What is word formation

The importance of word formation and its effects on vocabulary using the example of Romance languages


0. Introduction

1. General basics of word formation
Word formation as a morphological-structural process
Approaches in word formation: generativism and structuralism
The role of motivation
Word formation model and word formation product
Word formation meaning and vocabulary meaning
Word formation semantics
Word formation and inflection

2. Word formation and vocabulary expansion
Preliminary remarks
Word formation with vocabulary expansion
Derivation Semantic rules of derivation
Vocabulary expansion without word formation
Word creation
Hereditary words and borrowings
Word formation with relative vocabulary expansion
Productive words

3. Summary consideration


0. Introduction

If you ask yourself how the language system works, you come to the conclusion that it is a combination and interlocking of individual linguistic units. Words are made up of sounds, sentences in turn, and finally entire sentences are put together to form a text.

If the word itself is analyzed and, as far as possible, broken down into its components, one speaks of morphology and word formation. It includes the theory of forms, i.e. the theory of inflection and the theory of parts of speech, as well as the theory of word formation. While the inflection constitutes different forms of the same word (e.g. French je parle, nous parlons), word formation creates new words.

The word formation is different depending on the language. For example, the Romance languages, which are used as an illustration in the present work, have a rich reservoir of derivation methods.

The work is divided into two larger parts. First, the general basics of word formation are shown. Due to the myriad of aspects that could be dealt with in the case of word formation, I have limited myself to a few points. I will go into word formation as a procedure, with the definition of the term also in the foreground. Another point to be dealt with will be the two crucial approaches that have evolved in linguistics to word formation. Furthermore, I would like to go into the concepts of motivation, the word formation model and lexicalization and try to clarify what role they play in word formation morphology. This is followed by explanations on word formation semantics and the delimitation of inflection from word formation.

The focus of the second part of the thesis deals with the question of how strongly the word formation corresponds to an expansion of the vocabulary. It should therefore provide an answer to the question of whether every word formation entails a lexicalization. When does word formation lead to an expansion of the vocabulary and when does it not? Can word formation at all still be seen as an area of ​​morphology and not rather as one of lexicology? Thus, the second part consists of a description of word formation processes and their effects on vocabulary. I will then close the work with a few summarizing considerations.

It should also be noted that I use Marchand's definition of word formation as a basis for the following statements: "Word-formation is that branch of the science of language which studies the patterns on which a language forms new lexical units, i.e. words. "1 This already anticipates an important aspect of the work, namely that word formation has an “intermediate position” between grammar and lexicon.2

1. General basics of word formation

1.1 Word formation as a morphological-structural process

The coining of a new naming unit takes place by means of various processes on a semantic, syntactic or morphological-structural level.3 Each of the three processes falls back on existing language material. I would like to briefly go into more detail on these individual procedures:

The semantic procedure involves changing the meaning of an initial element. Changes in spelling and flexion can also occur. In a newer dictionary, for example, you will find different terms defined differently than in an older one. In this case, there is homonymization, i.e. there are two identical words with different meanings.4 An example of this would be the French word souris.

In the context of the syntactic procedure, the change of word type is in the foreground. This is connected with the creation of new words. The concept classes change. If one nouns e.g. the Italian word grande, one gets grandezza. In this case, the change of the conceptual class takes place through the change from a property to a substance.5

Word formation in the true sense of the word is used in the morphologically structured process. This intervenes in the formal structure of a word. These interventions are linked to semantic and syntactic processes. The central mechanisms such as composition or derivation are described in more detail in the second part of the thesis.

1.2 Approaches in word formation: generativism and structuralism

Based on the fact that the word formation is about the "process system"6 as such, but also about the amount that results from such processes, one can distinguish two approaches in linguistics that have proven to be decisive for word formation and in the works of the individual authors who deal with word formation , reflect: the generative and the structuralist approach.

The structuralist approach is static and purely descriptive, i.e. it is about the analytical determination of the word structure. With this approach, one recognizes the word as a pure morpheme structure. In contrast to this, the generative word formation theory focuses more on the description of the processes than those that start from very specific basic forms in word formation and result in new word forms through a deep structure. Generativists ask about the dynamics: How is something created, how does it come about (in our case here words)? Because of this, the latter could be said to be the more creative approach to word formation.7

By and large, linguists are tending towards a more generative approach, where word formation is clearly seen as a procedure, a process, and the perspective of analysis is preferred to that of synthesis.8

1.3 The role of motivation

In order to clarify the concept of motivation, it is advisable to assume that every linguistic sign has a material shape and meaning, i.e. it is morphologically relevant and, in this case, motivated.9 For word formation, this means that “semantic relationships between the signs come about on a paradigmatic level”.10

This can best be illustrated with an example: the grammatical forms of the French word renverser, je renverse, il a renversé, etc., like the lexeme renversement, are paradigmatically linked by the relationships between their morphemes.

Such morphemic connections, to which anyone who is able to speak the respective language, can assign the correct meaning, are called motivated, i.e. they are transparent in terms of form and content, and are self-explanatory.11

Another example of this is the Italian word capostazione.12 The compound is motivated, whereas the individual components capo and stazione are unmotivated. You either have to know the meanings of these words or look up them in the lexicon.13

Whether a word is about motivation or not can be determined by how transparent the structure of the word is, i.e. if it is not clear how it is formed or what components it is made up of, it is not motivated. In the course of language history, originally motivated words, i.e. words that were transparent, can lose their motivation and their structure can then no longer be broken down into clear segments.14 In this case one speaks of demotivation.15

1.4 Word formation model and word formation product

"The word formation model is a stable structure that has a generalized lexical-categorical (designative) meaning and is suitable to be filled with various lexical material."16 Simplified, Stepanova's statement means that word formation models are certain structural schemes according to which series of identically structured word formation products with different lexical material can be generated.17

Examples of such structural schemes in French and Italian are18:

a) Verb stem and adjective suffix - able: utiliser -> utilisable (French)
b) Verbal prefix formation with pré-: venir -> prévenir (French)
c) Noun formation with -tór-: vincere -> vincitore (it.)

If you add to the list of possible models, you soon notice that words are not simply composed of arbitrarily selected morphemes, but that they are subject to the word formation models and are thus bound to fixed rules of combination.19 If one summarizes all these rules according to which morphemes can be put together in a certain language, one speaks of the word grammar of a language.20 A certain word formation rule introduces the product of word formation into a certain class of parts of speech: nouns, adjectives, verbs or adverbs.21 Word formation products then function as "words of a vocabulary", i.e. they now have a vocabulary meaning (see Chapter 1.5.1).

1.5 Lexicalization

Finding a suitable definition for the term lexicalization turns out to be difficult.22

Now that the word formation has taken place according to certain models, new words may have entered the general usage of a language. I put this process under the concept of lexicalization, so I come to the conclusion that it is a diachronic process.23 The words that have arisen through the process of word formation and as such designate new phenomena or objects in the world are called neologisms.24 They are now considered a fixed, indissoluble part of the vocabulary. That is the result of lexicalization. Haspelmath distinguishes neologisms from possible, i.e. not necessarily realized, words and calls them "occasionalisms".25 I will go into these possible words in more detail in the chapter on productivity (2.4.2).

As we shall also see later, the formation of neologisms can take place with the means of one's own language or through the use of foreign language borrowings.

Lexicalization is a somewhat broader phenomenon in which discrepancies between the various authors become clear. I will briefly explain this in the following.

According to Coseriu, the lexicalization is not just the result of the theory of word formation, rather every "repeated speech", i.e. the creation of whole syntagms in constant repetition, should be referred to as lexicalization. Accordingly, the syntactic combinations for Coseriu take on the same function as the word formation products: they become units of the vocabulary.26 Other authors see such “speeches” as free combinations that do not pass into the possession of the language. This task is only performed by words that are made "globally available" due to the word formation and are to be included in the vocabulary of a language.27 The fact that the reference to constant repetition puts the diachronic aspect in the foreground can also be seen in Lipka's definition of lexicalization: “By lexicalization I understand the phenomenon that once complex lexemes are formed, if they are used frequently, they tend to become a single one to become a lexical unit with specific content ”.28 Other authors, such as Bauer, differentiate somewhat vaguely between institutionalization and lexicalization.29 Yet another theory says that created word formations can experience a change in meaning and this “specific creation of meaning in word formation” also falls under the term lexicalization.30

1.5.1 Word formation meaning and vocabulary meaning

At this point, an important aspect of the lexicalization should be emphasized, namely that of the vocabulary meaning, which is then separated from the word formation meaning.31 Vocabulary meaning can also be understood as a term for dictionary entries.32 Vocabulary meaning expresses that word meanings that are created through word formation must be specific. This fact that “singular meanings” arise falls under the concept of lexicalization.33 Only in this way do word formation products fulfill their promised function. The meaning of vocabulary must be distinguished from the meaning of word formation, which is about the fact that the word formation initially starts with general, abstract word meanings that are formed according to certain rules.34 If a constant semantic construction scheme can be assigned to a word formation type, this is also referred to as word formation meaning. Cases of “regular lexicalization” are also included under one term.35 However, we do not find out exactly where the boundaries between word formation meaning and vocabulary meaning lie.36

1.5.2 Word formation semantics

As we see in the context of lexicalization, meaning is an indispensable part of the theory of word formation. Reference is made to Franz Rainer, who emphasizes with his Spanish theory of word formation that “there is content in word formation that is expressed through forms”.37 In this case Franz Rainer deals with the word formation theory of Coseriu38. In doing so, he rejects a direct connection between content and form, but it remains open how the problem of form and content should be managed.39 Traditionally, Rainer starts from a form and asks semantic questions depending on the morphological ones. He rejects an "exclusively semantic morpheme definition", i.e. a definition according to which a morpheme is defined as an element with expression and content.40 This makes it clear that Rainer's semantics are neglected. It should also be mentioned here that Rainer pursues a strongly generative approach (see Chapter 1.2). Other authors do not place semantics behind morphology, but emphasize that the meaning of a word arises at the same time as its morphological structure.41

At this point one could possibly also go into the effects that word formation semantically has on syntax. It is often viewed as a special case of syntax.42 However, I will not deal with it in more detail and agree with Lüdtke, who says: “The question of the syntax of derivations is no longer part of the theory of words, but rather a part of the theory of word groups and sentences”.43

1.6 Word formation and inflection

In general, inflection is distinguished from word formation.44 However, there is still uncertainty as to whether the two areas should be separated.45

Inflection is defined as inflection or as word forms. It is divided into declination and conjugation, which will be explained in more detail shortly. The inflection does not change the basic meaning of the word. The theory of inflection and the theory of word formation therefore differ in the following way: In the theory of inflection the forms of words are described. In contrast, word formation studies investigate how new words emerge from existing linguistic means, e.g. it. lavare -> lavatore. In contrast to inflection, the processes of word formation such as derivation (derivation, see Chapter 2.2.1) and composition (composition, see Chapter 2.2.3) produce a changed word meaning.

"The inflection changes the word form, which is used to express the relationship of the word in question to other words in the sentence."46 Declination represents the inflection of nouns, adjectives and pronouns according to gender and number47, while the conjugation bends the verb according to person, tense, number, gender and mode. There are also fluid boundaries between the process of inflection and that of word formation. The comparison of adjectives represents such a borderline case. The regularity of the formation tempts one to equate the adjective comparison with the formation of the inflected forms. The fact that the comparison does not change the basic meaning of the word also makes this conclusion seem logical. This is demonstrated using the French example: grand, plus grand, le plus grand.Exceptions like bon (ne), meilleur (e), le (la) meilleur (e) override the assumption that the adjective comparison is to be equated with the inflected forms because of its regular formation. Is it now word formation or inflection? In my opinion, no exact assignment is possible.


1 MARCHAND, H. (1969): The categories and types of present-day English word-formation. 2nd ed.Munich: Beck, 70.

2 HUNDSNURSCHER, F. (1977): “On the role of parts of speech in the system of perceptual words”, in: BREKLE, H.E. / KASTOVSKY, D. (ed.) (1977a): Perspektiven der Wortbildungforschung, Bonn: Bouvier, 83-97, here: 83.

3 FLEISCHER, W. (2000): “The Classification of Word Formation Processes”, in: BOOIJ, G. / LEHMANN, Ch./ MUGDAN, J. et al. (Ed.): Morphology. An international handbook on inflection and word formation, Vol. I, Berlin: De Gruyter (= BURKHARDT, A. / STEGER, H. / WIEGAND, HE (ed.): Handbooks on Linguistics and Communication Studies (HSK), Vol.17.1 and 17.2), 1st half volume, 886-897, here: 886f.

4 STEIN, A. (1997): Introduction to French Linguistics, Stuttgart: Metzler, 63.

5 FLEISCHER, W. / BARZ, I. (1995): Word formation in contemporary German, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 7.

6 BREKLE, H.E./ KASTOVSKY, D. (1977b): “Word formation research: development and positions”, in: BREKLE / KASTOVSKY (1977a), 7-19, here: 7.

7 KÜRSCHNER, W. (1977): “Generative transformation grammar and the word formation theory”, in: BREKLE / KASTOVSKY (1977a), 129-139; MOTSCH, W .: “A plea for the description of word formations on the basis of the lexicon”, in: BREKLE / KASTOVSKY (1977a), 180-202, here: 188.

8 LÜDTKE, J. (2001): "Morphology II. Word Formation", in: HOLTUS, G. / METZELIN, M. / SCHMITT, C. (Ed.): Lexicon of Romance Linguistics (LRL), Vol. I, 1, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 765-781, here: 766.

9 THIELE, J. (1993): Word formation in contemporary French. 3rd ed. Leipzig: Langenscheidt, Verlag Enzyklopädie, 13.

10 Ibid., 14.

11 RAINER, F. (1993): Spanish word formation theory, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 16ff.

12 SEEWALD, U. (1996): Morphology of Italian, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 111.

13 FLEISCHER / BARZ (1995), 11.

14 SEEWALD (1996), 40.

15 SCHPAK-DOLT, N. (1992): Introduction to French morphology, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 40.

16 STEPANOWA, M.D. (1973): Methods of synchronous vocabulary analysis, Munich: Hueber, 109.

17 FLEISCHER / BARZ (1995), 53.

18 GECKELER, H .: “On the question of the gaps in the system of word formation”, in: BREKLE / KASTOVSKY (1977a), 70-82, here: 76 ff.

19 SEEWALD (1996), 39.

20 SCHWARZE (1995): Grammar of Italian Languages, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 486.

21 Ibid., 488.

22 LÜDTKE (2001), 771 ff.

23 LIPKA, L. (1979): "On lexicalization in German and English", in: LIPKA, L. / Günther, H. (eds.) (1981): Wortbildung, Darmstadt: WBG, 119-132, here: 131.

24 SEEWALD (1996), 38.

25 HASPELMATH, M. (2002): Understanding Morphology. London: Arnold, 39.

26 COSERIU, E. (1978): “Introduction to the structural consideration of vocabulary”, in: GECKELER, H. (Ed.) (1978): Structural meaning theory, Darmstadt: WBG, 218-223.

27 BREKLE./ KASTOVSKY (1977b), 14.

28 LIPKA, L. (1977): “Lexicalization, Idiomatization and Hypostasis as Problems of a Synchronic Word Formation Theory”, in: BREKLE / KASTOVSKY (1977a), 155-165, here: 155.

29 BAUER, L. (1983): English Word-formation, Cambridge: University Press, 48.

30 LACA, B. (1986): Word formation as the grammar of vocabulary. Studies on Spanish subject nominalization, Tübingen: Narr, 133-134.

31 LÜDTKE (2001), 768ff; RAINER (1993): 132.

32 LÜDTKE, J. (1994): "Wortbildungssemantik", in: STAIB, B. (Ed.): Wortbildungslehre, Münster: Lit, 113-137, here: 131.

33 LACA: 133-134 (1986).

34 LÜDTKE (2001), 771.

35 LÜDTKE (1994), 119.

36 Ibid., 134.

37 RAINER (1993), 131f.

38 COSERIU, E. (1977): "Content-related word formation theory (using the example of the type 'coupe-papier'), in: BREKLE / KASTOVSKY (1977a), 48-62, here: 52.

39 RAINER (1993), 118.

40 Ibid., 128.

41 CORBIN, D. (1991): La formation des mots. Structures et interprétations, Lille: Presses Universitaires de Lille, 9.

42 GROTE, M. (1987): Generative lexicon and autonomous word formation processes, Göttingen: Georg-August University of Göttingen (dissertation), 19.

43 LÜDTKE, J. (1978): Predicative nominalizations with suffixes in French, Catalan and Spanish, Tübingen: Niemeyer, 61.

44 ZWANENBURG, W. (1990): “French: Word Formation”, in: HOLTUS, G. / Metzelin, M. / Schmitt, C. (eds.): Lexicon of Romance Linguistics (LRL), Vol. V, 1, Tübingen : Niemeyer, 72-77, here: 72.

45 GROTE (1987), 6.

46 LYONS, J. (1995): Introduction to modern linguistics, 8.ed., Munich, 198.

47 Note: There have been no case changes in the Romance languages ​​since the development from Latin

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