Coinage

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Fromkin, V. and R. Rodman. (1993) An Introduction to Language. Harcourt Brace Publishers. USA.


Word Coinage

We have seen that new words may be added to the vocabulary of a language by derivational processes. New words may also enter a language in a variety of other ways. Some are created outright to fit some purpose. Madison Avenue has added many new words to English, such as Kodak,nylon, Orlon, and Dacron. Specific brand names such as Xerox, Kleenex, Jell-O, Frigidaire, Brillo, and Vaseline are now sometimes used as the generic name for different brands of these types of products. Notice that some of these words were created from existing words: Kleenex from the word clean and Jell-O from gel, for example.

Greek roots borrowed into English have also provided a means forcoining new words. Thermos "hot" plus metron "measure" give us thermometer. From akros "topmost" and phobia "fear" we get acrophobia, "dread of heights."

Latin, like Greek, has also provided prefixes and suffixes that are used productively with both native and nonnative roots. The prefix ex- comes from Latin:


|ex-husband |ex-wife |ex-sister-in-Iaw|



The suffix -able/-ible that was discussed above is also Latin, borrowed via French, and can be attached to almost any English verb, as we noted above, and as further illustrated in:


|writable |readable |answerable |legible |



Compounds
New words may be formed bycombining words together to form compound words. There is almost no limit on the kinds of combinations that occur in English, as the following list of compounds shows:

| |Adjective |Noun |Verb |
|Adjective |bittersweet |poorhouse |highborn|
|Noun |headstrong |rainbow |spoonfeed |
|Verb |carryall |pickpocket |sleepwalk |

Frigidaire is a compound formed by combining the adjective frigid with the noun air.

When the two words are in the same grammaticalcategory, the compound will be in this category: noun + noun - girlfriend, fighter-bomber, paper clip, elevator-operator, landlord, mailman; adjective + adjective-icy-cold, red-hot, and worldly-wise. In many cases, when the two words fall into different categories, the class of the second or final word will be the grammatical category of the compound: noun + adjective - headstrong, watertight,lifelong; verb + noun - pickpocket, pinchpenny, daredevil, sawbones. On the other hand, compounds formed with a preposition are in the category of the non-prepositional part of the compound; overtake, hanger-on, undertake, sundown, afterbirth, downfall, uplift.

Though two-word compounds are the most common in English, it would be difficult to state an upper limit: consider three-time loser,mother-of-pearl, master of ceremonies, daughter-in-law and four-dimensional space-time.

Spelling does not tell us what sequence of words constitutes a compound; whether a compound is spelled with a space between the two words, with a hyphen, or with no separation at all is idiosyncratic, as shown, for example, in blackbird, gold-tail, and smoke screen.


Meaning of Compounds

The meaning of acompound is not always the sum of the meanings of its parts; a blackboard may be green or white and wallpaper is not always on the wall.

Other compounds show that, underlying the juxtaposition of words, different grammatical relations are expressed. A boathouse is a house for boats, but a cathouse is not a house for cats. A jumping bean is a bean that jumps, a falling star is a star that falls,...
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