domingo, 25 de abril de 2010

Secrets of the Dead: Michelangelo Revealed

Above: Pietà, one of Michelangelo's most famous sculptures. (Secrets of the Dead: Michelangelo Revealed)
May 8, 2009

Throughout his masterful career, Michelangelo glorified the church, etching Catholic ideals into the sculptures and artwork that defined religion for the masses. Now, 500 years after his death, art historian Antonio Forcellino has found evidence of Michelangelo’s involvement with a clandestine fellowship trying to reform the Catholic Church from within. The group’s radical ideas and accusations of corruption were considered heretical and punishable by death. Michelangelo’s involvement put him at dangerous odds with powerful officials who held his livelihood — and life — in their hands. Michelangelo Revealed paints a stunning new picture of brave religious expression, personal vendettas, careful cover-ups and a most gifted artist desperately trying to reconcile his loyalty to the church with his own personal belief about the road to salvation. Visit the Secrets of the Dead website to explore more cases.

Watch the video at
What a mistake to make – falling foul of French-English false friends

A British tourist was reportedly forced to spend the night in the municipal buildings of a small French town over the weekend, after confusing Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) with somewhere she could book a room for the night. It's a fairly easy mistake to make, as anyone who's ever tried learning a foreign language, and tripped up over False Friends, will know. But what are False Friends, and where do they come from?

French is still the most common source of borrowed words in English
Though actually a Germanic language, English often seems more closely to resemble a Romance language, and in particular, French. This is the natural result of close geographical and cultural contact between the two countries over many centuries. English has been 'borrowing' words from French since the Middle Ages, and this borrowing escalated after 1066 when Norman French became the official language of government, the church and the upper classes in England. David Crystal suggests that, by the end of the 13th century, more than 10,000 French words had entered the English language and that of these, more than 75% are still in use today.¹ French is still the most common source of borrowed words in English, and vice versa.

The upshot of all this word-trading is that it is easy to spot similarities between the vocabularies of French and English. Similarities, particularly in the area of vocabulary, can be both good news and bad, however. They can aid the learner, offering an encouraging springboard into learning a new language, but they can also be traps – False Friends – which lull learners of both languages into a false sense of security.

French loan words in English
French words and expressions have been taken into English wholesale, with their Frenchness intact, like sang-froid, cause célèbre, par excellence, and déjà vu. Some, like boutique, detour, nuance, and amateur still look and sound quite French but are used with ease by all of us, with little thought for where they came from. Most of us see them as English words. Other words have been adapted to English orthography but reliably retain the meaning or meanings of the French original: they are True Friends. Here are a few examples, with their French equivalents: age / âge; literature / littérature; authority / autorité; soldier / soldat; vinegar / vinaigre; comfort / confort; baggage / bagage.

Note that even when the meanings are the same between the two languages, traps still lie in wait for the learner of either one. These slight differences in spelling account for a significant proportion of errors made by learners of English. French learners of English frequently spell comfortable with an n instead of an m and literature with two ts, for example. Another thing to watch out for is countability. English baggage may mean the same as French bagage, but there is an important grammatical difference – the English word cannot follow an indefinite article (a/an) or take a plural form (baggages), whereas the French word can.

English word pairs

Avid borrowing from French over the centuries, particularly in the areas of administration, law, religion, gastronomy, fashion, literature and the arts, and science and learning, followed two different trends. Often, the newly-borrowed words had the same meanings as established native words, so they either replaced the existing words, or the two words lived side-by-side in the language, but developed slightly different meanings or nuances. This is how we came to have the Old English word pig for the live animal and the French-origin word pork for the animal's edible meat. This second phenomenon led to the existence of word pairs in English – another tricky aspect of English. Thus, English ended up with both begin and commence, help and aid, wedding and marriage, freedom and liberty, hide and conceal, and many more. The temptation for French learners of English is, naturally, to use the French-origin word, which can often lead to their English sounding quaint or excessively formal: Can I aid you? or I want to ameliorate my English.

English loan words in French

French has also borrowed a considerable part of its lexicon from English, and continues to do so today, though with some resistance from the Académie Française. The case of le weekend is well documented. Borrowed unchanged from English in 1926, le weekend was by no means the first French borrowing from English, however.

The soaking up of English words into the French lexicon has been so pervasive that there is even a word – Franglais – for the mixture of French and English that results. The term was first coined by René Étiemble in his (1964) book Parlez-vous Franglais, where he took a light-hearted look at the phenomenon. Since then, the matter has come under more serious scrutiny from an anxious Government and a number of watchdog organisations which see the infiltration of English as a direct threat to the purity of the French language.

In August 1994, French Minister for Culture, Jacques Toubon, put forward a law aimed at restricting the influx of English and reintroducing new words to replace anglicisms already in place. Toubon was keen to introduce fines for people using the anglicism computer instead of the home-grown word ordinateur, for example. A Government paper produced in 1996 and aimed at inventing or reintroducing French words to replace the plethora of anglicisms in the fields of economics and finance specifically, gives a list of 70 replacements including: arbitrage for trade-off; la vente agressive for hard selling; jeune pousse for start-up, and achat sur simulation électronique for virtual shopping. The author stresses that the main aim is to invent new French words for new phenomena soon enough to stamp out the wholesale adoption of the English term.

But it is not just the lexical growth areas of computing and commerce that are a source of English words in French. Franglais is everywhere, particularly among the young, who are most influenced by American culture and whose day-to-day lives are immersed in football, popular music, film and television and whose vocabularies are consequently peppered with the UK and US English words they hear. The French media, too, called upon to cover events as they happen, are not always able to wait for a French word to be invented before they write their reports. Hence, on 18th April 2003, during the conflict in Iraq, Le Monde reporter, Yves Eudes, wrote the headline Un jour dans la vie d'un 'embedded'. With the word embedded only just coined in English, there was no time to wait for a French equivalent to be invented.

Invented English words (pseudo-anglicisms)

Pseudo-anglicisms are common in French. These are loan words gone wrong. They look like English words and often came from English words but they are used differently. Here are a few examples of these French words, followed by their meaning in English: baskets / trainers; catch / wrestling; slip / underpants or briefs; stop / hitchhiking; snob / follower of fashion.

Some of these deceptive anglicisms are shortenings of the original English word: foot from football; golf from golf course; spot (meaning advertisement) from spotlight; snack from snack bar; goal from goalkeeper; pull from pullover.

Some false anglicisms are invented by analogy with other English terms, presumably out of a feeling that they ought, logically, to exist. For example, the suffix -man, as used to create sportsman and cameraman, is added to tennis and rugby also, to create tennisman and rugbyman, and a recordman/woman is a record-holder.

The French love affair with -ing

The -ing suffix in English is used to form the present participle of regular verbs: going, coming, eating etc. It is also used to form nouns from verbs (and sometimes other nouns and adverbs). These nouns usually denote activities: dancing, parking, smoking, counselling etc, or the results of activities: building, painting etc.

The versatility of this suffix for creating nouns has been taken to extremes in French since before the 20th century, and often results in English-looking words which have no direct meaning equivalent in English. For example, le lifting (1955), for English facelift, and my favourite, more recent, example is le zapping (pre-1986) for television channel-hopping. Even when there is a direct noun equivalent in English, its meaning may still pose subtle problems for the learner. For example, le shopping, borrowed in the early 19th century, is mainly restricted to the more leisurely browsing of boutiques or department stores, rather than the mundane dash to the local supermarket for milk and tea bags it sometimes means in English.

French anglicisms ending in -ing often denote the location where an activity typically takes place. Hence, un dancing, un camping, un bowling, un parking, un living and un skating, are a dance hall, campsite, bowling alley, car park / parking space, living room and a skating rink, respectively. Sometimes they denote clothes, as in le smoking (dinner jacket / tuxedo) and le training, which means the same as English training, but also a tracksuit. They can even denote substances, as is the case with le shampooing. The majority, however, denote activities, as is the case in English, but as with the -man suffix, the French have invented a few of their own which can be false friends, e.g le footing (jogging), or have no equivalent noun in English, e.g le forcing (used in sports to refer to intensive attack).

A lthough false anglicisms ending in -ing are often ephemeral, their introduction into the French language continues apace and is one of the primary targets of the language purity watchdogs. These -ing anglicisms are also a notable source of confusion between French learners of English and native speakers. A common ground of vocabulary is assumed which simply isn't there.

Utterly False Friends

These are, perhaps, the ones to learn first. Fortunately, in most cases, context will help a great deal. Because they have no common roots, these words rarely appear in contexts where they could be confused. Here is a list of a few to watch out for (French words are shown first and their meaning in English second): pain / bread; flipper / pinball machine; location / rental, hire; chat / cat; chair / flesh.

False cognates

Because these words were once related but have now grown apart, they often refer to objects or concepts in the same semantic domains. This is where the greatest risk of confusion lies and one where learners of either language must exercise and sustain caution – it is tempting to clutch at identical or similar words when using another language. There are too many false friends between French and English to cover them all here. The lists of common false friends given below are selected from The Cambridge International Dictionary of English², and are a good place to start thinking about the relationships between words in different languages which share common roots and the problems they can cause.

The French words, shown first, have shared roots but no shared meaning with the English words that look just like them. Their meaning in English is given second:

•actuellement / at present, currently, nowadays
•car / coach, bus; van
•cave / cellar, basement; nightclub
•chef / boss, chief, leader
•déception / disappointment; disenchantment
•demander / to ask, to request, to require
•éventuellement / possibly
•génial(e) / inspired, fantastic, brilliant
•journée / day
•lecture / reading; reading matter
•librairie / bookshop; the book trade
•préservatif / condom, sheath
•prune / plum
•raisin / grape
•sympathiser / to get on well, hit it off
•veste / jacket
False cognates with some shared meanings
The French words in the following list have some overlap in meaning with English words that look the same, but also have additional meanings which are not shared. For example, French cabinet does share with English cabinet the government office sense, but has other meanings not shared with its English cognate. The extra meanings of the French words which are not shared with their English cognate are given after the + sign, on the right:

•agenda + diary
•cabinet + toilet; study; consulting room, surgery
•chauffeur + driver in general
•circulation + traffic
•décade + period of ten days
•dramatique + tragic
•éditer + to publish
•figure + face
•herbe + grass
•manifester + to demonstrate, to protest
•massif/massive + solid, robust
•parfum + flavour, aroma
•porc + pig; pig skin
•radio + x-ray
•route + road
•sensible + sensitive
•souvenir + memory, recollection
•sympathique + likeable, pleasant, friendly; attractive
Of course, it's doubtful that any of this will make that hapless British tourist feel any better about her mistake over the Hotel de Ville. She's probably going to be checking every word very, very carefully the next time she sets foot in France!

1. David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (Cambridge University Press, 1995, p46)

2. The Cambridge International Dictionary of English (Cambridge University Press, 1995, p491)

by Diane Nicholls, editor of the Macmillan Dictionary Thesaurus

Keep your finger on the pulse – read our weekly BuzzWord and visit the Macmillan Dictionary blog!

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viernes, 16 de abril de 2010

Major Periods of Borrowing in the History of English

<strong>Words in English public websiteLing/Engl 215 course information
Rice University
Prof. S. Kemmer


Major Periods of Borrowing in the History of English

Loanwords are words adopted by the speakers of one language from a different language (the source language). A loanword can also be called a borrowing. The abstract noun borrowing refers to the process of speakers adopting words from a source language into their native language. "Loan" and "borrowing" are of course metaphors, because there is no literal lending process. There is no transfer from one language to another, and no "returning" words to the source language. They simply come to be used by a speech community that speaks a different language from the one they originated in.

Borrowing is a consequence of cultural contact between two language communities.

Borrowing of words can go in both directions between the two languages in contact, but often there is an asymmetry, such that more words go from one side to the other. In this case the source language community has some advantage of power, prestige and/or wealth that makes the objects and ideas it brings desirable and useful to the borrowing language community. For example, the Germanic tribes in the first few centuries A.D. adopted numerous loanwords from Latin as they adopted new products via trade with the Romans. Few Germanic words, on the other hand, passed into Latin.

The actual process of borrowing is complex and involves many usage events (i.e. instances of use of the new word). Generally, some speakers of the borrowing language know the source language too, or at least enough of it to utilize the relevant words. They adopt them when speaking the borrowing language. If they are bilingual in the source language, which is often the case, they might pronounce the words the 4same or similar to the way they are pronounced in the source language. For example, English speakers adopted the word garage from French, at first with a pronunciation nearer to the French pronunciation than is now usually found. Presumably the very first speakers who used the word in English knew at least some French and heard the word used by French speakers.

Those who first use the new word might use it at first only with speakers of the source language who know the word, but at some point they come to use the word with those to whom the word was not previously known. To these speakers the word may sound 'foreign'. At this stage, when most speakers do not know the word and if they hear it think it is from another language, the word can be called a foreign word. There are many foreign words and phrases used in English such as bon vivant (French), mutatis mutandis (Latin), and Fahrvergnügen (German).

However, in time more speakers can become familiar with a new foreign word. The community of users can grow to the point where even people who know little or nothing of the source language understand, and even use the novel word themselves. The new word becomes conventionalized. At this point we call it a borrowing or loanword. (Not all foreign words do become loanwords; if they fall out of use before they become widespread, they do not reach the loanword stage.)

Conventionalization is a gradual process in which a word progressively permeates a larger and larger speech community. As part of its becoming more familiar to more people, with conventionalization a newly borrowed word gradually adopts sound and other characteristics of the borrowing language. In time, people in the borrowing community do not perceive the word as a loanword at all. Generally, the longer a borrowed word has been in the language, and the more frequently it is used, the more it resembles the native words of the language.

English has gone through many periods in which large numbers of words from a particular language were borrowed. These periods coincide with times of major cultural contact between English speakers and those speaking other languages. The waves of borrowing during periods of especially strong cultural contacts are not sharply delimited, and can overlap. For example, the Norse influence on English began already in the 8th century A.D. and continued strongly well after the Norman Conquest brought a large influx of Norman French to the language.

It is part of the cultural history of English speakers that they have always adopted loanwords from the languages of whatever cultures they have come in contact with. There have been few periods when borrowing became unfashionable, and there has never been a national academy in Britain, the U.S., or other English-speaking countries to attempt to restrict new loanwords, as there has been in many continental European countries.

The following list is a small sampling of the loanwords that came into English in different periods and from different languages.

I. Germanic period

The forms given in this section are the Old English ones. The original Latin source word is given in parentheses where significantly different. Some Latin words were themselves originally borrowed from Greek.
It can be deduced that these borrowings date from the time before the Angles and Saxons left the continent for England, because of very similar forms found in the other old Germanic languages (Old High German, Old Saxon, etc.). The source words are generally attested in Latin texts, in the large body of Latin writings that were preserved through the ages.

ancor 'anchor'
butere 'butter' (L <>II. Old English Period (600-1100)

apostol 'apostle' (apostolus <>III. Middle English Period (1100-1500)
Most of these first appeared in the written language in Middle English; but many were no doubt borrowed earlier, during the period of the Danelaw (9th-10th centuries).
anger, blight, by-law, cake, call, clumsy, doze, egg, fellow, gear,
get, give, hale, hit, husband, kick, kill, kilt, kindle, law, low,
lump, rag, raise, root, scathe, scorch, score, scowl, scrape, scrub,
seat, skill, skin, skirt, sky, sly, take, they, them, their, thrall,
thrust, ugly, want, window, wing

Place name suffixes:
-by, -thorpe, -gate

Law and government

attorney, bailiff, chancellor, chattel, country, court, crime,
defendent, evidence, government, jail, judge, jury, larceny, noble,
parliament, plaintiff, plea, prison, revenue, state, tax, verdict


abbot, chaplain, chapter, clergy, friar, prayer, preach, priest,
religion, sacrament, saint, sermon


baron, baroness; count, countess; duke, duchess; marquis, marquess;
prince, princess; viscount, viscountess; noble, royal

(contrast native words: king, queen, earl, lord, lady, knight, kingly,


army, artillery, battle, captain, company, corporal,
defense,enemy,marine, navy, sergeant, soldier, volunteer


beef, boil, broil, butcher, dine, fry, mutton, pork, poultry, roast,
salmon, stew, veal

Culture and luxury goods

art, bracelet, claret, clarinet, dance, diamond, fashion, fur, jewel,
oboe, painting, pendant, satin, ruby, sculpture


adventure, change, charge, chart, courage, devout, dignity, enamor,
feign, fruit, letter, literature, magic, male, female, mirror,
pilgrimage, proud, question, regard, special

Also Middle English French loans: a huge number of words in age, -ance/-ence, -ant/-ent, -ity, -ment, -tion, con-, de-, and pre-.

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether a given word came from French or whether it was taken straight from Latin. Words for which this difficulty occurs are those in which there were no special sound and/or spelling changes of the sort that distinguished French from Latin.

IV. Early Modern English Period (1500-1650)
The effects of the renaissance begin to be seriously felt in England. We see the beginnings of a huge influx of Latin and Greek words, many of them learned words imported by scholars well versed in those languages. But many are borrowings from other languages, as words from European high culture begin to make their presence felt and the first words come in from the earliest period of colonial expansion.


agile, abdomen, anatomy, area, capsule, compensate, dexterity,
discus, disc/disk, excavate, expensive, fictitious, gradual, habitual,
insane, janitor, meditate, notorious, orbit, peninsula, physician,
superintendent, ultimate, vindicate


(many of these via Latin)
anonymous, atmosphere, autograph, catastrophe, climax, comedy, critic,
data, ectasy, history, ostracize, parasite, pneumonia, skeleton,
tonic, tragedy

Greek bound morphemes: -ism, -ize

Arabic via Spanish

alcove, algebra, zenith, algorithm, almanac, azimuth, alchemy, admiral

Arabic via other Romance languages:

amber, cipher, orange, saffron, sugar, zero, coffee

V. Modern English (1650-present)

About 1650 was the start of major colonial expansion, industrial/technological revolution, and significant American immigration. Words from all over the world begin to pour in during this period. Also, the tendency for specialists to borrow words from Latin and Greek, including creating new words out of Latin and Greek word elements, continues from the last period and also increases with the development of science, technology, and other fields.

Words from European languages
French continues to be the largest single source of new words outside of very specialized vocabulary domains (scientific/technical vocabulary, still dominated by classical borrowings).
High culture

ballet, bouillabaise, cabernet, cachet, chaise longue, champagne,
chic, cognac, corsage, faux pas, nom de plume, quiche, rouge, roulet,
sachet, salon, saloon, sang froid, savoir faire

War and Military
bastion, brigade, battalion, cavalry, grenade, infantry, pallisade, rebuff,

bigot, chassis, clique, denim, garage, grotesque, jean(s), niche, shock

French Canadian
Louisiana French (Cajun)


armada, adobe, alligator, alpaca, armadillo, barricade, bravado,
cannibal, canyon, coyote, desperado, embargo, enchilada, guitar,
marijuana, mesa, mosquito, mustang, ranch, taco, tornado, tortilla,


alto, arsenal, balcony, broccoli, cameo, casino, cupola, duo, fresco,
fugue, gazette (via French), ghetto, gondola, grotto, macaroni,
madrigal, motto, piano, opera, pantaloons, prima donna, regatta,
sequin, soprano, opera, stanza, stucco, studio, tempo, torso,
umbrella, viola, violin,

More recent words from Italian American immigrants:
cappuccino, espresso, linguini, mafioso, pasta,
pizza, ravioli, spaghetti, spumante, zabaglione, zucchini

Dutch, Flemish

Shipping, naval terms

avast, boom, bow, bowsprit, buoy, commodore, cruise, dock, freight,
keel, keelhaul, leak, pump, reef, scoop, scour, skipper, sloop,
smuggle, splice, tackle, yawl, yacht

Cloth industry

bale, cambric, duck (fabric), fuller's earth, mart, nap (of cloth),
selvage, spool, stripe

easel, etching, landscape, sketch

beleaguer, holster, freebooter, furlough, onslaught

Food and drink

booze, brandy(wine), coleslaw, cookie, cranberry, crullers, gin, hops,
stockfish, waffle

bugger (orig. French), crap, curl, dollar, scum, split (orig. nautical
term), uproar


bum, dunk, feldspar, quartz, hex, lager, knackwurst, liverwurst,
loafer, noodle, poodle, dachshund, pretzel, pinochle, pumpernickel,
sauerkraut, schnitzel, zwieback, (beer)stein, lederhosen, dirndl

20th century German loanwords:

blitzkrieg, zeppelin, strafe, U-boat, delicatessen, hamburger,
frankfurter, wiener, hausfrau, kindergarten, Oktoberfest, schuss,
wunderkind, bundt (cake), spritz (cookies), (apple) strudel

(most are 20th century borrowings)

bagel, Chanukkah (Hanukkah), chutzpah, dreidel, kibbitzer, kosher, lox,
pastrami (orig. from Romanian), schlep, spiel, schlepp, schlemiel,
schlimazel, gefilte fish, goy, klutz, knish, matzoh, oy vey, schmuck,

fjord, maelstrom, ombudsman, ski, slalom, smorgasbord

apparatchik, borscht, czar/tsar, glasnost, icon, perestroika, vodka

Words from other parts of the world

avatar, karma, mahatma, swastika, yoga

bandanna, bangle, bungalow, chintz, cot, cummerbund, dungaree,
juggernaut, jungle, loot, maharaja, nabob, pajamas, punch (the drink),
shampoo, thug, kedgeree, jamboree

curry, mango, teak, pariah

Persian (Farsi)
check, checkmate, chess

bedouin, emir, jakir, gazelle, giraffe, harem, hashish, lute, minaret,
mosque, myrrh, salaam, sirocco, sultan, vizier, bazaar, caravan

African languages

banana (via Portuguese), banjo, boogie-woogie, chigger, goober,
gorilla, gumbo, jazz, jitterbug, jitters, juke(box), voodoo, yam,
zebra, zombie

American Indian languages

avocado, cacao, cannibal, canoe, chipmunk, chocolate, chili, hammock,
hominy, hurricane, maize, moccasin, moose, papoose, pecan, possum,
potato, skunk, squaw, succotash, squash, tamale (via Spanish), teepee,
terrapin, tobacco, toboggan, tomahawk, tomato, wigwam, woodchuck

(plus thousands of place names, including
Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatchewan and the names of more than half the
states of the U.S., including Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, Illinois)

chop suey, chow mein, dim sum, ketchup, tea, ginseng, kowtow, litchee

geisha, hara kiri, judo, jujitsu, kamikaze, karaoke, kimono, samurai,
soy, sumo, sushi, tsunami

Pacific Islands bamboo, gingham, rattan, taboo, tattoo, ukulele, boondocks

Australia boomerang, budgerigar, didgeridoo, kangaroo (and many more in
Australian English)

© 2001-2009
Suzanne Kemmer

Last modified 22 Sep 2009

Borrowed Words

Find examples of borrowed words at

Are Our Borrowed Words From French or Latin?

Are Our Borrowed Words From French or Latin?
By N.S. Gill, Guide

Question: Are Our Borrowed Words From French or Latin?

Many English words appear to be borrowings from Latin -- or is it French?

Answer: When I took an historical linguistics class, one of the questions on the first test was to write the country of origin for a series of English borrowed (meaning stolen, adopted, or adapted, but not returned) words. I fretted over the answers to some because while I knew there were Latin cognates, I didn't know whether the right answer was France or Italy. I don't remember what I decided to write. It didn't matter, though, because the teacher accepted either answer.

In the 11th century, the Norman French invaded not only the country of England, but its language. Some of the borrowings led to doublets, like pig and pork, cow and beef, and sheep and mutton, where the Anglo-Saxon animal name came to co-exist with a French word for the meat from the animal. Since French is a Romance language, it is based on the language of the Romans, i.e., Latin. This means that indirectly, English acquired much of its vocabulary from the Romans via the French. Some French words had other origins, so the English word 'garden' entered English from the French 'jardin', but 'jardin' entered French from a Germanic borrowing. Not all words of Latin origin entered English during the period of intense French influence. 'Pecuniary' entered English in the 16th century, a direct borrowing from Latin. The English word 'facile" may come from French 'facile' or from the Latin 'facilis'. We don't know which. According to Anatoly Liberman, whose examples I've used, for many words, it is best to say their presence in English is either from a French borrowing or directly from Latin.

Source: Word Origins, by Anatoly Liberman. Oxford: 2005. If you're interested in the origins of English words or onomatopoeia, you should read this book.

English Borrowing from other languages

Please read about this important topic at

Familiarity Marker

Familiarity Marker

Listen to Professor Crystal

Have you noticed how common the 'y' ('ie') ending is in English as a sort of colloquial suffix? A familiarity marker perhaps is a better way of talking about it. You talk about the telly - it's a television. You talk about your auntie - instead of your aunt. Of course, there's mummy and daddy as well. People from Australia are Aussies as well as Australians, and of course in proper names you talk about Charles and Charlie, or Susan and Susie. Very very common suffix.

Not surprising then to find that new words every now and then come into the language which use it, and the one that has attracted a lot of interest recently is 'luvvy' and 'luvvies' - l-u-v-v-y and l-u-v-v-i-e-s. Especially in Britain, it's a kind of mockery for actors and actresses, considered to be rather affected - actors, you know, who turn up and call each other 'darling' all the time and go 'mwah' at each other, when they're kissing each other, and people say "oh, listen to those luvvies talking, those poor luvvies - there's lots of luvvy talk going on" - l-u-v-v-y.

Now what's interesting is it's the spelling that's made this word so new, because there already was a word 'lovey' in the language, going back right to the 1960s, spelt l-o-v-e-y. It's a much older term of endearment. I might say "oh, come on, lovey!" meaning might hear from a bus conductor for instance, and it refers simply to you know, 'my dear', and it could be to a man or a woman, more usually to a woman. So, what we've got is a new word 'luvvy' with a different spelling from the old word 'lovey' - now that doesn't happen very often in language change.

You can listen to this article at:

Familiarity Markers in English

Familiarity Markers in English
Listen to Professor Crystal

There are quite a few familiarity markers in English - words which take on an ending to make the word sound much more familiar, or everyday, or down to earth. Ammunition becomes 'ammo'; a weird person becomes 'weirdo'; aggravation becomes 'aggro'. They like it in Australia a lot - "good afternoon", they don't say that so often, but 'arvo', 'arvo' is the abbreviation for afternoon in Australia.

And in the 1990s you had this rather interesting word 'saddo' - that's the adjective sad with this 'o' ending, spelt with two ds: s-a-d-d-o. It came in as a kind of a rude word really, a mocking word for somebody seen as socially inadequate, or somehow rather unfashionable, or contemptible in some way. You might hear somebody say, "oh, he's a real saddo" or "she's a real saddo" - it can be for male or for females.

It's from the word sad of course, from oh, way back in the 1930s, where 'sad' here doesn't mean miserable, it means pathetic, and that was a use of sad that came in at that time. It's a sense in other words that's been developing for quite a long time. In actual fact, you can take that sense of sad and trace it all the way back to Shakespeare, although he never said 'saddo'.

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Please visit the websites below and read about reduplicatives

Compounding - Blending - Clipping - Acronyms and more

Words in English public website
Prof. S. Kemmer

Types of Word Formation Processes


Compounding forms a word out of two or more root morphemes. The words are called compounds or compound words.

In Linguistics, compounds can be either native or borrowed.
Native English roots are typically free morphemes, so that means compounds are made out of independent words that can occur by themselves. Examples:
mailman (composed of free root mail and free root man)

mail carrier
fire hydrant

Note that compounds are written in various ways in English: with a space between the elements; with a hyphen between the elements; or simply with the two roots run together with no separation. The way the word is written does not affect its status as a compound. In Greek and Latin, on the other hand, roots do not typically stand alone. So compounds are composed of bound roots. Compounds formed in English from borrowed Latin and Greek morphemes preserve this characteristic. Examples include photograph, iatrogenic, and many thousands of other classical words.
There are a number of subtypes of compounds, and they are not mutually exclusive.

Rhyming compounds

These words are compounded from two rhyming words. Examples:

There are words that are formally very similar to rhyming compounds, but are not quite compounds in English because the second element is not really a word--it is just a nonsense item added to a root word to form a rhyme. Examples:

This formation process is associated in English with child talk (and talk addressed to children).

Henny Penny

Another word type that looks a bit like rhyming compounds comprises words that are formed of two elements that almost match, but differ in their vowels. Again, the second element is typically a nonsense form:



Deriviation is the creation of words by modification of a root without the addition of other roots. Often the effect is a change in part of speech.
Subtype of Derivation: Affixation
The most common type of derivation is the addition of one or more affixes to a root, as in the word derivation itself. This process is called affixation, a term which covers both prefixation and suffixation.


Blending is one of the most beloved of word formation processes in English. It is especially creative in that speakers take two words and merge them based not on morpheme structure but on sound structure. The resulting words are called blends.

Usually in word formation we combine roots or affixes along their edges: one morpheme comes to an end before the next one starts. For example, we form derivation out of the sequence of morphemes de+riv+at(e)+ion. One morpheme follows the next and each one has identifiable boundaries. The morphemes do not overlap.

But in blending, part of one word is stitched onto another word, without any regard for where one morpheme ends and another begins. For example, the word swooshtika 'Nike swoosh as a logo symbolizing corporate power and hegemony' was formed from swoosh and swastika. The swoosh part remains whole and recognizable in the blend, but the tika part is not a morpheme, either in the word swastika or in the blend. The blend is a perfect merger of form, and also of content. The meaning contains an implicit analogy between the swastika and the swoosh, and thus conceptually blends them into one new kind of thing having properties of both, but also combined properties of neither source. Other examples include glitterati (blending glitter and literati) 'Hollywood social set', mockumentary (mock and documentary) 'spoof documentary'.

The earliest blends in English only go back to the 19th century, with wordplay coinages by Lewis Carroll in Jabberwocky. For example, he introduced to the language slithy, formed from lithe and slimy) and galumph, (from gallop and triumph Interestingly galumph has survived as a word in English, but it now seems to mean 'walk in a stomping, ungainly way'.

Some blends that have been around for quite a while include brunch (breakfast and lunch), motel (motor hotel), electrocute (electric and execute), smog (smoke and fog) and cheeseburger (cheese and hamburger). These go back to the first half of the twentieth century. Others, such as stagflation (stagnation and inflation), spork (spoon and fork), and carjacking (car and hijacking) arose since the 1970s.
Here are some more recent blends I have run across:

mocktail (mock and cocktail) 'cocktail with no alcohol'
splog (spam and blog) 'fake blog designed to attract hits and raise Google-ranking'
Britpoperati (Britpop and literati) 'those knowledgable about current British pop music'


Clipping is a type of abbreviation of a word in which one part is 'clipped' off the rest, and the remaining word now means essentially the same thing as what the whole word means or meant. For example, the word rifle is a fairly modern clipping of an earlier compound rifle gun, meaning a gun with a rifled barrel. (Rifled means having a spiral groove causing the bullet to spin, and thus making it more accurate.) Another clipping is burger, formed by clipping off the beginning of the word hamburger. (This clipping could only come about once hamburg+er was reanalyzed as ham+burger.)


Acronyms are formed by taking the initial letters of a phrase and making a word out of it. The classical acronym is also pronounced as a word. Scuba was formed from self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.
Occasionally, not just letters but a whole or part syllable can be used in the formation of an acronym.

radar - RAdio Detection And Ranging
gestapo - GEheime STAatsPOlizei, German for 'Secret National Police'.
These can be thought of as a special case of acronyms.
Another special case is one in which the initial letters form the acronym, but they are still pronounced as letters rather than according to the rules of English spelling. Many organization names of of this type.


Memos, email, and text messaging are modes of communication that give rise to both clippings and acronyms, since these word formation methods are designed to abbreviate. Some acronyms:

BRB - be right back (from 1980s, 90s)
FYI - for your information (from mid 20th century)
LOL - laughing out loud (early 21st century) - now pronounced either /lol/ or /el o el/.

Novel creation

In novel creation, a speaker or writer forms a word without starting from other morphemes. It is as if the word if formed out of 'whole cloth', without reusing any parts.
Some examples of now-conventionalized words that were novel creations include blimp, googol (the mathematical term), and possibly slang, which emerged in the last 200 years with no obvious etymology.

Creative respelling

Sometimes words are formed by simply changing the spelling of a word that the speaker wants to relate to the new word. Product names often involve creative respelling, such as Mr. Kleen.
© 2008 Suzanne Kemmer
Last modified 21 Sept 08

Grammatical Conversion in English

Grammatical Conversion in English:
Some new trends in lexical evolution
by Ana I. Hernández Bartolomé and Gustavo Mendiluce Cabrera
Universidad de Valladolid

1. Introduction

nglish is a very productive language. Due to its versatile nature, it can undergo many different word formation processes to create new lexicon. Some of them are much lexicalised—such as derivation or compounding. However, new trends are pointing up in the productive field. This is the case of the minor methods of word-formation—i.e. clipping, blending—and conversion. As they are recent phenomena, they have not been much studied yet. Even scholars differ in their opinions about the way they should be treated. There is only one point they all agree with: these new methods are becoming more frequently used. For example, conversion will be more active in the future, and so, it will create a great part of the new words appearing in the English language (Cannon, 1985: 415).
Conversion is particularly common in English because the basic form of nouns and verbs is identical in many cases.
This paper will attempt to analyse in depth the behaviour of one of these new word-formation methods: conversion. It is probably the most outstanding new method in the word-formation panorama. It is a curious and attractive subject because it has a wide field of action: all grammatical categories can undergo conversion to more than one word-form, it is compatible with other word-formation processes, and it has no demonstrated limitations. All these reasons make the scope of conversion nearly unlimited.

2. Definition, terminology and characteristics

"Conversion is the derivational process whereby an item changes its word-class without the addition of an affix" (Quirk, Randolph and Greenbaum, 1987: 441). Thus, when the noun 'sign' (1) shifts to the verb 'sign(ed)' (2) without any change in the word form we can say this is a case of conversion1. However, it does not mean that this process takes place in all the cases of homophones (Marchand, 1972: 225). Sometimes, the connection has to do with coincidences or old etymological ties that have been lost.. For example, 'mind' (3 and 4) and 'matter' (5 and 6) are cases of this grammatical sameness without connection by conversion—the verbs have nothing to do today with their respective noun forms in terms of semantics (ibid.: 243).

Conversion is particularly common in English because the basic form of nouns and verbs is identical in many cases (Aitchison, 1989: 160). It is usually impossible in languages with grammatical genders, declensions or conjugations (Cannon, 1985: 430).
The status of conversion is a bit unclear. It must be undoubtedly placed within the phenomena of word-formation; nevertheless, there are some doubts about whether it must be considered a branch of derivation or a separate process by itself (with the same status as derivation or compounding) (Bauer, 1983: 32).

Despite this undetermined position in grammar, some scholars assert that conversion will become even more active in the future because it is a very easy way to create new words in English (Cannon, 1985: 415). There is no way to know the number of conversions appearing every day in the spoken language, although we know this number must be high (ibid.: 429). As it is a quite recent phenomenon, the written evidence is not a fully reliable source. We will have to wait a little longer to understand its whole impact, which will surely increase in importance in the next decades.
The terminology used for this process has not been completely established yet. The most usual terms are 'conversion', because a word is converted (shifted) to a different part of speech; and 'zero-derivation', because the process is like deriving (transferring) a word into another morphological category with a zero-affix creating a semantic dependence of one word upon another (Quirk, 1997: 1558). This would imply that this affix exists—because it is grammatically meaningful—although it cannot be seen (Arbor, 1970: 46). Other less frequently used terms are 'functional shift', 'functional change' or 'zero-marked derivative' (Cannon, 1985: 412), denominations that express by themselves the way the process is considered to happen.
Conversion is extremely productive to increase the English lexicon because it provides an easy way to create new words from existing ones. Thus, the meaning is perfectly comprehensible and the speaker can rapidly fill a meaningful gap in his language or use fewer words (Aitchison, 1989: 161). "Conversion is a totally free process and any lexeme can undergo conversion into any of the open form classes as the need arises" (Bauer, 1983: 226). This means that any word form can be shifted to any word class, especially to open classes—nouns, verbs, etc.—and that there are not morphological restrictions. Up to date, there has only been found one restriction: derived nouns rarely undergo conversion (particularly not to verbs) (Bauer, 1983: 226). This exception is easily understood: if there already exists one word in the language, the creation of a new term for this same concept will be blocked for the economy of language. For example, the noun 'denial' (7) will never shift into a verb because this word already derives from the verb 'deny' (8). In that case, the conversion is blocked because 'to deny' (8) and '*to denial' would mean exactly the same. However, there are some special cases in which this process seems to happen without blocking. This can be exemplified in the noun 'sign' (1), converted into the verb 'to sign' (2), changed by derivation (suffixation) into the noun 'signal' (9) and converted into a new verb, 'to signal' (10). In this case there is no blocking because these words have slight semantic differences (Bauer, 1983: 226-227).
It must be pointed out that the process of conversion has some semantic limitations: a converted word only assumes one of the range of meanings of the original word. For example, the noun 'paper' has various meanings, such as "newspaper" (11), "material to wrap things" (12)... The denominal verb, though, only contains the sense of putting that material on places like walls. This shows the converted item has only converted part of the semantic field of the source item.

The aim of conversion varies with the user. Adults convey it to use fewer words, whereas children perform it in order to be understood, although they frequently produce ungrammatical utterances (Aitchison, 1989: 161). Anyway, it always helps to make communication easier. Thus, trying to gather this double functional raison d'être we have compiled our corpus of examples from international newspapers and magazines, such as The New York Times or Newsweek, and popular literature, such as the teenagers' magazines Smash Hits and Teens. The complete list of extracts can be found in the appendix.

3. Typology

There are many cases in which the process of conversion is evident. Nevertheless, conversion is not as simple as it may seem: the process is easily recognisable because both words are graphically identical; the direction of this process, though, is sometimes nearly impossible to determine. This is not very important for the speaker: he just needs a simple way to cover a gap in the language. As this paper tries to give a comprehensive vision on conversion, it will attempt to establish the direction of the process. Therefore, both the original category and the derived one will be mentioned.
The criterion to establish the original and derived item has been taken from Marchand (1972: 242-252). It focuses on several aspects:
a. the semantic dependence (the word that reports to the meaning of the other is the derivative)

b. the range of usage (the item with the smaller range of use is the converted word),

c. the semantic range (the one with less semantic fields is the shifted item)

d. and the phonetic shape (some suffixes express the word-class the item belongs to and, if it does not fit, this is the derivative).

After this analysis, intuition is still important. Verbs tend to be abstract because they represent actions and nouns are frequently concrete because they name material entities. Conversion is quickly related to shift of word-class. With this respect, it mainly produces nouns, verbs and adjectives. The major cases of conversion are from noun to verb and from verb to noun. Conversion from adjective to verb is also common, but it has a lower ratio. Other grammatical categories, including closed-class ones, can only shift to open-class categories, but not to closed-class ones (prepositions, conjunctions). In addition, it is not rare that a simple word shifts into more than one category.

3.1 Conversion from verb to noun

We shall first study the shift from verb to noun. It can be regarded from seven different points of view (Quirk, 1997: 1560). These subclassifications are not well defined in many cases. The same pair of converted words can be placed into two different categories depending on the subjectivity of their meaning. Nouns coming from verbs can express state of mind or state of sensation, like in the nouns 'experience' (13), 'fear' (14), 'feel' (15) or 'hope' (16). Nouns can also name events or activities, such is the case of 'attack' (17), 'alert(s)' (18) and 'laugh(s)' (19). The object of the verb from which the noun is derived can be observed in 'visit' (20) (with the sense of that which visits), 'increase' (21) (that which increases), 'call' (22) and 'command' (23). In the fourth division the noun refers to the subject of the original verb. Examples of this kind are 'clone' (24) (the living being that is cloned), 'contacts' (25) or 'judge' (26). Other nouns show the instrument of the primitive verb, like in 'cover' (27) (something to cover with) and 'start' (28). Finally, a place of the verb can also be nominalised, like in 'turn' (29) (where to turn) or 'rise' (9).

3.2 Conversion from noun to verb

Verbs converted from nouns have also many subclassifications (Quirk, 1997: 1561). They can express the action of putting in or on the noun, such as in pocket(ed) (30) (to put into the pocket), 'film(ing)' (31) (to put into a film) and 'practice' (32). These verbs can also have the meaning of "to provide with (the noun)" or "to give (the noun)", like 'name' (33) (to give a name to somebody), 'shape' (34) (to give shape to something) or 'fuel(s)' (35). The verbs belonging to the third division will express the action done with the noun as instrument. It can be exemplified with 'hammer' (36) (to hit a nail by means of a hammer), 'yo-yo' (37) (to play with a yo-yo) 'dot' (38) or 'brake' (braking) (39). Another group of verbs has the meaning of to act as the noun with respect to something, as exemplified in 'host(ed)' (40) (to act as the host of a house). Other subclassification has the sense of making something into the original noun, like in 'schedule(d)' (41) (to arrange into a schedule) and 'rule' (42). The last group means to send by means of the noun, that is the case of 'ship(ped)' (43) or 'telephone(d)' (44) (in an abstract sense).

3.3 Conversion from adjective to verb

Adjectives can also go through the process of conversion, especially to verbs. De-adjectival verbs get the meaning of "to make (adjective)". It can be easily seen by means of examples like 'black(ed)' (45) (to make black), 'open' (46), 'slow(ing)' (47)... In some cases, when these transitive verbs are used intransitively, a secondary conversion may happen (Quirk, 1997: 1561-1562), as it will be explained later on.

3.4 Conversion from a closed category to any other category

Closed-class categories can also undergo conversion. Although their frequency is much less common, the process is not ungrammatical. All morphologic categories have examples of this kind (Cannon, 1985:425-426). Prepositions are probably the most productive ones. They can easily become adverbs, nouns and verbs. This is the case of 'up' (48 and 49) and 'out' (37 and 50). Conversion to noun may as well occur in adverbs like in 'outside' (51) and 'inside' (51); conjunctions, as regarded in 'ifs' (52) and 'buts' (52); interjections and non-lexical items, like 'ho ho ho's' (53) and 'ha ha ha' (54); affixes such as 'mini-' (55) can appear as noun (56) and proper noun (55).... Conversion to verb is frequent in onomatopoeic expressions like 'buzz' (57), 'beep' (57) or 'woo(ing)' (58). Finally, phrase compounds can appear as adjectives, such as in 'borrow-the-mower' (59), 'down-to-earth' (60) or 'now-it-can-be-told' (61).

4. Partial conversion

Conversion from noun to adjective and adjective to noun is rather a controversial one. It is called 'partial conversion" by Quirk (1997: 1559) and Cannon (1985: 413) and 'syntactic process' by Bauer (1983: 230). This peculiar process occurs when "a word of one class appears in a function which is characteristic of another word class" (Quirk, 1997: 1559). Most of these cases should not be treated as conversion but as nouns functioning as adjectives and vice versa.

4.1 Conversion from noun to adjective
There are some clues, though, to make sure conversion has taken place. In the case of adjectives coming from nouns, the hints are quite easy: they can be considered as cases of conversion only when they can appear in predicative as well as in attributive form. If the denominal adjective can be used attributively, we can affirm conversion has happened. If it can only appear predicatively, it is merely a case of partial conversion. 'Mahogany music box' (62) can be used in an attributive way, "the music box is mahogany". This implies 'mahogany' is a denominal adjective. However, in the predicative phrase 'antiques dealers' (63) we cannot treat 'antiques' as an adjective because the attributive form of this expression is ungrammatical (*dealers are antique). Another way to make sure we are in front of a case of conversion is to change a word for another similar one. For example, in 'Dutch Auction' (64) we are sure the word 'Dutch' is an adjective because it has the specific form of adjective. Therefore, in 'South Jersey Auction' (65) or 'Texas Auction' (66) we can affirm these are cases of denominal adjectives.

4.2 Conversion from adjective to noun
Adjectives can also shift into nouns, though it is not very frequent. It mainly happens in well-established patterns of adjective plus noun phrase. Nominalisation occurs when the noun is elided and the adjective is widely used as a synonym of an existing set pattern. This could be the case of 'a Chinese favorite' (67).
The adjective nature in cases of partial conversion is evident, though. They are nouns from the point of view that they appear in the same syntactic position. Their grammatical nature, though, is a different one. These adjectives can still be changed to the comparative and superlative form (adjective nature). This can be exemplified in 'worst' (68) and 'merrier' (69). However, these adjectives cannot behave as nouns: if their number or case is changed, they will produce ungrammatical sentences. This can be seen in the case of 'more' (69) in cases like "*the mores we get". If the '-s' for the plural is added to any of these items, we would get ungrammatical sentences. The case of 'cutie' (70), though, could be argued. It seems to be much used and established within certain groups. This could have converted it into a lexicalised example of adjective to noun.

5. Conversion within secondary word classes
Up to this point conversion has only been considered as a shift from one grammatical category to another. However, these are not the only cases where it may happen. "The notion of conversion may be extended to changes of secondary word class, within the same major word category" (Quirk, 1997: 1563). This process has no clear terminology; for example it is called 'change of secondary word class' by Quirk (1997: 1563) and 'conversion as a syntactic process' by Bauer (1983: 227). Within the field of conversion, it has not been much studied because it is less evident than the classical conversion. Some scholars argue that these cases are products of syntactic processes, and so, they may not be considered as part of word-formation (they shift within the same grammatical category but not to a different one) (Bauer, 1983: 227).

5.1 Conversion within noun categories

The noun category can undergo four different kinds of secondary conversion (Quirk, 1997: 1563-1566). First, an uncountable noun can shift to a countable noun, like in the case of 'supplies' (71). It can also happen the other way round, a countable noun can become an uncountable one by becoming abstract, such as in 'cabaret' (72), 'chief' (73) and 'touch' (74). A third case occurs when a proper noun is converted into a common noun, as can be seen in 'diesel(s)' (75) (person's name), 'Bordeaux' (76) (usually related to high-quality French wines but not necessarily made in that particular city), 'yo-yo' (77) (trademark) or 'Stradivarius' (76) (famous maker of violins). Thus, this category can be rephrased as "a product of the (proper noun)". The fourth and final type happens when nouns shift from their static nature to a dynamic meaning when they follow the progressive of the verb 'to be'. Examples of this kind are 'student' (78), 'president' (79) and 'trouper' (80). These cases assume the meaning of "temporary role or activity". This fourth type is a product of the dynamic nature of the tense of the verb; it is not a characteristic of the noun by itself. This means that these nouns would return to their static nature by eliding the progressive form.

5.2 Conversion within verb categories

Verbs may undergo four different types of conversion. The first one happens when an intransitive verb is used transitively. This type has the meaning of "to cause to (verb)". Examples of this kind are 'worked a computer' (81), 'stop the manual recount' (82) and 'run the day-to-day operations' (83). Transitive verbs can also be used intransitively, that is the case of 'closed' (84). This category has been previously converted from adjective to verb, and, afterwards, it has experienced a secondary conversion from transitive to intransitive verb. In this sense, the verb would change the meaning from "to make close" (85) (transitive use) to "to become closed" (intransitive use) (84). A third type involves intransitive nouns converted into copulas. Examples like 'sat frozen' (86), 'grew silent' (87), 'were nailed shut' (88) or 'go global' (89) are quite current in daily conversations for the economy of language. In the case of 'sat frozen' (86) the strongest meaning remains with the verb, while, in the other two examples, the resulting meaning of the adjective prevails over the verbal one. Finally, verbs also shift form a monotransitive nature to a complex transitive one. Verbs commonly used with a unique object—direct or indirect—shift their behaviour and take more than one complement, as it can be seen in examples (90), (91) and (92). In 'won him the award' (90), the verb 'win' takes an indirect object and a direct one, although it usually takes only one direct one. The verb 'make' in 'make it a cabaret' (91) takes two different direct objects as well as the verb 'find' in 'find it very satisfying' (92).

5.3 Conversion within adjective categories

The adjective category can only be converted in two different ways. Like in the case of nouns, the static nature of adjectives can shift to a dynamic one because of the influence of the progressive form of the verb 'to be', such as in 'accused' (93). The other case happens when non-gradable adjectives turn into gradable ones. This category, though, is rather difficult to find. This gradation happens in 'incredulous' (94).

5.4 Conversion within adverb categories

Adverbs may also undergo secondary conversions within themselves. For example, the adverb 'still' can have a temporal sense (37) or be a manner adverb (95).

6. Marginal cases of conversion

There are some few cases of conversion in which there are slight non-affixal changes. These can be considered marginal cases of conversion (Bauer, 1983: 228-229). Although the shift takes place, they are called "marginal" because of the alterations produced in the word. Words belonging to this category are a close and long-established set. This marginal group can be divided regarding two different aspects: the pronunciation and the word-stress (Quirk, 1997: 1566).

6.1 Slight changes in pronunciation

With respect to pronunciation, there are some nouns ending in voiceless fricative consonants /-s/, /-f/ and /-θ/ which are converted into verbs with the voicing of the final consonant into /-z/, /-v/ and /-δ/, respectively2. For example, the noun 'use' /-s/ (96) shifts to the verb 'to use' /-z/ (97) without any change but the voicing of the final consonant. There are also some examples in this category that have a change in spelling for historical reasons. This is the case of the noun 'advice' /-s/ (98), which began to be written with 'c' in the 16th century (Oxford English Dictionary, 1979, vol. I: 139), whereas its corresponding verb 'advise' /-z/ (99) did not change its original spelling. Similarly, the noun 'belief' /-f/ (100) changed from 'beleeve' to 'beleefe' in the 16th century, "apparently by form-analogy with pairs like grieve grief, prove proof" (Oxford English Dictionary, 1979, vol. I: 782), while the verb 'believe' /-v/ (101) kept the original 'v'. In all those cases the change in graphic form corresponds to the shift in sound nature from a voiceless to a voiced consonant. Therefore, the voicing is also represented graphically. This category is no longer productive.
6.2 Slight changes in stress
The other marginal type has to do with the stress pattern. There are some bisyllabic verbs which shift to nouns or adjectives with a change in word stress from the verb distribution /-´-/ to the noun and adjective pattern /´—/ (this stress shift also affects the phonetic pattern, especially the length of the vowels involved). These are the cases of the verb 'conduct' (102) /kən'dVkt/ to the noun 'conduct' (103) /'kQndVkt/, from the verb 'protest' (104) /pr@'test/ to the noun 'protest' (105) /'pr@Utest/, or from the verb 'increase' (106) /iŋ'kri:s/ to the noun 'increase' (107) ('iŋkri:s/. This distinction is not kept in all the varieties of English and it tends to be lost. However, the shift of stress is still productive, as the following quotation from the entry corresponding to 'increase' in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary shows (2003: 387):
The stress distinction between verb -´- and noun ´— is not always made consistently. Nevertheless, 85% of the BrE 1988 poll panel preferred to make this distinction (as against 7% preferring ´— for both verb and noun, 5% -´- for both, and 3% ´— for the verb, -´- for the noun.
There is a great amount of phrasal verbs which are being nominalised with a change in the stress patterns, such as in 'layoffs' (108), 'outbreak' (109) or 'outlets' (110).

7. Conclusions

Most new words are not as new as we tend to think. They are just readjustments within the same language, like additions to existing items or recombination of elements. This is where the field of action of conversion may be placed, and that is why this type of morphological studies reveals interesting aspects in the diachronic evolution of the English language.
There are evident cases of conversion from one part of speech to another, unclear cases in which the grammatical category is not definitely shifted, secondary changes within the same word and marginal cases where the change has produced slight modifications.
The real examples provided indicate the high frequency of this process. It is quite a common phenomenon is everyday English. In addition, it is not a great source of problems for nonnative speakers and translators because the meaning of converted items is easily recognisable. However, nonnatives and translators are strongly advised to be taught conversion so that their passive knowledge of it can be turned into an active skill, with the subsequent lexical enlargement for their everyday communication.

1 Hereafter, the figure in brackets refers to the number of example as classified in the appendix containing our corpus of examples.
2 All the phonetic transcriptions were taken from the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary.


Word Formation

The basic part of any word is the root; to it, you can add a prefix at the beginning and/or a suffix at the end to change the meaning. For example, in the word "unflattering," the root is simply "flatter," while the prefix "un-" makes the word negative, and the suffix "-ing" changes it from a verb into an adjective (specifically, a participle).

English itself does not use prefixes as heavily as it once did, but many English words come from Latin, which uses prefixes and suffixes (you can use the word affix to refer either to a prefix or a suffix) quite extensively. For example, the words "prefix," "suffix," and "affix" themselves are all formed from "fix" by the use of prefixes:

• "ad" (to) + "fix" (attached) = "affix"
• "pre" (before) + "fix" = "prefix"
• "sub" (under) + "fix" = "suffix"

Note that both the "-d" of "ad" and the "-b" of "sub" change the last letter.
Here are some of the most common Latin prefixes (for the meanings of the Latin roots, look up the words in a good dictionary):

(away) abrupt, absent, absolve
(to) adverb, advertisment, afflict
(not) incapable, indecisive, intolerable
(between, among) intercept, interdependent, interprovincial
(within) intramural, intrapersonal, intraprovincial
(before) prefabricate, preface prefer
(after) postpone, postscript, postwar
(under) submarine, subscription, suspect
(across) transfer, transit, translate

Written by David Megginson

lunes, 12 de abril de 2010

Leonardo da Vinci

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Leonardo Da Vinci

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