Word-Formation in English

Word-Formation in English

Word-Formation in English

Word-Formation in English

Synopsis

Providing an accessible introduction to the study of word-formation, this text focuses specifically on English. Assuming no prior linguistic knowledge, Ingo Plag explains the fundamentals of word-formation, demonstrating how morphemes--the elements of a word's internal structure--can function to relate words to other words, and to create new words. Students are encouraged to undertake their own morphological analysis of English words, and are introduced to the methodological tools for obtaining and analyzing relevant data.

Excerpt

The existence of words is usually taken for granted by the speakers of a language. To speak and understand a language means – among many other things – knowing the words of that language. The average speaker knows thousands of words, and new words enter our minds and our language on a daily basis. This book is about words. More specifically, it deals with the internal structure of complex words, i.e. words that are composed of more than one meaningful element. Take, for example, the very word meaningful, which could be argued to consist of two elements, meaning and -ful, or even three, mean, -ing, and -ful. We will address the question of how such words are related to other words and how the language allows speakers to create new words. For example, meaningful seems to be clearly related to colorful, but perhaps less so to awful or plentiful. And, given that meaningful may be paraphrased as ‘having (a definite) meaning,’ and colorful as ‘having (bright or many different) colors,’ we could ask whether it is also possible to create the word coffeeful, meaning ‘having coffee.’ Under the assumption that language is a rule-governed system, it should be possible to find meaningful answers to such questions.

This area of study is traditionally referred to as ‘word-formation’ and the present book is mainly concerned with word-formation in one particular language, English. As a textbook for an undergraduate readership it presupposes very little or no prior knowledge of linguistics and introduces and explains linguistic terminology and theoretical apparatus as we go along. Technical terms usually appear in bold print when first mentioned. Definitions of terms can be easily located via the subject index, in which the respective page numbers are given in bold print.

The purpose of the book is to enable the students to engage in (and enjoy!) their own analyses of English (or other languages’) complex words. After having worked with the book, the reader should be familiar with the necessary and most recent methodological tools to obtain relevant data (introspection, electronic text collections, various types of dictionaries, basic psycholinguistic experiments, internet resources), and able to systematically analyze their data and to relate their findings to theoretical problems and debates. The book is not written from the . . .

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