Monday, January 30, 2012
Conversion and Compounding
.…word formation is the creation of a new word. Word formation is sometimes contrasted with semantic change, which is a change in a single word's meaning. The line between word formation and semantic change is sometimes a bit blurry; what one person views as a new use of an old word, another person might view as a new word derived from an old one and identical to it in form conversion. Word formation can also be contrasted with the formation of idiomatic expressions, though sometimes words can form from multi-word phrases through compounding…. Bauman (2009:24). This quotation suggests that conversion and compounding are amongst the many methods used for word formation processes. However, the principle aim of this paper is to discuss with clear illustrations how compounding and conversion contribute to the increase in the number of lexical items in the English language. According to Kortmann (2005:14), A Lexical item or lexical unit, lexical entry is a single word or chain of words that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon(vocabulary). Examples are "cat", "traffic light", "take care of", "by-the-way", and "it's raining cats and dogs". Lexical items can be generally understood to convey a single meaning, much as a lexeme, but are not limited to single words. Lexical items are like semes in that they are "natural units" translating between languages, or in learning a new language. In this last sense, it is sometimes said that language consists of grammaticalized lexis, and not lexicalized grammar. This entails that any word formation process including conversion and compounding may end up with a lexical item. Plag (2003) says Compounds are those multimorphemic words that we most readily identify as consisting of several parts. In a compound several free morphemes are combined, resulting in a word that often derives its meaning from the combination of its components. Compound words may be formed by combining one or more word classes. For example; motorcade = motor + Cade, bedroom = bed + room, desktop = desk + top and spyware = spy + ware. This illustration reflect that compounding contribute to the increase in the number of lexical items in the English language. Its also important to note that compounds are often not written as single words but separated or combined by a hyphen as in on-line while others are just combined together. Another illustration of how compounding increase in the number of lexical items in the English language is through the combinations of one or more word classes. Combinations of nouns such that noun + noun compounds are frequent, other combinations also abound and the result for such combinations give us different results as shown below according to Kortmann (2005). talkshow verb + noun = noun tightrope adjective + noun = noun overshadow preposition + noun = verb He further indicates that many compounds exhibit a so-called modifier-head structure, with one part specifying the other in terms of meaning. Thus a blackboard is a kind of board and a talkshow is a kind of show (not a kind of black or a kind of talk). The modifier may function in different ways, e.g. a raincoat is not a coat for but against rain. While the abovementioned examples are endocentric where the meaning of the compound is derived from the meaning of the parts, there are some compounds where this is not the case. A redhead is not a type of head but a person with red hair. Such compounds are called exocentric, because their meaning is not strictly contained in the components, Almeda (1999). This illustration clearly indicates that indeed compounding as a word formation process contributes to the increase in the number of lexical items in the English language. According to Koch (2002), conversion is one of the highly productive word formation process used to describe a word class change without any morphological marking. The examples as cited by Koch are, party (noun) -> party (verb) We will be at the party They like to party must (verb) -> must (noun) You must eat your soup It is a must that you call him Note that we only speak of conversion when it is clear that a word has been “copied” from one word class to another. Frequently words appear similar without having been converted (at least not recently) – for example, English like exists as a verb, a noun, an adjective or a filler/discourse marker, Koch (2002:24). Because of these illustrations, it’s clear that compounding and conversion contribute to the increase in the number of lexical items in the English language. Plag (2003:40) “Conversion also called zero derivation, is a kind of word formation specifically, it is the creation of a word from an existing word without any change in form. Conversion in English, language is a fairly productive process”. The act where one lexical category or part of speech is converted to a word of another lexical category. Conversions from adjectives to nouns and vice versa are both very common and unnotable in English; much more remarked upon is verbing, the creation of a verb by converting a noun or other word for instance, the adjective clean becomes the verb to clean, Bauman (2009). This illustrates how conversion contribute to the increase in the number of lexical items in the English language. It can be concluded that this paper has illustrated the contribution of the two word formation processes compounding and conversion to the increase in the number of lexical items in the English language. It was pointed out that a compound is a lexeme that consists of more than one stem. Compounding or composition is the word formation that creates compound lexemes. Compounding or Word-compounding generally refers to the faculty and device of language to form new words by combining or putting together old words. In other words, compound, compounding or word-compounding occurs when a person attaches two or more words together to make them one word. The meanings of the words interrelate in such a way that a new meaning comes out which is very different from the meanings of the words in isolation. Conversion on the other hand is a kind of word formation which involve the creation of a word from an existing word without any change in form. Conversion is a more productive process in English as discussed in the paper. References Almeda, Z. (1999). Wordformation process in a Language. Heidelberg: Winter. Bauman, K. (2009). Morphology and Word Formation processes. Middlesex: KRT. Challinger, D. P. (2000) Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. London: Routledge Koch, P. (2002), “Lexical Typology from a Cognitive and Linguistic Point of View”, in D. Alan Cruse et al. (eds), Lexicology: An International Handbook on the Nature and Structure of Words and Vocabularies / Lexikologie: Ein internationales Handbuch. Kortmann, B. (2005), English Linguistics: Essentials. Cornelsen: Berlin. Plag, I. (2003). Word-formation in English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.