Iina-Maria Kauna Aukongo — WHEN I was studying Advanced English Grammar this semester, my lecturer introduced an interesting word to us. The word is 'antidisestablishmentarianism'.
We were all taken aback by the length, the spelling and the sound of the word. Some of my classmates tried to pronounce the word, but ended up with weird pronunciations such as 'antibistablismsins' and antiestahishnism'.
Our anxieties and frustrations increased when she asked us to split the word 'antidisestablishmentarianism' into meaningful units or elements. All of us failed to do so. When she illustrated that the word 'antidisestablishmentarianism' could be divided into six meaningful parts, we began to see the logic and importance of introducing the 28-letter word to us.
The six meaningful units or elements of the word are 'anti-'; -dis-'; -'establish-'; -ment'; '-arian-'; and '-ism'. It became clear to me that we were learning about one of the several ways of forming words in English.
The branch of linguistics that studies how words are formed in a language is called morphology. In this article I will explain a few ways, which are used to form words in English.
Let us look at the word 'unemployment', for instance. The word 'unemployment' has three morphemes (meaningful units or elements; these are 'un-', 'employ' and '-ment'.
You might want to know that 'un-' and 'ment' are called bound morphemes since they are bound to the root word 'employ' in the word 'employment'.
Think of 'un-' and 'ment' as being glued to the word 'employ'. Words like 'antidisestablishmentarianism' and 'unemployment" are formed through the word-formation process called derivation.
You have come across words like 'chairperson', from the words 'chair' plus 'person'; 'headmaster' from 'head' and 'master'; and 'greenhouse' from 'green' and 'house'. In order to form these words, two different words are combined in each case.
This is one way of forming words in English called compounding. You can see that these words, which are combined to form one word are not bound morphemes.
Other examples include 'teleconference', 'ecosystem' and 'teleplay'.
Many words have been brought into the English language through invention. William Shakespeare invented more than 1700 English words most of which we use today.
Some of the English words Shakespeare invented are: 'bedroom', 'amazement', 'gossip', 'advertising', 'torture', 'assassination', 'outbreak', 'dishearten', 'worthless', 'blanket', 'dwindle', 'submerge', 'summit', 'undress', 'monumental' and 'generous'.
Without Shakespeare's creativity, these words would not be there in English. It is not only Shakespeare who created English words.
Some of the other people who created English words are Ben Johnson ('defunct', 'damp', 'clumsy' and 'strenuous'), Isaac Newton ('centripetal' and 'centrifugal') and Sir Thomas Moore ('absurdity', 'exaggerate', 'acceptance' and 'explain').
It therefore goes without saying that the more of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets one reads, the more English vocabulary one acquires.
In fact, reading good literature increases the reader's English vocabulary. I therefore encourage parents to buy more English novels and plays for their children for them to improve their English.
Blending is another way of creating words in English. This is done by combining parts of words together to form one word. A meal taken between breakfast and lunch times is called 'brunch' from the words 'breakfast' and 'lunch'.
Think of 'camcorder' from 'camera' and 'recorder', 'smog' from 'smoke' and 'fog' and 'motel' from 'motor' and 'hotel'.
Some words are created through clipping. Examples of words formed through clipping are 'exam' from 'examination', 'gym' from 'gymnasium', 'head' from 'headmaster' and 'prof' from 'professor'. It is important to note that clipping is not done arbitrarily, otherwise everyone would simply chop words willy-nilly.
This can cause confusion in the structure and use of English words. Names of people have also been used as special words in English. The word 'malapropism' means 'the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one'.
This word comes of a Mrs Malaprop who had the bad habit of using English words incorrectly. Mrs Malaprop was a character in the paly The Rivals written by Richard Sheridan.
When you are hungry you may quickly prepare a sandwich and eat. Did you know that the word 'sandwich' came from a gambler called Earl Sandwich? Because he liked gambling very much, Earl Sandwich did not have time to prepare a good meal, so he would put some meat or vegetables between two slices of bread and eat.
This became popular and this type of food was named 'sandwich' after him. The next time you prepare or buy a sandwich, think of the gambler Earl Sandwich. Bye for now, I am going to prepare my sandwich!
Iina- Maria Kauna Aukongo is a Master of Arts in English student in the Department of Language and Literature Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Namibia.