In linguistics, word formation is an ambiguous term[1] that can refer to either:


A common method of word formation is the attachment of inflectional or derivational affixes.


Main article: Morphological derivation

Examples include:


Main article: Inflection

Inflection is modifying a word for the purpose of fitting it into the grammatical structure of a sentence.[4] For example:



Examples includes:

Acronyms & Initialisms

Main article: Acronym

An acronym is a word formed from the first letters of other words.[6] For example:

Acronyms are usually written entirely in capital letters, though some words originating as acronyms, like radar, are now treated as common nouns.[7]

Initialisms are similar to acronyms, but where the letters are pronounced as a series of letters. For example:


Main article: Back-formation

In linguistics, back-formation is the process of forming a new word by removing actual affixes, or parts of the word that is re-analyzed as an affix, from other words to create a base.[5] Examples include:

The process is motivated by analogy: edit is to editor as act is to actor. This process leads to a lot of denominal verbs.

The productivity of back-formation is limited, with the most productive forms of back-formation being hypocoristics.[5]


Main article: Blend word

See also: Portmanteau

A lexical blend is a complex word typically made of two word fragments. For example:

Although blending is listed under the Nonmorphological heading, there are debates as to how far blending is a matter of morphology.[1]


Main article: Compound (linguistics)

Compounding is the processing of combining two bases, where each base may be a fully-fledged word. For example:

Compounding is a topic relevant to syntax, semantics, and morphology.[2]

Word formation vs. Semantic change

Main article: semantic change

See also: conversion (word formation)

There are processes for forming new dictionary items which are not considered under the umbrella of word formation.[1] One specific example is semantic change, which is a change in a single word's meaning. The boundary between word formation and semantic change can be difficult to define as a new use of an old word can be seen as a new word derived from an old one and identical to it in form.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bauer, L. (1 January 2006). "Word Formation". Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (Second Edition). Elsevier: 632–633. doi:10.1016/b0-08-044854-2/04235-8. ISBN 9780080448541. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b Baker, Anne; Hengeveld, Kees (2012). Linguistics. Malden, MA.: John Wiley & Sons. p. 23. ISBN 978-0631230366.
  3. ^ Katamba, F. (1 January 2006). "Back-Formation". Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (Second Edition): 642–645. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/00108-5. ISBN 9780080448541.
  4. ^ Linguistics : the basics. Anne, July 8- Baker, Kees Hengeveld. Malden, MA.: John Wiley & Sons. 2012. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-631-23035-9. OCLC 748812931.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e Katamba, F. (1 January 2006). "Back-Formation". Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (Second Edition): 642–645. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/00108-5. ISBN 9780080448541.
  6. ^ a b Aronoff, Mark (1983). "A Decade of Morphology and Word Formation". Annual Review of Anthropology. 12: 360. doi:10.1146/
  7. ^ Carstairs-McCarthy, Andrew (2018). An Introduction to English Morphology: Words and Their Structure (2nd ed.). Edinburgh University Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-4744-2896-5.

See also