in verbs in the intervocal position, e.g. bath - to bathe, life - to live, breath - to breathe etc.

Stress interchange

Stress interchange can be mostly met in verbs and nouns of Romanic origin : nouns have the stress on the first syllable and verbs on the last syllable, e.g. `accent - to ac`cent. This phenomenon is explained in the following way: French verbs and nouns had different structure when they were borrowed into English, verbs had one syllable more than the corresponding nouns. When these borrowings were assimilated in English the stress in them was shifted to the previous syllable (the second from the end) . Later on the last unstressed syllable in verbs borrowed from French was dropped (the same as in native verbs) and after that the stress in verbs was on the last syllable while in nouns it was on the first syllable. As a result of it we have such pairs in English as : to af`fix -`affix, to con`flict- `conflict, to ex`port -`export, to ex`tract - `extract etc. As a result of stress interchange we have also vowel interchange in such words because vowels are pronounced differently in stressed and unstressed positions.

Sound imitation

It is the way of word-building when a word is formed by imitating different sounds. There are some semantic groups of words formed by means of sound imitation

a) sounds produced by human beings, such as : to whisper, to giggle, to mumble, to sneeze, to whistle etc.

b) sounds produced by animals, birds, insects, such as : to hiss, to buzz, to bark, to moo, to twitter etc.

c) sounds produced by nature and objects, such as : to splash, to rustle, to clatter, to bubble, to ding-dong, to tinkle etc.

The corresponding nouns are formed by means of conversion, e.g. clang (of a bell), chatter (of children) etc.


Blends are words formed from a word-group or two synonyms. In blends two ways of word-building are combined : abbreviation and composition. To form a blend we clip the end of the first component (apocope) and the beginning of the second component (apheresis) . As a result we have a compound- shortened word. One of the first blends in English was the word smog from two synonyms : smoke and fog which means smoke mixed with fog. From the first component the beginning is taken, from the second one the end, o is common for both of them.

Blends formed from two synonyms are: slanguange, to hustle, gasohol etc. Mostly blends are formed from a word-group, such as : acromania (acronym mania), cinemadict (cinema adict), chunnel (channel, canal), dramedy (drama comedy), detectifiction (detective fiction), faction (fact fiction) (fiction based on real facts), informecial (information commercial) , Medicare ( medical care) , magalog ( magazine catalogue) slimnastics (slimming gymnastics), sociolite (social elite), slanguist ( slang linguist) etc.

Back formation

It is the way of word-building when a word is formed by dropping the final morpheme to form a new word. It is opposite to suffixation, that is why it is called back formation. At first it appeared in the languauge as a result of misunderstanding the structure of a borrowed word . Prof. Yartseva explains this mistake by the influence of the whole system of the language on separate words. E.g. it is typical of English to form nouns denoting the agent of the action by adding the suffix -er to a verb stem (speak- speaker). So when the French word beggar was borrowed into English the final syllable ar was pronounced in the same way as the English -er and Englishmen formed the verb to beg by dropping the end of the noun. Other examples of back formation are : to accreditate (from accreditation), to bach (from bachelor), to collocate (from collocation), to enthuse (from enthusiasm), to compute (from computer), to emote (from emotion) to reminisce ( from reminiscence) , to televise (from television) etc.

As we can notice in cases of back formation the part-of-speech meaning of the primary word is changed, verbs are formed from nouns.

Seminar 5. Shortenings and abbreviations

Bibliography: .. . . 1986. ,pp.77-101

1.Answer the questions:

II.Analyze the following lexical units:

aggro /aggression/ Algol / algorythmic language/

apex /eipeks/ - advanced purchased excursion/ payment for an excursion ninety days before the time of excursion/

A-day /announcement Day - day of announcing war/

AID / artifitial insemination by a donor/

AIDS / acquired immunity deficiency syndrome/

Ala / Alabama/ a.s.a.p. /as soon as possible/

bar-B-Q ,barb /barbecue/ to baby-sit / baby-sitter/

A-level /advanced level/ BC /birth certificate/

burger /hamberger/ Camford, Oxbridge

CALL /computer-assisted language learning/

CAT /computer-assisted training/

cauli / cauliflower/ COD / cash on delivery/

COBOL / k ubol/ /common business-oriented language/

co- ed comp /komp, k mp/ /accompaniment/

DINKY /double income ,no kids yet/

E-Day /entrance day //Common Market/ expo/exposition/

edbiz/ educational business/ el-hi / elementary and high

schools/, ex lib/ex libris/ /from the library of/

etc Euratom fax /facsimile/

G-7 / group of seven: GB, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Italy, Spain/. FORTRAN /formula translation/.

III.Speak on the following topics:

Lexical and graphical abbreviations,the main differences between them.

Types of graphical abbreviations.

Types of initias, peculiarities of their pronunciation.

Lexical shortenings of words, their reference to styles.

Compound-shortened words, their structural types.

Semantic changes

The meaning of a word can change in the course of time. Changes of lexical meanings can be proved by comparing contexts of different times. Transfer of the meaning is called lexico-semantic word-building. In such cases the outer aspect of a word does not change.

The causes of semantic changes can be extra-linguistic and linguistic, e.g. the change of the lexical meaning of the noun pen was due to extra-linguistic causes. Primarily pen comes back to the Latin word penna (a feather of a bird). As people wrote with goose pens the name was transferred to steel pens which were later on used for writing. Still later any instrument for writing was called a pen.

On the other hand causes can be linguistic, e.g. the conflict of synonyms when a perfect synonym of a native word is borrowed from some other language one of them may specialize in its meaning, e.g. the noun tide in Old English was polisemantic and denoted time, season, hour. When the French words time, season, hour were borrowed into English they ousted the word tide in these meanings. It was specialized and now means regular rise and fall of the sea caused by attraction of the moon. The meaning of a word can also change due to ellipsis, e.g. the word-group a train of carriages had the meaning of a row of carriages, later on of carriages was dropped and the noun train changed its meaning, it is used now in the function and with the meaning of the whole word-group.

Semantic changes have been classified by different scientists. The most complete classification was suggested by a German scientist Herman Paul in his work Prinzipien des Sprachgeschichte. It is based on the logical principle. He distiguishes two main ways where the semantic change is gradual ( specialization and generalization), two momentary conscious semantic changes (metaphor and metonymy) and also secondary ways: gradual (elevation and degradation), momentary (hyperbole and litote).


It is a gradual process when a word passes from a general sphere to some special sphere of communication, e.g. case has a general meaning circumstances in which a person or a thing is. It is specialized in its meaning when used in law (a law suit), in grammar (a form in the paradigm of a noun), in medicine (a patient, an illness). The difference between these meanings is revealed in the context.

The meaning of a word can specialize when it remains in the general usage. It happens in the case of the conflict between two absolute synonyms when one of them must specialize in its meaning to remain in the language, e.g. the native word meat had the meaning food, this meaning is preserved in the compound sweetmeats. The meaning edible flesh was formed when the word food, its absolute synonym, won in the conflict of absolute synonyms (both words are native). The English verb starve was specialized in its meaning after the Scandinavian verb die was borrowed into English. Die became the general verb with this meaning because in English there were the noun death and the adjective dead. Starve got the meaning to die of hunger.

The third way of specialization is the formation of Proper names from common nouns, it is often used in toponimics, e.g. the City - the business part of London, Oxford - university town in England, the Tower -originally a fortress and palace, later -a prison, now - a museum.

The fourth way of specialization is ellipsis. In such cases primaraly we have a word-group of the type attribute + noun, which is used constantly in a definite situation. Due to it the attribute can be dropped and the noun can get the meaning of the whole word-group, e.g. room originally meant space, this meaning is retained in the adjective roomy and word combinations: no room for, to take room, to take no room. The meaning of the word room was specialized because it was often used in the combinations: dining room, sleeping room which meant space for dining, space for sleeping.


It is a process contrary to specializaton, in such cases the meaning of a word becomes more general in the course of time.

The transfer from a concrete meaning to an abstract one is most frequent, e.g. ready (a derivative from the verb ridan - ride) meant prepared for a ride, now its meaning is prepared for anything. Journey was borrowed from French with the meaning one day trip, now it means a trip of any duration.

All auxiliary verbs are cases of generalization of their lexical meaning because they developed a grammatical meaning : have, be, do, shall , will when used as auxiliary verbs are devoid of their lexical meaning which they have when used as notional verbs or modal verbs, e.g. cf. I have several books by this writer and I have read some books by this author. In the first sentence the verb have has the meaning possess, in the second sentence it has no lexical meaning, its grammatical meaning is to form Present Perfect.


It is a transfer of the meaning on the basis of comparison. Herman Paul points out that metaphor can be based on different types of similarity:

a) similarity of shape, e.g. head (of a cabbage), bottleneck, teeth (of a saw, a comb);

b) similarity of position, e.g. foot (of a page, of a mountain), head (of a procession);

c) similarity of function, behaviour e.g. a whip (an official in the British Parliament whose duty is to see that members were present at the voting);

d) similarity of colour, e.g. orange, hazel, chestnut etc.

In some cases we have a complex similarity, e.g. the leg of a table has a similarity to a human leg in its shape, position and function.

Many metaphors are based on parts of a human body, e.g. an eye of a needle, arms and mouth of a river, head of an army.

A special type of metaphor is when Proper names become common nouns, e.g. philistine - a mercenary person, vandals - destructive people, a Don Juan - a lover of many women etc.


It is a transfer of the meaning on the basis of contiguity. There are different types of metonymy:

a) the mate metaphor rial of which an object is made may become the name of the object , e.g. a glass, boards, iron etc;

b) the name of the place may become the name of the people or of an object placed there, e.g. the House - members of Parliament, Fleet Street - bourgeois press, the White House - the Administration of the USA etc;

c) names of musical instruments may become names of musicians, e.g. the violin, the saxophone;

d) the name of some person may becom a common noun, e.g. boycott was originally the name of an Irish family who were so much disliked by their neighbours that they did not mix with them, sandwich was named after Lord Sandwich who was a gambler. He did not want to interrupt his game and had his food brought to him while he was playing cards between two slices of bread not to soil his fingers.

e) names of inventors very often become terms to denote things they invented, e.g. watt , om, rentgen etc

f) some geographical names can also become common nouns through metonymy, e.g. holland (linen fabrics), Brussels (a special kind of carpets) , china (porcelain) , astrachan ( a sheep fur) etc.


It is a transfer of the meaning when it becomes better in the course of time, e.g. knight originally meant a boy, then a young servant, then a military servant, then a noble man. Now it is a title of nobility given to outstanding people; marshal originally meant a horse man now it is the highest military rank etc.

It is a transfer of the meaning when it becomes worse in the course of time. It is usually connected with nouns denoting common people, e.g. villain originally meant working on a villa now it means a scoundrel.

It is a transfer of the meaning when the speaker uses exaggeration, e.g. to hate (doing something), (not to see somebody) for ages. Hyperbole is often used to form phraseological units, e.g. to make a mountain out of a molehill, to split hairs etc.

It is a transfer of the meaning when the speaker expresses affirmative with the negative or vica versa, e.g. not bad, no coward etc.


The vocabulary of a language is enriched not only by words but also by phraseological units. Phraseological units are word-groups that cannot be made in the process of speech, they exist in the language as ready-made units. They are compiled in special dictionaries. The same as words phraseological units express a single notion and are used in a sentence as one part of it. American and British lexicographers call such units idioms. We can mention such dictionaries as: L.Smith Words and Idioms, V.Collins A Book of English Idioms etc. In these dictionaries we can find words, peculiar in their semantics (idiomatic), side by side with word-groups and sentences. In these dictionaries they are arranged, as a rule, into different semantic groups.

Phraseological units can be classified according to the ways they are formed, according to the degree of the motivation of their meaning, according to their structure and according to their part-of-speech meaning.

Ways of forming phraseological units

A.V. Koonin classified phraseological units according to the way they are formed. He pointed out primary and secondary ways of forming phraseological units.

Primary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a unit is formed on the basis of a free word-group :

a) Most productive in Modern English is the formation of phraseological units by means of transferring the meaning of terminological word-groups, e.g. in cosmic technique we can point out the following phrases: launching pad in its terminological meaning is , in its transferred meaning - , to link up - c, in its tranformed meaning it means -;

b) a large group of phraseological units was formed from free word groups by transforming their meaning, e.g. granny farm - , Troyan horse - , ;

c) phraseological units can be formed by means of alliteration , e.g. a sad sack - , culture vulture - , , fudge and nudge - .

d) they can be formed by means of expressiveness, especially it is characteristic for forming interjections, e.g. My aunt!, Hear, hear ! etc

e) they can be formed by means of distorting a word group, e.g. odds and ends was formed from odd ends,

f) they can be formed by using archaisms, e.g. in brown study means in gloomy meditation where both components preserve their archaic meanings,

g) they can be formed by using a sentence in a different sphere of life, e.g. that cock won't fight can be used as a free word-group when it is used in sports (cock fighting ), it becomes a phraseological unit when it is used in everyday life, because it is used metaphorically,

h) they can be formed when we use some unreal image, e.g. to have butterflies in the stomach - , to have green fingers - - etc.

i) they can be formed by using expressions of writers or polititions in everyday life, e.g. corridors of power (Snow), American dream (Alby) locust years (Churchil) , the winds of change (Mc Millan).

Secondary ways of forming phraseological units are those when a phraseological unit is formed on the basis of another phraseological unit; they are:

a) conversion, e.g. to vote with one's feet was converted into vote with one's f eet;

b) changing the grammar form, e.g. Make hay while the sun shines is transferred into a verbal phrase - to make hay while the sun shines;

c) analogy, e.g. Curiosity killed the cat was transferred into Care killed the cat;

d) contrast, e.g. cold surgery - a planned before operation was formed by contrasting it with acute surgery, thin cat - a poor person was formed by contrasting it with fat cat;

e) shortening of proverbs or sayings e.g. from the proverb You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear by means of clipping the middle of it the phraseological unit to make a sow's ear was formed with the meaning .

f) borrowing phraseological units from other languages, either as translation loans, e.g. living space (German), to take the bull by the horns ( Latin) or by means of phonetic borrowings meche blanche (French), corpse d'elite (French), sotto voce (Italian) etc.

Phonetic borrowings among phraseological units refer to the bookish style and are not used very often.

Phraseological units can be classified according to the degree of motivation of their meaning. This classification was suggested by acad. V.V. Vinogradov for Russian phraseological units. He pointed out three types of phraseological units:

a) fusions where the degree of motivation is very low, we cannot guess the meaning of the whole from the meanings of its components, they are highly idiomatic and cannot be translated word for word into other languages, e.g. on Shank's mare - (on foot), at sixes and sevens - (in a mess) etc;

b) unities where the meaning of the whole can be guessed from the meanings of its components, but it is transferred (metaphorical or metonymical), e.g. to play the first fiddle ( to be a leader in something), old salt (experienced sailor) etc;

c) collocations where words are combined in their original meaning but their combinations are different in different languages, e.g. cash and carry - (self-service shop), in a big way (in great degree) etc.

Prof. A.I. Smirnitsky worked out structural classification of phraseological units, comparing them with words. He points out one-top units which he compares with derived words because derived words have only one root morpheme. He points out two-top units which he compares with compound words because in compound words we usually have two root morphemes.

Among one-top units he points out three structural types;

a) units of the type to give up (verb + postposition type), e.g. to art up, to back up, to drop out, to nose out, to buy into, to sandwich in etc.;

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