Modern English Word-Formation

  The first principle of classification that, one might say, suggests itself is the part of speech formed. Within the scope

Modern English Word-Formation

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the base built either on adjectival stems or present and past participle, e.g. unknown, unsmiling, untold, etc.


  1. Semantically prefixes fall into mono and polysemantic.


  1. As to the generic denotational meaning there are different groups that are distinguished in linguistic literature: (a) negative prefixes such as un, non, in, dis, a, im/in/ir (e.g. employment unemployment, politician non-politician, correct incorrect, advantage disadvantage, moral amoral, legal illegal, etc.); (b) reversative of privative prefixes, such as un, de, dis, dis (e.g. tie untie, centralize decentralize, connect disconnect, etc.); (c) pejorative prefixes, such as mis, mal, pseudo (e.g. calculate miscalculate, function malfunction, scientific pseudo-scientific, etc.); (d) prefixes of time and order, such as fore, pre, post, ex (e.g. see foresee, war pre-war, Soviet post-Soviet, wife ex-wife, etc.); (e) prefix of repetition re (e.g. do redo, type retype, etc.); (f) locative prefixes such as super, sub, inter, trans (e.g. market supermarket, culture subculture, national international, Atlantic trans-Atlantic, etc.).


  1. When viewed from the angle of their stylistic reference, English prefixes fall into those characterized by neutral stylistic reference and those possessing quite a definite stylistic value. As no exhaustive lexico-stylistic classification of English prefixes has yet been suggested, a few examples can only be adduced here. There is no doubt, for instance, that prefixes like un, out, over, re, under and some others can be qualified as neutral (e. g. unnatural, unlace, outgrow, override, redo, underestimate, etc.). On the other hand, one can hardly fail to perceive the literary-bookish character of such prefixes as pseudo, super, ultra, uni, bi and some others (e. g. pseudo-classical, superstructure, ultra-violence, unilateral, bifocal, etc.).


Sometimes one comes across pairs of prefixes one of which is neutral, the other is stylistically coloured. One example will suffice here: the prefix over occurs in all functional styles, the prefix super is peculiar to the style of scientific prose.


  1. Prefixes may be also classified as to the degree of productivity into highly-productive, productive and non-productive.


Suffixation is the formation of words with the help of suffixes. Suffixes usually modify the lexical meaning of the base and transfer words to a different part of speech. There are suffixes however, which do not shift words from one part of speech into another; a suffix of this kind usually transfers a word into a different semantic group, e. g. a concrete noun becomes an abstract one, as is the case with childchildhood, friendfriendship, etc.


Chains of suffixes occurring in derived words having two and more suffixal morphemes are sometimes referred to in lexicography as compound suffixes: ably = able + ly (e. g. profitably, unreasonably) ically = ic + al + ly (e. g. musically, critically); ation = ate + ion (e. g. fascination, isolation) and some others. Compound suffixes do not always present a mere succession of two or more suffixes arising out of several consecutive stages of derivation. Some of them acquire a new quality operating as a whole unit. Let us examine from this point of view the suffix ation in words like fascination, translation, adaptation and the like. Adaptation looks at first sight like a parallel to fascination, translation. The latter however are first-degree derivatives built with the suffix ion on the bases fascinate, translate. But there is no base adaptate, only the shorter base adapt. Likewise damnation, condemnation, formation, information and many others are not matched by shorter bases ending in ate, but only by still shorter ones damn, condemn, form, inform. Thus, the suffix ation is a specific suffix of a composite nature. It consists of two suffixes ate and ion, but in many cases functions as a single unit in first-degree derivatives. It is referred to in linguistic literature as a coalescent suffix or a group suffix. Adaptation is then a derivative of the first degree of derivation built with the coalescent suffix on the base adapt.


Of interest is also the group-suffix manship consisting of the suffixes man and ship. It denotes a superior quality, ability of doing something to perfection, e. g. authormanship, quotemanship, lipmanship, etc.


It also seems appropriate to make several remarks about the morphological changes that sometimes accompany the process of combining derivational morphemes with bases. Although this problem has been so far insufficiently investigated, some observations have been made and some data collected. For instance, the noun-forming suffix ess for names of female beings brings about a certain change in the phonetic shape of the correlative male noun provided the latter ends in er, or, e.g. actress (actor), sculptress (sculptor), tigress (tiger), etc. It may be easily observed that in such cases the sound [∂] is contracted in the feminine nouns.


Further, there are suffixes due to which the primary stress is shifted to the syllable immediately preceding them, e.g. courageous (courage), stability (stable), investigation (investigate), peculiarity (peculiar), etc. When added to a base having the suffix able/ible as its component, the suffix ity brings about a change in its phonetic shape, namely the vowel [i] is inserted between [b] and [l], e. g. possible possibility, changeable changeability, etc. Some suffixes attract the primary stress on to themselves, there is a secondary stress on the first syllable in words with such suffixes, e. g. 'employ'ee (em'ploy), govern'mental (govern), 'pictu'resque (picture).


There are different classifications of suffixes in linguistic literature, as suffixes may be divided into several groups according to different principles:


  1. The first principle of classification that, one might say, suggests itself is the part of speech formed. Within the scope of the part-of-speech classification suffixes naturally fall into several groups such as:
  2. noun-suffixes, i.e. those forming or occurring in nouns, e. g. er, dom, ness, ation, etc. (teacher, Londoner, freedom, brightness, justification, etc.);
  3. adjective-suffixes, i.e. those forming or occurring in adjectives, e. g. able, less, ful, ic, ous, etc. (agreeable, careless, doubtful, poetic, courageous, etc.);
  4. verb-suffixes, i.e. those forming or occurring in verbs, e. g. en, fy, ize (darken, satisfy, harmonize, etc.);
  5. adverb-suffixes, i.e. those forming or occurring in adverbs, e. g. ly, ward (quickly, eastward, etc.).
  6. Suffixes may also be classified into various groups according to the lexico-grammatical character of the base the affix is usually added to. Proceeding from this principle one may divide suffixes into:
  7. deverbal suffixes (those added to the verbal base), e. g. er, ing, ment, able, etc. (speaker, reading, agreement, suitable, etc.);
  8. denominal suffixes (those added to the noun base), e. g. less, ish, ful, ist, some, etc. (handless, childish, mouthful, violinist, troublesome, etc.);
  9. de-adjectival suffixes (those affixed to the adjective base), e. g. en, ly, ish, ness, etc. (blacken, slowly, reddish, brightness, etc.).
  10. A classification of suffixes may also be based on the criterion of sense expressed by a set of suffixes. Proceeding from this principle suffixes are classified into various groups within the bounds of a certain part of speech. For instance, noun-suffixes fall into those denoting:
  11. the agent of an action, e. g. er, ant (baker, dancer, defendant, etc.);
  12. appurtenance, e. g. an, ian, ese, etc. (Arabian, Elizabethan, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.);
  13. collectivity, e. g. age, dom, ery (ry), etc. (freightage, officialdom, peasantry, etc.);
  14. diminutiveness, e. g. ie, let, ling, etc. (birdie, girlie, cloudlet, squirreling, wolfing, etc.).
  15. Still another classification of suffixes may be worked out if one examines them from the angle of stylistic reference. Just like prefixes, suffixes are also characterized by quite a definite stylistic reference falling into two basic classes:
  16. those characterized by n

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