Origin of Derivational Affixes

While examining the stock of derivational affixes in Modern English from the point of view of their origin distinction should first of all be made between native and foreign affixes, e.g. the suffixes -ness, -ish, -domand the prefixes be-, mis-, un-are of native origin, whereas such suffixes as -ation, -ment, -ableand prefixes like dis-, ex-, re-are of foreign origin.

Many of the suffixes and prefixes of native origin were originally independent words. In the course of time they have gradually lost their independence and turned into derivational affixes. For instance, such noun-suffixes as -dom, -hood, -shipmay be traced back to words: -domrepresents the Old English noun domwhich meant judgement; sentence.

Many suffixes, however, have always been known as derivational affixes within the history of the English language, for instance -ish, -less-, -ness,etc.

The same is true of prefixes: some have developed out of independent words, e.g. out-, under-, over-,ethers have always functioned as derivational affixes, e.g. mis-, un-.

In the course of its historical development the English language has adopted a great many suffixes and prefixes from foreign languages. This process does not consist in borrowing derivational affixes as such. It is words that the language borrows from a foreign language and the borrowed words bring with them their derivatives formed after word-building patterns of this language. When such pairs of words as deriveand derivation, esteemand estimation, laudand laudationfound their way into the English vocabulary, it was natural that the suffix -ationshould be recognised by English speakers as an allowable means of forming nouns of action out of verbs. In this way a great many suffixes and prefixes of foreign origin have become an integral part of the system of word-formation in English. Among borrowed derivational affixes we find both suffixes, e.g. -able, -ible, -al, -age, -ance, -ist, -ism, -ess,etc., and prefixes, e.g. dis-, en[em]-, inter-, re-, non-and many others.

It is to be marked that quite a number of borrowed derivational affixes are of international currency. For instance, the suffix -istof Greek origin is used in many European languages to form a noun denoting one who adheres to a given doctrine or system, a political party, an ideology or one, who makes a practice of a given action (cf. socialist, communist).



Conversion, one of the principal ways of forming words in Modern English is highly productive in replenishing the English word-stock with new words. The term conversion, which some linguists find inadequate, refers to the numerous cases of phonetic identity of word-forms, primarily the so-called initial forms, of two words belonging to different parts of speech. This may be illustrated by the following cases: work - to work; love - to love; paper - to paper; brief - to brief,etc. As a rule we deal with simple words, although there are a few exceptions, e.g. wireless - to wireless.

If we regard such word-pairs as doctor - to doctor; water - to water; brief - to brieffrom the angle of their morphemic structure, we see that they are all root-words. On the derivational level, however, one of them should be referred to derived words, as it belongs to a different part of speech and is understood through semantic and structural relations with the other, i.e. is motivated by it. Consequently, the question arises: what serves as a word-building means in these cases? It would appear that the noun is formed from the verb (or vice versa) without any morphological change, but if we probe deeper into the matter, we inevitably come to the conclusion that the two words differ in the paradigm. Thus it is the paradigm that is used as a word-building means. Hence, we may define conversion as the formation of a new word through changes in its paradigm.

Typical Semantic Relations

As one of the two words within a conversion pair is semantically derived from the other, it is of great theoretical and practical importance to determine the semantic relations between words related through conversion. Summing up the findings of the linguists who have done research in this field we can enumerate the following typical semantic relations.

I. Verbs converted from nouns (denominal verbs).

This is the largest group of words related through conversion. The semantic relations between the nouns and verbs vary greatly. If the noun refers to some object of reality (both animate and inanimate) the converted verb may denote:

1) action characteristic of the object, e.g. apen - apev - imitate in a foolish way; butchern- butcherv - kill animals for food, cut up a killed animal;

2) instrumental use of the object, e.g. screwn - screwv - fasten with a screw; whipn - whipv - strike with a whip;

3) acquisition or addition of the object, e.g. fishn- fishv - catch or try to catch fish; coatn - covering of paint - coatv - put a coat of paint on;

4) deprivation of the object, e.g. dustn - dustv - remove dust from something; skinn - skin v - strip off the skin from; etc.

II. Nouns converted from verbs (deverbal substantives).

The verb generally referring to an action, the converted noun may denote:

1) instance of the action, e.g. jump v - jumpn - sudden spring from the ground; movev - moven - a change of position;

2) agent of the action, e.g. help v- helpn - a person who helps; it is of interest to mention that the deverbal personal nouns denoting the doer are mostly derogatory, e.g. bore v - boren - a person that bores; cheatv- cheatn - a person who cheats;

3) place of the action, e.g. drivev - driven - a path or road along which one drives; walk v - walkn - a place for walking;

4) object or result of the action, e.g. peelv- peeln - the outer skin of fruit or potatoes taken off; findv-find - something found, esp. something valuable or pleasant; etc.

Diachronic Approach of Conversion. Origin

Modern English vocabulary is exceedingly rich in conversion pairs. As a way of forming words conversion is extremely productive and new conversion pairs make their appearance in fiction, newspaper articles and in the process of oral communication in all spheres of human activity gradually forcing their way into the existing vocabulary and into the dictionaries as well. New conversion pairs are created on the analogy of those already in the word-stock on the semantic patterns described above as types of semantic relations. Conversion is highly productive in the formation of verbs, especially from compound nouns. 20th century new words include a great many verbs formed by conversion, e.g. to motor - travel by car; to phone - use the telephone; to wire - send a telegram; to microfilm - produce a microfilm of; to tear-gas - to use tear-gas; to fire-bomb - drop fire-bombs; to spearhead - act as a spearhead for; to blueprint - work out, outline, etc.

Productivity. Traditional and Occasional Conversion

Conversion is not an absolutely productive way of forming words because it is restricted both semantically and morphologically.

The English word-stock contains a great many words formed by means of conversion in different periods of its history. There are cases of traditional and occasional conversion. Traditional conversion refers to the accepted use of words which are recorded in dictionaries, e.g. to age, to cook, to love, to look, to capture,etc. The individual or occasional use of conversion is also very frequent; verbs and adjectives are converted from nouns or vice versa for the sake of bringing out the meaning more vividly in a given context only. These cases of individual coinage serve the given occasion only and do not enter the word-stock of the English language. In modern English usage we find a great number of cases of occasional conversion, e.g. togirl the boat; when his guests had been washed, mended, brushedand brandied;How am Ito preserve the respect of fellow-travellers, if I'm to be Billiedat every turn?


Form words with the following productive prefixes. State to what part of speech they belong. Give their Ukrainian equivalents.

anti-, co-, counter-, de-, ex-, extra-, in- (il-, im-, ir-), inter-, mis, non-, out-, over-, post-, pro-, re-, sub-, super-, trans-, ultra-, un-, under-.

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