A. lexicology b. Word formation c. Lexicography

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1. Carter, R. (1998):1-14 – (What’s in a word)

2. Jackson, H. (198)8: 1-18 (What is a word?)

3. Crystal, D. ( 1995): 118-9 (The nature of the lexicon)

4. Landau, S. (2002) Dictionaries, The Art and Craft of Lexicography, 2nd ed., Cambridge UP, 1984, 1989, 2001

1.1 definition of a WORD

(orthographic, minimum meaningful unit, stress, forms of words)

- lexicological metalanguage: word-forms, lexemes, lexical units, mwlu, entry

1.2 lexemes & words

lexeme as an abstract unit

word form

lexeme and polysemy

- lexicological metalanguage: word-forms, lexemes, lexical units, mwlu, entry

1.3 grammatical vs. lexical words: lexical words: open & closed classes

1.4 morphemes: free & bound; morphology of the English language

1.5 word production & creativity

word formation: inflection, derivation, conversion, compounding



metaphor, etc.

1.6 multiple meanings and lexical relations



homonyms, homophones, homographs

revised definition of a word - lexicological metalanguage: word-forms, lexemes, lexical units, mwlu, entry

Howard Jackson: Words and their meaning

What is a word

Compound words form a unit made up of two or more single words

(e.g. time + keeper=timekeeper), but time + lag = time lag; time-lag

We may have words which are identical orthographically, but which are pronounced differently. We regard them as different words

e.g. refuse – /rifjuz/ declining, resisting (v.)

/refjus/ - rubbish (n.)

We also have different spellings for the same pronunciation

E.g. practice -_- practise – different words

Homographs – words which are spelt the same but have different pronunciation and meaning (e.g. refuse).

Homophones – words which are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings (e.g. practise – practice)

Homonyms – words which are spelt and pronounced the same, but have clearly different meanings.

e.g. bank

– financial institution
- side of river or stream
- a row of keys on a keyboard

Polysemy – refers to one word having a number of senses or variants of a single meaning

Eg. Grow

- grow a beard

- grow apples

- children's feet grow quickly

Nattinger proposed a not for teaching metaphor sets and he argues that the lexical items in a metaphor set such as argument is war should be thaught in terms of their associative bonding.

Grids, sets and networks of various kinds offer a systematic basis for vocabulary development and there have been a number of related attempts to develop them at different levels and for different purposes, including for beginning students. Recently, an emphasis has fallen on visual representation as a means to stimulating links between words and sets of words (diagram 7.5).

Inflections are these different words or the same word

E.g. sew – sewn – sewing – sewed – sewn (change of form)

Grammatically, they are different words. They occur in different context.

Ortographic words – different from each other by their spelling

Phonological words - different from each other by their pronounciation

Word-formsgrammatical variant

Lexemes – items of meaning, headwords of dictionary entries. The headwords are the base forms of the words, from which other word forms are derived. These base forms may be also termed as the citation forms.

In some dictionaries, the word singer may be found under the headword sing. This is incorrect. These must be regarded as separate words since they belong to different word class and are so used in different contexts.

Multi-word lexemes (MWLU)

Phrasal verbs – we understand them as a single semantic unit
Prepositional verbs (look after, think about, speak with, wait for)

Compound verbs (timekeeper, time machine, time-consuming) are to be regarded as single words
Idiomatic phrases (e.g. to spill the beans – reveal a secret) are single lexemes. They are usually entered in a dictionary as a derivative under one or more of the constituent words of the idiom)
I am coming tomorrow on the train at six o'clock.
Lexical words – I, am, coming, tomorrow, train, six o'clock

Grammatical words – on, the, at

R. Carter: What's in a word?
Lexical semantics is the area of linguistics which explores what a word is constituted of.
Orthographic definition – any sequence of letters bounded on either side by a space or punctuation mark. This definition is at the basis of such an activity as counting the number of words needed for an essay.
The spoken discourse does not allow of such a clear perception of a word. Where spaces occur in speech it may for reasons other than to differentiate one single word unit from another (e.g. for emphasis).
But, bring, brings, brought, bringing – are these separate words and are they listed separately in a dictionary?

It is more accurate to define a word as the minimum meaningful unit of language. But, there are single units of meaning which are conveyed by more than one word (e.g. bus conductor). Do they count as one word or two? Or, what meaning is transmitted by the following words: if, by, but, my, because… The presence of such words undermines another definition of a word, namely, that a word is a minimal free form (by Bloomfield).

This comes form the fact that a word is a word if it can stand on its own as a reply to a question or as a statement or exclamation.
Another possible definition of a word is that it will not have more than one stressed syllable. Words like if, but, by, them do not normally receive stress. Some two-word orthographic units such as bus conductor are defined as single words.
The notion of lexeme may help us to resolve some of these problems. Bring is a lexeme which has different word-forms (bring, brings, brought, bringing). Lexemes are the basic, contrasting units of vocabulary in a language. When we look up words in a dictionary we look up lexemes rather than words. The lexeme bring is an abstraction. It does not actually occur itself in texts. Instead it realizes different word forms.
The term lexeme also embraces items which consist of more than one word-form. Kick the bucket is a lexeme, and will appear as a single dictionary entry.

The notion of lexeme helps us to represent polysemy (the existence of several meanings in individual words).

Thus fair (n.), fair (adj.1) and fair (adj.2), will have three different lexeme meanings for the same word form. But, are the meanings of, for example dressing (sauce, fertilizing, bandages) specializations of the same basic lexeme or not?
Grammatical words (functional words, functors, empty words) include pronouns, articles, auxiliary verbs, prepositions and conjuctions.
Lexical words (full words) include nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs. The former are an open class of words (changeable over a period of time), and the latter a closed class (immutable) ****?
A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a word (e.g. the word inexpensive consists of two morphemes: in and expensive). There are free morphemes – occur independently as words. There are also bound morphemes – occur only as a part of a word and cannot stand on their own (e.g. –(e)s, -(e)d, -ing, un-, -ism). We also have allomorphs (the –er in smaller, winner, eraser). A morpheme is an abstraction and is realized by forms which are called morphs.
In a word, we distinguish inflections and derivations. Inflections signal grammatical variants of a given root (e.g. adapt, adapts, adapting, adapted). Derivations signal lexical variants of a given root (e.g. adaptor, adaptable, adaptability, adaptation), they change word-classes (e.g. rich – richness). Derivation operates even when there are no formal changes to the root (e.g. dirty – v. and adj.).

Morphemes can be root and non-root. Non-roots which are at the same time bound morphemes are called affixes. All the inflections of a basic root word-form of a lexeme are listed under a single lexeme entry.
Crystal, D.
Inflection – grammatical variants of a given root

Derivations – lexical variants of a given root
Multiple meanings

  • polysemy (several meanings in an individual word)

  • antonyms

  • affix (can different semantic values)

  • homonyms

  • homophones, homographs

2. ORIGIN OF ENGLISH WORDS – etymology, lexical borrowing, adding to the lexicon


1. Jackson, H. (1988): 19-34 (Where did English words come from?)

2. Crystal, D. (1995): 135-155 (Etymology)

3. Hatch, E & Brown, C. (1995) – Part 8, Adding to the lexicon, 170-187

4. EWD, Umbach (WNW), Barnhardt (World Book Dictionary.)


Borrowed words

- Old Norse / Danish, Norman Conquest 1066 – Middle. French, Classical Revival

- Mod. E. (combining words of Lat/Gr origin)

- New World (Spanish, Indian languages)

- Dutch, Spanish, Italian, 2nd World War

- Other (Mod. French, German, Spanish, Swedish), exotic lang.

- Intermediary languages

Making new words : Motivated words, Compounding, Derivation, Conversion, Blending, Clipping, Back formation , Acronyms

Etymology proper – in dictionary entries

Etymlogical Issues in dictionaries (EWD)

Method of presentation – word origin indicators; etymology in the entry ((Barnhardt, Umbach/WNW)

Nature – definition – issues : arguing etymologically (Crystal)

Neologistic compounds (Lat & Gr in Mod. E) – Orwell – Newspeak

Semantic change: (other than: euphemism, cliché, figurative language)

extension / genaralisation

narrowing / specialisation


pejoration / deterioration

Folk etymology


Jackson, H – Where did English words come from?

English – the Angles who invaded the island during the 5th and 6th century. Loan-words – words incorporated into English from other languages. The process by which they are brought into the language is called borrowing. These words then become nativised.

OE or Anglo-Saxon words are more prestigious and are associated with the written language or more formal contexts. Compounding – combining two or more existing words in order to form a new word (e.g. motorway). Most compounds are nouns, butovercharge (v.), lackluster (adj.), outside (adv.), into (prep.), yourself (pron.).

There is another kind of compounding, in which the parts of a compound are not themselves independent words (e.g. bibliography). We refer to these compounds as neo-classical compounds, and their parts as combining forms (e.g. bio-, electro-, tele-, -ology).

Derivation – adding to an existing word either a suffix or a prefix (e.g. locate + ion – location). It involves usually a change in word class.

A further kind of derivation is the possibility of using a word as a member of a word class other than the one to which it belongs – conversion (e.g. bottle, skin, catch, jump).

Blending – joining two words together and retaining a part of each (e.g. permafrost – permanent + frost; breakfast + lunch – brunch)

Clipping - or abbreviation (e.g. fridge refrigerator)

Back formation – by the removal of affixes (e.g. babysitter preceded the verb to babysit)

Acronyms - words composed of the initial letter of the words of a phrase (e.g. UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

Hatch E. & Brown C.: Adding to the lexicon


English borrowed from French during the occupation period which followed the Norman Conquest in 1066. (terms form the law, court and property, military, and church terms, food) – language of the court.

Some countries fight for maintaining the language pure from borrowed words (e.g. France lay down a law against English words).

Borrowed words may retain their original spelling and pronunciation. However, if the word is used for any length of time, changes begin to occur and the pronunciation and spelling become closer to the borrowing language (e.g. when American students order "tacodillas" in an English-sounding fasion).

Some languages have affixes which help to nativize borrowed words, e.g. Germans use –ieren so that the English publish becomes publizieren.

Borrowed words are frequently used for only a specific meaning, e.g. in the Nepali language, the English calendar is used only for the one hung to the wall.

The meanings of borrowed words may also be extended to the other new meanings which do not obtain in the source language, e.g. words wet and dry both appear as loans in Japanese. But wetto has been extended to include the meaning of sentimental or soft-hearted, and dorai can mean businesslike.

Borrowed words may become a source of humor, e.g. Bolag, a district in Cairo, is an adaptation of bean lake, thought there is no lake to be seen*****?

Restaurants use French words to create effect, but novelists also use borrowed words to create ambiance. The Clockwork Orange is famous for its use of borrowed lexical items from Russian. In borrowing the words become part of language and are used by the speakers of that language as though they were native lexical items.

We all use words like garage, confetti, vodka, goulash and robot without much thought of their origin. There are, or course, stages in assimilation of borrowed words. They may be worked with special affixes; the pronunciation of the word may gradually shift until they fit that of the native language. The end result is that the words are treated as ordinary words of the language.

In language mixing and switching, the words are momentarily borrowed by individual speakers in order to create certain effects. The dividing line between borrowing and mixing is fuzzy. Bilingual communities may use either the L1 or L2 when speaking with mono-linguals. In their own social communication they may use the L1 with heavy borrowing from the L2. The amount of mixing is great. Some linguists claim that the mixed language spoken by the bilingual social community is a separate L3.


Words that have developed with the language over time are called native words. When a new word is needed, and there is neither a borrowed word available, nor a native word, the solution is coining a new one (e.g. high-five, a word first used as a celebratory gesture, a slap of right hands high over their head). It is important that the word fits the phonology of the language.

Names of people and places

Eponyms - the names of inventors of products or people associated with particular products that have become the words for the products themselves (e.g. Tupperware, named after inventor, a chemist at DuPont).

The opposite type of relation also exists. Many family names are taken from ordinary words, in particular words for an occupation, making names like Smith, Miller, Former, Baker, Cooper, Wright, Potter etc. Names may be used in metaphoric fashion to refer to someone else who happens to exhibit the same trait as the person named; e.g. "She is the Madonna of our neighborhood". Almost every place name can be turned into an adjective e.g. Parisian nights – some quality of the place has been used as an attribute of the words they modify. Place names can become nouns too – Camembert (cheese) and Limousine are named after places in France.

Some names have multiple origins, e.g. after the earthquake in San Francisco many babies were given the middle name Quake. Ordinary words can become the basis of place names, e.g. French Lick, a town located in the Ohio Valley was once coverd by an inland sea in which salt accumulated. The salt springs in the valley are called licks because the cattle, buffalo and deer would lick the earth to get at the salt.

Place names can usually be traced through the history of an area. Place names along the California coust came from Hokan (the language of Chimash Indians): Ojai, Lompac, Point Mugn, Pismo Beach.

In science eponyms abound, e.g. in astronomy, comets are named for the first person who observes them. (e.g. Haley's Comet).


It is a process which allows us to create additional lexical items out of those that already exist. It is also a process in language change. We lika a word so much that we decide to use it in new ways, e.g. a spy spies, a bag is used to bag.

Ankist (1985.) classified noun-to-verb conversions according to patterns

1) applying or removing what the parent noun denotes – e.g. to newspaper the shelves

2) to go to or perform an activity at a place denoted by the parent noun

e.g. to Jacuzzi

3) to apply duration or time as denoted by the parent noun

e.g. to Christmas in Hawaii

4) to behave or take the roles of the parent noun

e.g. to John Wayne it

5) to come to resemble whatever the parent noun denotes

e.g. to trash the neighborhood

6) to produce the process or activity denoted by the parent noun

e.g. to conference

7) to perform actions usually performed by means of the parent noun

e.g. to RV across America


The meaning of words can shift over time (e.g. drive once meant driving cattle but is now mainly used for driving cars)

Shifts may either elevated or lower the value of words (e.g. angel once merely meant a messenger).

Shifts may occur in one dialect of a language, and not in another, e.g. corn in BrE = grain; in AmE a particular grain crop.

Meanings of words also shift as they are borrowed from one language to another, e.g. in Japanese the word feminisuto (from feminist) refers to a man who is sentimentally fond of women.

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