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Word building

Word building (word formation) is a process of building new words out of the material available in the language according to the structural and semantic rules and laws of this language.

Sound interchange is gradation of sounds occupying one and the same place in the sound form and the same morpheme in various cases of its occurrence.

Stress interchange is one of the ways of word building, based on a shift of stress (object, survey, perfect).


is formation of new words with the help of affixes available in the language; includes prefixation, suffixation, infixation.

Prefixation is formation of words with help of prefixes.

Suffixation is formation of words with the help of suffixes.

Infixation is formation of words with the help sound interchange; usually falls into two groups – vowel and consonant interchange.

affixes are those that take part in deriving new words in this particular period of language development.


is one of the principal ways of building words which implies transition of a word from one part of speech to the other.

Word-compounding (composition) is a way of forming new words combining two or more stems. Together with conversion and affixation it is very productive in Modern English.

Reduplicative compounds are based on onomatopoeic repetition: hush-hush, blah-blah.

The elements of ablaut compounds have changes in their phonetic shape: sing-song, ping-pong, to shilly-shally.

Rhyme combinations are twin forms consisting of two elements based on rhyming: helter-skelter, hoity-toity.


Shortening (clipping) is a word-building process which involves qualitative changes and quantitative changes in a word; a significant subtraction, in which part of the original word is taken away.

Apocope (back-clipping) is final clipping: the beginning of a word is retained, the end is clipped, i.e. preservation of the first part

Aphaeresis (fore-clipping) is initial clipping of a word: the end of the word is retained, the beginning is clipped.

Syncope is final and initial clipping combined: the middle part is retained, the beginning and the end are clipped.

Ellipsis is a special group of shortenings: the omission of a word or words, which are important for grammatical completeness, but not for lexical meaning.

Blending (or fusion, or portmanteau) is a specific type of shortenings, which implies “packing” of two meanings into one word. The process is also called telescoping because the words slide into one another like sections of a telescope.


Semaseology - a branch of lexicology which studies meaning and the semantic structure of a word.

Seme - an elementary semantic feature, a minimal unit of meaning.

Sememe - a set of semes recognizable in a given word.

Grammatical meaning is a meaning which comes to the fore in the words with different lexical meaning, and brings them into one row: apples, tables, books, birds - grammatical meaning of plurality; was, went, ate, did, slept, knew – grammatical meaning of past tense .

Lexical meaning – is a meaning which combines different grammatical forms of a word into one paradigm: to be, was, were, been, is, are; apple, apples, apple’s.

Denotational meaning - logic conceptual meaning which correlates with its referent.

Connotational meaning - an additional meaning, subordinate meaning which includes 1) emotive-evaluational meaning, expressive colouring, 2) stylistic status of the word


Polysemy - a complex of all meanings which a word can have as a result of its development.

Polysemantic word - a word which has several meanings.

Antroponymes - proper names of people: Ann, Mary, John Smith, the Browns.

Toponymes - proper names of places, e.g. countries, cities, towns, rivers, seas etc: England, New York, Boston, the Volga, the Atlantic ocean, the Elbrus.

Metaphor - a transfer of meaning based on different types of similarity, it is a hidden comparison, e.g. in the area of computers a lot of words acquired new meanings: mouse, mat, windows, monitor, notebook, worm; in the sphere of economics: market, bargain, deal, promotion.

Anthropomorphic metaphors - names of parts of a human body or some human qualities transferred to some objects: the head of an army, school, organization, arms and mouth of a river, foot of a mountain, heart sings.

Trite, or dead metaphors are metaphors and metonymies which are very old and described by a dictionary, they belong to the language: head of cabbage, eye of a needle, the bus runs.

Live metaphor - a metaphor created in speech as a result of speaker’s association and comparison.

Metonymy - a transfer of meaning based on contiguity: The kettle is boiling I recognize his hand. He married money.

Synecdoche - a name of a part used instead of the whole: The cock hat entered the room.


Homonymy – coincidence of sound forms for different meanings of words. Homonyms proper - words identical in pronunciation and spelling: case (Situation, bag) and seal (print, animal)

Homophones - words of the same sound form, but with different spelling and meaning: Night (opposite to day) – knight (medieval warrior); Hair (part of the scull) – hare (animal with long ears)

Homographs - words different in sound forms and in meaning but identical in spelling: bow [bou] лук – bow [bau] кланяться, кивать; wind [waind] – wind [wind]; lead [li:d] – lead [led]

Homoforms coincide only in one form and do not in all others: Allowed (v) – aloud (adj); Billed – build.

Paronyms - words very identical in sound form and spelling but having some differences in them and different meaning: Loose – lose; decent (respectable, suitable) – descent (downward motion); quite – quiet.

Relations among words based on meaning

Synonymy - one of paradigmatic relations among words which lies in the identity of denotational meaning.

Synonyms are traditionally referred to as words different in sound-form, but identical in meaning: carry, drag, pull; huge, tremendous.

Antonymy - one of paradigmatic relations among words which lies in the polarity of meaning: kind – cruel.

Antonyms are words, characterized by semantic polarity or opposite meaning.

Complementary antonyms - words which present two-member semantic opposition, members of which complement each other in meaning; if one quality is negated, the other inevitably comes to the fore: live - dead, male – female.

Conversives are pairs of words which reveal reverse relations to each other: sell – buy, lend – borrow.

Other groups of words

Lexico-grammatical group (LSG) – a group of words which have lexical and grammatical meaning in common, a common paradigm. These groups are subsets of parts of speech. E.g. English nouns are subdivided approximately to the following LSG: personals, animals, groups of people, groups of animals, abstract nouns, material nouns, objects, proper names of people and places.

Table, chair, wardrobe, cupboard, sofa, stool, armchair – pieces of furniture

Cat, dog, cow, sheep , pig, horse, donkey – domestic animals

Go, come, run, speed, rush, move, ride – verbs of motion

Ideographic groups – groups of words in which only lexical meaning is taken into account, grammatical meaning is neglected. They are independent of classification into parts of speech; are grouped according to their signification; belong to the system of logical notions. Such groups may comprise different parts of speech: light (n), brightness (n), bright (adj), shine (v), shining (part) and other words connected with the notion of light.

Contextual associative group - words joined together by common contextual associations within the framework of the sentence or text and having interlinks within the text: A new director was introduced to us. Mr. Brown as tall and slim. A new boss said about his plans. The speaker was short. There exist regular contextual ties: dog – bark; see – eye; blind – see. As a result there may appear different groups: Tree – leaves – green – fruit – shadow; voyage – ship – port - sightseeing – sea – swimming – sunbathing – tan.

Semantic field - “Fields are linguistic realities existing between single words and the total vocabulary. They are parts of the whole and resemble words in that they combine into some higher unit; and the vocabulary in that they resolve themselves into smaller units” [Ulman]. The meaning of time may be expressed by all linguistic units: morphemes – pre-revolutionary, post-war, post-Soviet; words – now, then, today, yesterday, soon, late; phraseological units – this year, this month, up till now, after that; sentences (grammatically) – tense and aspect

Term – a word or a word group used to name a notion characteristic of some special field of knowledge, industry or culture.


Phraseology – is a branch of lexicology which studies word combinations

terms for groups of words: set expressions, phrases, phraseological units, idioms, collocations.

Phraseological units - word groups which are not motivated, comparatively stable and semantically inseparable; in other languages other words are used for the same phenomenon: Indian summerбабье лето.

Phraseological fusions - word groups which are completely non-motivated, stab le, inseparable: to kick the bucket, to rain cats and dogs, a fly in the ointment.

Phraseological unities - word groups which are partially motivated, often have metaphorical mg: to wash the dirty linen in the public, to whip the dead horse.

Phraseological collocations - word groups which are motivated, partially interchangeable; made of words with restricted lexical valency, which provides some extent of lexical stability: To come to the conclusion (to reach but not to go, to arrive) to produce the impression (to make, but not to produce the opinion, point of view), to take a liking (fancy, but not hatred).

Lexicalization is the process when a word group transforms into a phraseological unit or compound word: O.E. in stede > instead; mother-in-law, grown-up.

Americanism - a wd or a wd combination peculiar to the English language spoken in the USA. E.g. cookie, elevator, truck, apartment etc.

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