History of word-formation with specific referance to the 15th-17th centuries


1.1 A brief history of the study of word-formation 5
1.2 Basic notion of word-formation 9
2.1 Word-formation in the Early English Language 12
2.2 Semantic change 19


So, we can make the following conclusions:
«Word-formation» is a traditional label, and one which is useful, but it does not generally cover all possible ways of forming everything that can be called a «word». In particular, the use of the term «word-formation» is of value when the rules for the formation of words are not identical with the rules for the formation of sentences (as they were in the Eskimo example). Exactly what kinds of things are generally classified as «word-formation» will be elaborated in the second chapter.
So, with very few exceptions, word-formation is discussed here with reference only to Indo-European languages, and to a large degree with respect to English alone. It may turn out that in other languages that have the various categories of word-formation, the same syntactic and semantic points hold true, and if this is the case, then putative universals may be set up. For the moment, however, conclusions about the universality of the processes involved in word-formation must be fairly strictly limited.
In principle, word-formation does not make a basic distinction between loan words and native vocabulary in Early Modern English. Both provide material for compounding, affixation and conversion. A number of new affixes, both prefixes and suffixes, were introduced into Early Modern English from the Latinate section of the vocabulary. They made a sizable addition to the derivational resources of the language, but in most cases continued to be applied to borrowed rather than native vocabulary in the Early Modern period. At the same time, lexical statistics show that native affixes produced more new words than the numerous Latinate affixes.
Word-formation and borrowing from other languages increased the number of new words in Early Modern English. A new word could also result from semantic change in cases where the derived meaning was so different as to be no longer associated with its source; a case in point is fall, a verbal noun and the name of a season. More typically, however, semantic change led to polysemy in the lexicon, as words acquired new senses while at the same time retaining their earlier ones. As a result, older words now usually have more senses than more recent ones.
The three basic word-formation processes both today and in Early Modern English are compounding, affixation and conversion
This classification also shows the basic typological change in English from stem-formation in Old English to word-formation as we know it today. In Modern English, lexemes are invariant when they serve as bases of word-formation.
When new concepts need to be named, borrowing and word-formation are not the only solutions – an existing word can also undergo a change of meaning. Processes of semantic change are very common but often gradual, and therefore harder to pin down than word-formation processes. The meaning of a word can be generalised or can specialise, becoming more restricted in its sphere of reference. The basic mechanisms that produce semantic changes are metaphoric transfer and contextual inferencing. Metaphoric transfer operates on a perceived similarity, physical or functional, between the descriptive meanings of two words.


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