Lexicology of the English Language

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Splinters have only one function in English: they serve to change the lexical meaning of the same part of speech, whereas prefixes and suffixes can also change the part-of-speech meaning , e.g. the prefix en- and its allomorph em can form verbs from noun and adjective stems (embody, enable, endanger), be- can form verbs from noun and adjective stems (becloud, benumb), post- and pre- can form adjectives from noun stems (pre-election campaign, post-war events). The main function of suffixes is to form one part of speech from another part of speech, e.g. -er, -ing, -ment form nouns from verbal stems (teacher, dancing, movement), -ness, -ity are used to form nouns from adjective stems (clannishnes, marginality).

According to the nature and the number of morphemes constituting a word there are different structural types of words in English: simple, derived, compound, compound-derived.

Simple words consist of one root morpheme and an inflexion (in many cases the inflexion is zero), e.g. seldom, chairs, longer, asked.

Derived words consist of one root morpheme, one or several affixes and an inlexion, e.g. deristricted, unemployed.

Compound words consist of two or more root morphemes and an inflexion, e.g. baby-moons, wait-and-see (policy).

Compound-derived words consist of two or more root morphemes, one or more affixes and an inflexion, e.g. middle-of-the-roaders, job-hopper.

When speaking about the structure of words stems also should be mentioned. The stem is the part of the word which remains unchanged throughout the paradigm of the word, e.g. the stem hop can be found in the words: hop, hops, hopped, hopping. The stem hippie can be found in the words: hippie, hippies, hippies, hippies. The stem job-hop can be found in the words : job-hop, job-hops, job-hopped, job-hopping.

So stems, the same as words, can be simple, derived, compound and compound-derived. Stems have not only the lexical meaning but also grammatical (part-of-speech) meaning, they can be noun stems (girl in the adjective girlish), adjective stems (girlish in the noun girlishness), verb stems (expell in the noun expellee) etc. They differ from words by the absence of inflexions in their structure, they can be used only in the structure of words.

Sometimes it is rather difficult to distinguish between simple and derived words, especially in the cases of phonetic borrowings from other languages and of native words with blocked (unique) root morphemes, e.g. perestroika, cranberry, absence etc.

As far as words with splinters are concerned it is difficult to distinguish between derived words and compound-shortened words. If a splinter is treated as an affix (or a semi-affix) the word can be called derived , e.g.-, telescreen, maxi-taxi , shuttlegate, cheeseburger. But if the splinter is treated as a lexical shortening of one of the stems , the word can be called compound-shortened word formed from a word combination where one of the components was shortened, e.g. busnapper was formed from bus kidnapper, minijet from miniature jet.

In the English language of the second half of the twentieth century there 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 burning.

: 21/06/2009