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2012 | 22 | 2 | 98-122

Article title

English back formation in the 20th and the early 21st centuries


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The subject of the present study is a description and analysis of English back-formation in the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. Investigation of an overall sample of 768 back-formed items has resulted in the following findings: Productivity of back-formation remains on the same level as it was in the first half of the 20th century. The most productive process is formation of verbs from action nouns. Back-formation of verbs from agent nouns has decreased, formation of verbs from adjectives almost disappeared. Adjectives can be seen as a minor source of back-formed nouns. There is a growth in involvement of compounds in this process. The most frequent subtracted suffixes are -ing, -ion/-ation and -er, all of them being involved in the formation of verbs. Stylistically unmarked items prevail, but they are often limited in use. Prefix back-formations continue to be formed. Inflectional back-formations seem to be on the decline. The class of adjectives back-formed from agent nouns is a new type that might continue in occurrence. From the analysis of the material investigated, the following main conclusion has been made: Back-formation can be considered a transparent, analysable and productive word-formation process, which has an indisputable potential for generating new words in the future.








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  • Linguistica Pragensia, Ústav pro jazyk český AV ČR, v.v.i., Letenská 4, 118 51 Praha 1, Czech Republic


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