Гандзюк А.А. Affixation as one of the most productive ways of word building in the English language

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Гандзюк Анна Андріївна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, напрям підготовки «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

Стаття розглядає необхідність вивчення аффіксації як одного з найбільш продуктивних способів словотворення в англійській мові в процесі вивчення іноземної мови майбутніх учителів початкової школи у вищих навчальних закладах України.

Ключові слова: вивчення, афіксація, афікси, фразеологічна афіксація, морфеми, суфікс, префікс, прикметник.

Статья рассматривает необходимость изучения аффиксации как одного из наиболее продуктивных способов словообразования в английском языке в процессе изучения иностранного языка будущих учителей начальной школы в высших учебных заведениях Украины.

Ключевые слова: изучение, аффиксация, аффиксы, фразеологическая аффиксация, морфемы, суффикс, префикс, прилагательное.

The article gives reasons for the necessity of studying affixation as one of the most productive ways of word building in the English language in the process of learning a foreign language of the future primary school teachers in the Ukraine higher educational establishments.

Key words: studying, affixation, affixes, phraseological affixation, morpheme, suffix, prefix, adjective.


Relevance of the topic

Linguists state that language is never stable: sounds, constructions, grammatical elements, word-forms and word-meanings are all exposed to alteration. Derivational affixes as main resources in word-building process by means of affixation are no exception in this respect, they also undergo semantic change. Consequently many commonly used derivational affixes used in affixation are polysemantic in Modern English, and, moreover, in the case of their foreign origin they can be regarded as borrowed only after the last ones have begun an independent and active life in the recipient language, i.e. taking part in the word-making processes of that language. Thus, as the proof of the statement mentioned above we would like to dwell upon the phenomenon of affixation as one of the most productive ways of word-building process in the English language for the purpose of effective future primary school teachers’ learning a foreign language [1, p.12].

The analysis of research

The phenomenon of affixation has been investigated by a long chain of both home and foreign linguists. Interestingly, the creation of English affixes (the only affixes that really matter) as formatives of new words is a long story involving ancient poetry, e.g.: imperialism (<---suffix), (prefix--->) unjust kings, whiny serfs, white supremacy movements, and celebrity scandals, etc. It is a vivid story of literary wars and gory syntactical battles, political and incoherent debates, silly, bowling alley feuds, and countless philosophically nihilistic books about the social ramifications of the before mentioned conflicts between thorough explanation and simplification in speech, writing, and advertisements for cigarettes. It was written down in a long-winded epic poem by William Shakespeare that was burned by the public because it was blatantly incoherent. Jokingly, Shakespeare had almost entirely written this epic, named Affixiation, with words randomly formed with disfixes, transfixes, and Klingon. The problem of affixation in the words-formation process of new words has been in the focus of the attention of the scientists A. I. Smirnitsky, G. B. Antrushina, O. V. Afanasyeva, N. N. Morozova, N. M. Rayevskaya, I. V. Arnold, E. M. Dubenets, P. M. Karashchuk, M. I. Mostovey, R. S. Ginsburg and others.

The purpose formulation of research

It is a commonly recognized fact that the language is closely connected with the culture of the nation and can be understood through the culture in the broad meaning of the term. The affixation is great and various, and there is no doubt that its each aspect deserves our due attention.

In this scientific research we define the phenomenon of affixation as one of the most productive ways of word building in the English language; prove the importance of its study in the process of learning a foreign language. The future primary school teachers who are expected to teach foreign languages should possess perfectly the foreign language communicative competence. Moreover, their knowledge of a foreign language should approximate as much as possible to native speakers. That is why the use of different affixation types in the speech of the future primary school teachers plays a significant role. Realization of this goal requires the application of the studying English affixation in the process of learning a foreign language [1, p.15].

The main material

Affixation is generally defined as the formation of words by adding derivational affixes to different types of bases. Derived words formed by affixation may be the result of one or several applications of word-formation rule and thus the stems (an unchangeable part of a word in all its paradigms) of words making up a word-cluster enter into derivational relations of different degrees. The zero degree of derivation is ascribed to simple words, i.e. words whose stem is homonymous with a word-form and often with a root-morpheme, e.g.: atom, haste, devote, anxious, horror, etc. Derived words whose bases are built on simple stems and thus are formed by the application of one derivational affix are described as having the first degree of derivation, e.g. atomic, hasty, devotion, etc. Derived words formed by two consecutive stages of coining possess the second degree of derivation, e.g. atomical, hastily, devotional, etc.

From the point of view of derivational analysis such words are mostly either suffixal or prefixal derivatives, e.g. sub-atomic = sub- + (atom + + -ic), unreasonable = un- + (reason + -able), denationalise = de- + + (national + -ize), discouragement = (dis- + courage) + -ment.

The morpheme, and therefore affix, which is a type of morpheme, is generally defined as the smallest indivisible component of the word possessing a meaning of its own. Meanings of affixes are specific and considerably differ from those of root morphemes.

Let us take at random some of the adjectives formed with the same productive suffix -y, and try to deduce the meaning of the suffix from their dictionary definitions: brainy (inform.) – intelligent, intellectual, i.e. characterised by brains; catty – quietly or slyly malicious, spiteful, i.e. characterised by features ascribed to a cat; chatty – given to chat, inclined to chat; dressy (inform.) – showy in dress, i.e. inclined to dress well or to be overdressed; fishy (e.g.: in a fishy story, inform.) – improbable, hard to believe (like stories told by fishermen); foxy – foxlike, cunning or crafty, i.e. characterised by features which are ascribed to a fox; stagy – theatrical, unnatural, i.e. inclined to affectation, to unnatural theatrical manners; touchy – apt to take offence on slight provocation, i.e. resenting a touch or contact (not at all inclined to be touched).

Random-House Dictionary defines the meaning of the -y suffix as “characterised by or inclined to the substance or action of the root to which the affix is attached”. Yet, even the few given examples show that, on the one hand, there are cases, like touchy or fishy which are not covered by the definition. On the other hand, even those cases that are roughly covered show a wide variety of subtle shades of meaning [2, p. 49].

But is the suffix -y probably exceptional in this respect? It is sufficient to examine further examples to see that other affixes also offer an interesting variety of semantic shades. Compare, for instance, the meanings of adjective-forming suffixes in each of these groups of adjectives: 1) eatable (fit or good to eat), lovable (worthy of loving), questionable (open to doubt, to question), imaginable (capable of being imagined);

2) lovely (charming, beautiful, i.e. inspiring love), lonely (solitary, without company; lone; the meaning of the suffix does not seem to add any thing to that of the root);

3) friendly (characteristic of or befitting a friend) heavenly (resembling or befitting heaven; beautiful, splendid);

4) childish (resembling or befitting a child); tallish (rather tall, but not quite, i.e. approaching the quality of big size); girlish (like a girl, but, often, in a bad imitation of one); bookish (1) given or devoted to reading or study; (2) more acquainted with books than with real life, i. e. possessing the quality of bookish learning) [5, p.202].

The semantic distinctions of words produced from the same root by means of different affixes are also of considerable interest, both for language studies and research work. Compare: womanly – womanish, flowery – flowered – flowering, starry – starred, reddened – reddish, shortened – shortish, etc.

The semantic difference between the members of these groups is very obvious: the meanings of the suffixes are so distinct that they colour the whole words.

Womanly is used in a complimentary manner about girls and women, whereas womanish is used to indicate an effeminate man and certainly implies criticism.

Flowery is applied to speech or a style (cf. with the R. цветистый), flowered means “decorated with a pattern of flowers” (e.g.: flowered silk or chintz, cf. with the R. цветастый) and flowering is the same as blossoming (e.g.: flowering bushes or shrubs, cf. with the R. цветущий).

Starry means “resembling stars” (e.g.: starry eyes) and starred – “covered or decorated with stars” (e.g.: starred skies).

Reddened and shortened both imply the result of an action or process, as in the eyes reddened with weeping or a shortened version of a story (i.e. a story that has been abridged) whereas shortish and reddish point to insufficiency of quality: reddish is not exactly red, but tinged with red, and a shortish man is probably a little taller than a man described as short.

As it is already mentioned above, language is never stable: sounds, constructions, grammatical elements, word-forms and word-meanings are all exposed to alteration. Derivational affixes are no exception in this respect, they also undergo semantic change. Consequently many commonly used derivational affixes are polysemantic in Modern English. The following two may serve well as illustrations. The noun-suffix -er is used to coin words denoting: 1) persons following some special trade or profession, e.g. baker, driver, hunter, and further on; 2) persons doing a certain action at the moment in question, e.g.: packer, chooser, giver, and so on; 3) a device, tool, implement, e.g.: blotter, atomiser, boiler, eraser, transmitter, trailer, etc.

The adjective-suffix -y also has several meanings, such as: 1) composed of, full of, e.g.: bony, stony; 2) characterised by, e.g.: rainy, cloudy; 3) having the character of, resembling what the base denotes, e.g.: inky, bushy.

Another example of polysemy involves the suffix –ist, which has a very general meaning – “one who is or does something”, but there are three related clusters: 1) the one who performs the action involving something, e.g.: violinist, harpist; 2) the one who holds an ideology, e.g.: socialist, capitalist; 3) the one who is prejudiced against some group, e.g.: racist. This last sense is found in neologisms like ageist and classist, “one who discriminates against people because of their age or class” respectively, and specialist “one who unjustifiably discriminates in favour of humans over other animals”.

In the course of its long history the English language has adopted a great many words from foreign languages all over the world. One of the consequences of extensive borrowing was the appearance of numerous derivational affixes in the English language. Under certain circumstances some of them came to overlap semantically to a certain extent both with one another and with the native affixes. For instance, the suffix -er of native origin denoting the agent is synonymous to the suffix -ist of Greek origin which came into the English language through Latin in the 16th century. Both suffixes occur in nouns denoting the agent, e.g.: teacher, driller; journalist, botanist, economist, etc. Being synonymous these suffixes naturally differ from each other in some respects. Unlike the suffix -er, the suffix -ist is: 1) mostly combined with noun-bases, e.g.: violinist, receptionist, etc.; 2) as a rule, added to bases of non-Germanic origin and very seldom to bases of Germanic origin, e.g.: walkist, rightist; 3) used to form nouns denoting those who adhere to a doctrine or system, a political party, an ideology or the like, e.g. communist, Leninist, Marxist, chartist, Darwinist, etc. Words in -ist denoting ‘the upholder of a principle’ are usually matched by an abstract noun in -ism denoting ‘the respective theory’ (e.g.: Communism, Socialism, etc.) [5, p.203]. 4) There is also a considerable number of synonymous prefixes in the English language. Recent research has revealed certain rules concerning correlation between words with synonymous prefixes of native and foreign origin. It appears, for instance, that in prefixal-suffixal derivatives the general tendency is to use a prefix of Romanic origin if the suffix is also of Romanic origin and a native prefix in the case of a native suffix, cf. unrecognised – irrecognizable; unlimited – illimitable; unformed – informal; undecided – indecisive, etc. Though adequately reflecting the general tendency observed in similar cases this rule has many exceptions. The basic exception is the suffix -able which may often occur together with the native prefix un-, e.g.: unbearable, unfavourable, unreasonable, etc. In fact, the pattern un- +(v + -able) -> A is wide-spread and productive in Modern English [3, p. 34].


Affixation is the formation of words with the help of derivational affixes. Affixation is subdivided into prefixation and suffixation. E.g., if a prefix “dis” is added to the stem “like” (dislike) or suffix “ful” to “law” (lawful) we say a word is built by an affixation. Derivational morphemes added before the stem of a word are called prefixes (Eg.: un + like) and the derivational morphemes added after the stem of the word are called suffixes (hand + ful). Prefixes modify the lexical meaning of the stem meaning i.e. the prefixed derivative mostly belongs to the same part of speech, e.g.: like (v.) – dislike (v.). kind (adj.) – unkind (adj.), but suffixes transfer words to a different part of speech, e.g.: teach (v.) – teacher (n.). New investigations into the problem of prefixation in English showed interesting results. It appears that the traditional opinion, current among linguists that prefixes modify only the lexical meaning of words without changing the part of speech is not quite correct. In English there are about 25 prefixes which can transfer words to a different part of speech. For example: head (n.) – behead (v.), bus (n.) – debus (v.), brown (adj.) – embrown (v.), title (n.) – entitle (v.), large (adj.) – enlarge (v.), camp (n.) – encamp (v.), war (n.) – prewar (adj.).

If it is so we can say that there is no functional difference between suffixes and prefixes. Besides there are linguists1 who treat prefixes as a part of word-composition. They think that a prefix has the same function as the first component of a compound word. Other linguists2 consider prefixes as derivational affixes which differ essentially from root-morphemes and stems. From the point of view of their origin affixes may be native and borrowed. The suffixes -ness, -ish, -dom, -ful, -less, -ship and prefixes be-, mis-, un-, fore-, etc. are of native origin. But the affixes -able, -ment, -ation, -ism, -ist, re-, anti-, dis-, etc. are of borrowed origin.

In our further investigation we think it would be useful and helpful to explain the origin of suffixes and prefixes for effective development of language and speech skills of the future primary school teachers.


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  2. Ginsburg R.S. A Course in Modern English Lexicology / R. S. Ginsburg. – M: Высш. школа, 2004. – 269 с.
  3. Smirnitsky A. I. English Lexicology / A. I. Smirnitsky. – M: Из-во МГУ, 1998. – 260 с.
  4. Соколовська С.В., Веклич Ю.І. Theoretical English Course (Теоретичний курс англійської мови): навч.-метод. посіб. для студ. напрямку «Початкова освіта» зі спеціалізм. «Англійська мова» / С.В. Соколовська, Ю.І. Веклич. – К.: Київ. ун-т ім. Бориса Грінченка, 2012. – 364 с.

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