Word formation

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The word education is a subject matter of grammar , more precisely the linguistic morphology . Word formation is the term used to describe linguistic processes with which new complex words ( lexemes ) are generated on the basis of existing linguistic means. These linguistic means can be simple and complex words, morphemes , affixes and fugue elements . Word formation is one of the essential forms of vocabulary expansion, alongside a change in meaning and borrowing . As such, these are procedures oflexical innovation .

Word formation can be viewed from different angles. It can be examined from a diachronic or synchronic , semasiological (from form to meaning) or onomasiological (from meaning to form), and from a formal ( morphosyntactic ) or semantic perspective. In addition to traditional questions related to the language system (" langue "), a research direction that is more strongly oriented towards the use of language (" parole ") is emerging.

Classification options

Typically, word formation is classified according to the types of procedures (see below) that are available in a particular language to create new lexical forms. Alternatively, word formation processes can also be differentiated according to how far they are conventionalized or how productive they are.

With regard to the conventionality of individual word formations, one can distinguish the following properties:

spontaneously created, context-dependent opportunities ; The meaning can be derived from the components (e.g. wall moon, core concept )
formations entered into fixed vocabulary; often demotivated (e.g. moment, rule of thumb )
Systematically blocked formations, mostly through semantic regularities (e.g. * sleepable, * safe at the table, * error-sized ), but also lexically blocked (e.g. generally * stealer - but for rhetorical reasons in the saying “the stealer is as bad as the stealer "is formed).

Every newly formed word appears occasionally at first. In the case of customization, a newly formed word is usually reduced to one of its meanings. This process is called lexicalization . There are areas in which word formation and inflection overlap, especially in derivation . Participles, for example, often appear as usual and are often viewed as derivatives rather than inflected forms.

As far as productivity is concerned, there are two poles between which gradual distinctions can be made:

The word formation process is often used in contemporary language (e.g. -ung, -er, -bar )
The word formation process is not used in the present language, but was productive in the past (e.g. -t as in drive, -de as in joy )

These distinctions are about conventionality from two different perspectives. On the one hand, there is the conventionality of individual word formation products that are used occasionally or commonly. On the other hand, about processes that are productive or unproductive. Both distinctions focus on the lexical perspective and combine the synchronic and the diachronic perspective. From a morphological and semantic perspective, the methods are in the foreground of classification attempts.

Method of word formation

The problem of mutual language

The word formation procedures correspond to individual language rules and conventions and must therefore be classified separately for each language. Beyond that, however, the question arises whether there are cross-linguistic categories of word formation. In this context, Grzega (2002: 19) from an onomasiological perspective and Gévaudan (2007: 118ff.) From a typological perspective suggest the following abstract and cross-lingual categories:

  • Grammatical (categorical) change in lexical expressions (e.g. German race ← German race )
  • Extension of lexical expressions (e.g. German daily ← German day )
  • Combination of lexical expressions (e.g. German front door ← German door + German house )
  • Reduction of lexical expressions (e.g. German Hame ← German malicious )

Categories of word formation

The following traditional categories of word formation correspond to these general practices:

  • Conversion (grammatical or categorical change such as a change of part of speech without changing the form)
  • Derivation (derivation by expanding a lexical expression with an affix)
  • Composition (composition or combination of lexical expressions)

Some works on word formation, such as Lipka (1990), assume that the traditional category of conversion is a derivation with a so-called »zero affix«. This is inter alia with the analogy of formations such as Engl. clean-ø (verb) 'to clean' ← engl. clean (adjective) 'clean' and engl. legal-ize (verb) 'legalize' ← engl. legal (adjective) 'legal' justified. The consequence of this assumption is that the category of conversion disappears and the affected cases of word formation are classified as derivatives. In this context, Lipka speaks of »zero derivation«.

The traditionally less recognized cross-lingual category of reduction includes procedures of

Some word formation methods, which are to be subordinated to the above categories, are sometimes mentioned as separate methods:

  • Crosswords (also known as word mixing, word fusion, amalgamation or contamination). This is a specific form of the combination of lexical expressions (e.g. dt. Besserwessi ← dt. Besserwisser + dt. Wessi 'Westler (Berlinerisch und Ostdeutsch)'). See also Portmanteau word .
  • Even so-called formikonische words like bow legs represent a unique variant of the combination of lexical expressions of the compound word refers iconic in a constituent on a particular property. Iconic representation is a semantic process that is added to the morphosyntactic process of word formation. It is noticeable that a single letter functions as a constituent of a compound word, i.e. as a (metalinguistic) word (cf. the sentence “they look like an O ”, where O functions as a noun).
  • Loan word formation is the combination of word formation and borrowing (e.g. German make sense based on the example of English to make sense )
  • Reduplication is a morphological process in which sounds , syllables , words or parts of words can be repeated and partially modified, e.g. B. mess , mess or fuss .

In Gévaudan (2007) it is shown that the morphosyntactic methods of word formation can in principle also be combined with methods of semantic innovation and borrowing.

Word formation vs. lexical innovation

The following methods of lexical innovation definitely do not belong in the field of word formation:

  • Onomatopoeia ( onomatopoeia , sound imitation): This is where new forms emerge from supposed sound imitation (e.g. cuckoo ← [kukuk]).
  • New creation (word creation, original creation): for example Kelts for a beer brand.
  • Contraction (contraction): This is a morphosyntactic procedure that can remain without lexical effects.
  • Phono-semantic alignment : a disguised borrowing in which a foreign word is matched with a phonetically and semantically similar, already existing autochthonous root or such a word.

Units of word formation

To the procedures of morphological word formation include affixation with Suffixation , prefixation , Infigierung and Zirkumfigierung , the composition with their subgroups: pure composition (Substantivkomposita and adjective compounds) and the combined method of composition and suffixation.

The linguistic elements that are used to form new words are considered units of word formation:

Words are realized in texts as word forms : Son - the son's dog ; Man - the man must be helped; Men stand in the street.
Confixes are units that appear only in bound form in texts: ident-, geo-, dog-, thermo-, bio-, -phil . Confixes are mainly borrowed units. But also such local units as step-, Schwieger- and Zimper- are called confixes .
Word formation affix
Word formation affixes (also called derivatives ) are, in contrast to words, bound and, in contrast to words and confixes, do not have a basis; H. Affixes cannot form words with themselves: brave, encourage . The word formation affixes are divided into prefixes (un-, 'ur-), suffixes (-heit, -lich) and circumfixes ( ge… -e in Gerede ) according to their position .
Joint element
There is a joint between segmentable units, which is sometimes filled with a joint element : wedding cake, thermometer .
Unique unit
Former words (e.g. lind 'snake') are now out of date as independent units, but still appear tied to a certain other unit in compound words or explicit derivatives : Lindwurm, chimney, raspberry .

Causes of word formation

The expansion of the vocabulary requires the formation of words. The majority of all words arise through word formation, borrowings or word creations are less common . Reasons for the formation of words can be of various kinds.

Main reasons

  • Need for naming, d. H. the need to fill designation gaps
  • Need to create a new linguistic symbol (sewing machine, environmental protection)
  • Linguistic cultural causes as the starting point for word formation: asking - question, questioning, asking , asking, asking , questioning, questioning, questionable, unquestioning
  • Flexion gaps fill: snow - snow , coffee - coffee , parents - parent
  • Creating clarity: pen - bird pen, quill pen, spring spring

Specific reasons

  • Need to replace and supplement existing names.

Pragmatic reasons

  • Change of foreign workersForeignpeople with a migration background or nursing homeFeierabendheimretirement home

Language economy

Especially words with three or four syllables are often shortened if they are used frequently in a social environment or at work.

  • Familiar: Johannes - Hans , Elisabeth - Lisi
  • School: Homework - Ufzgi , Computer - Compi
  • Colloquially: operating theater - operating room , university - university

Expressiveness and expressiveness

  • cleansqueaky clean , reactionaryore reactionary .

Subjective causes

  • Targeted use in advertising: cuddly wool, super impact protection, super clean .
  • Striving to achieve a social revaluation: foreign workers vs. Guest workers , cleaners vs. cleaning woman


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Web links

Wiktionary: Word formation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Another, rather rare process is that of the new or original creation (cf. Fleischer & Barz 1995: 5f., Erben 1993: 18f.).
  2. Cf. Gévaudan 2007: 34f., 42–44. Another form of change is lexical depletion.
  3. See Elsen / Michel 2007 and 2011.
  4. The preceding asterisk denotes non-words.
  5. "German" is here an abbreviation for 'German'
  6. Ghil'ad Zuckermann (2005), "Phono-Semantic Alignment." In: Stefan Langer, Daniel Schnorbusch (ed.): Semantics in the Lexicon. Gunter Narr, Tübingen, pp. 223-267.