Полотнянко А.В. The phenomenon of clipping as one of the means of word formation in the English language

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Полотнянко Анастасія Володимирівна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, напрям підготовки «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

У статті розглянуто феномен кліпінгу (скорочення) як один із найпоширеніших засобів процесу словотвору або створення нових слів в англійській мові на морфологічному рівні. Особлива увага приділяється походженню дієслова “скорочувати”, визначенню терміну “кліпінг”, дослідженню його семантичної ролі, наведенню прикладів різних типів скорочення. Автор також посилається на необхідність вивчення феномену кліпінгу у процесі підготовки майбутніх вихователів ДНЗ та початкових шкіл у вищих навчальних закладах.

Ключові слова: словотвір, кліпінг, кліпінг у кінці слова, кліпінг на початку слова, кліпінг у середині слова, змішаний кліпінг, складний кліпінг.

В статье рассмотрен феномен клиппинга (сокращения) как один из наиболее распространенных способов процесса словообразования или создания нових слов в английском языке на морфологическом уровне. Особое внимание уделяется происхождению глагола “сокращать”, определению термина “клиппинг”, исследованию его семантической роли, приведению примеров разных типов сокращения. Автор также ссылается на необходимости изучения клиппинга в процессе подготовки будущих воспитателей ДУЗ в высших учебных заведениях.

Ключевые слова: клиппинг, клиппинг в конце слова, клиппинг в начале слова, клиппинг в середине слова, смешанный клиппинг, сложный клиппинг.

The article dwells on the phenomenon of clipping (shortening) as one of the most common means in word formation process, or the creation of new words in English, adopting a morphological approach. Special attention is given to the etymology of the verb “to clip”, the definition of the term ‘clipping’, examining its semantic role, explaining and exemplifying different types of clipping. The author also mentions about the necessity of studying the phenomenon of the clipping in the process of the future preschool and primary school teachers’ training at higher educational establishments.

Key words: word formation, clipping, back clipping, initial clipping, middle clipping, mixed clipping, complex clipping.


Problem setting

Today’s global interrelation of the 21-st century nations and cultures, growing needs in communication and work among countries and people speaking different languages and having their own cultural traditions across the world demand training highly qualified preschool and primary school teachers that are expected to teach foreign languages, and who know more than two or three foreign languages and are capable and available to take part in an international cooperation and formation of a new attitude to our Motherland Ukraine in Europe and the whole world as well.

Home and foreign linguists consider clipping as one of the main trends in the development of Modern English especially in its colloquial layer, which, at high degree is supported by constant development of modern informational technologies and simplification of speech with no loss of its informative content. The significance and actuality of this article can be proved by the following reasons:

a) clipping is one of the developing branches of lexicology nowadays;

b) clipping reflects the general trend of simplification of a language;

c) clipping is closely connected with the development of modern informational technologies.

Consequently, both the investigation and studying the clipping phenomenon as one of the common ways of word building in English is immensely important for the development of social and culture competence of future preschool and primary school teachers in the process of their training.

Last scientific researches and publications analysis

The problem of clipping (= a clipped, or cut off lexical unit) as specific language phenomenon in modern languages attracts the attention of a number of researchers. It has been investigated and considered in numerous articles and researches of Ukrainian, and foreign authors as well. The most essential contribution to the investigation of the above mentioned problem has been made by linguists L. Verba, Yu. Zavhorodniyev, Yu. Zatsny, I. Anikseyenko, N. Rayevska, O. Soloshenko, L. Boytsan, L. Ganetska, A. Nikolenko, Denis Jamet, Suzanne Kemmer, Susan Dostert, Andrejs Veisbergs, Laurie Bauer, Hans Marchand, Katrin Blatt, Bernd Kortmann and others.

Formulation of the article’s purpose and setting tasks

From the things that have been mentioned above, the main article’s purpose is to reveal the creation of new words in the English language by clipping as one of the most common word building processes, which in its turn, helps develop students’ social and culture competence in the process of the effective future preschool and primary school teachers’ training. Therefore, our tasks are: to explain the etymology of the verb “to clip”; to define the notion “clipping”; to examine the semantic role of it, to distinguish and exemplify different types of this way of word formation.

The statement of basic material of investigation

The word formation process of clipping is considered to be an important concept when creating words. Nowadays, clipping as a special type of speech-economizing words, is a frequent occurrence in a number of languages. The tendency towards shortening in recent times is known to be rather intensive, and particularly in Modern English. The English prefer monosyllabism, and clipping constitutes 4.6% among neologisms and even outnumbers abbreviation (initial shortening – BBC for the British Broadcasting Corporation). It is especially popular in speech of students, where it has shortened forms like prof for professor, physed for physical education, digs for diggings, burger for hamburger, etc. [4, p.155]. Therefore, the phenomenon of clipping is one of the developing branches of lexicology nowadays.

The term of “clipping” comes from the verb to clip of Scandinavian origin (12th century, Old Norse – klippa, Swedish – klippa, Danish – klippe) meaning “to cut, to cut short, to cut off, to cut out, or to severe with a sharp instrument such as scissors, and to shear with shears as opposed to a knife, as well.” [10, p.182]

During Old English period the Anglo-Saxons used the verb clyppan for “to cut, to clip, to embrace, to grasp, to surround” that was cognate with hold Frisian kleppa, and during Middle English period the verb was used as clippen by English speakers.

Further on, in the 14th century, the verb had a long association with shady activities, originally relating mostly to cutting or shaving metal from coins. Later on, the meaning extended to “swindle, cheat, knave” probably from the sense “to shear sheep”. Then, in the 15th century, there appeared another meaning on a phonetic approach “to pronounce short”, and today, we know the verb in the sense of “to pronounce rapidly, with precise articulation and with omission of certain sounds, as of unstressed vowels (an annoying habit of clipping his words), to shorten (a word or phrase) by dropping one or more syllables.” [7].

The related words of the verb ‘to clip’ are clipper, clipped, clipt, and clipping.

Nowadays, in linguistics, scientists, adopting a morphological approach, characterize clipping on as a peculiar category of word formation or creation new words presented by the process of shortening which consists in the special reduction of a word or phrase to one or two of its parts in place of the whole.

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English the lexeme clipping [ˈklɪpɪŋ] as a noun is defined as: 1) something cut out or trimmed off, especially an article from a newspaper; cutting; and 2) the distortion of an audio or visual signal in which the tops of peaks with a high amplitude are cut off, caused by, for example, overloading of amplifier circuits [8].

American associate professor of Linguistics Suzanne Kemmer considers clipping to be one of the types of abbreviation of a word in which one part is clipped off the rest, and the remaining word now means the same thing as what the whole word means or meant. E.g.: the word copter is a clipping of a compound helicopter, meaning a type of an aircraft which is made to fly by a set of large fast-turning metal blades fixed on its top, and which can land in a small space and take off without running over the ground [9].

A German linguist Hans Marchand confirms that clippings are not coined as words belonging to the standard vocabulary of a language. Their origin is considered to be as terms of a special social group like schools, army, police, the medical profession, shop, and further on, in the intimacy of a surrounding (Fr. milieu) where a hint is sufficient to indicate the whole [4, p.153]. E.g.: clippings gym (<gymnasium or gymnastics), lab (<laboratory), math (<mathematics), matric (<matriculation), exam (<examination), grad (<graduate), Xerox (<Xerography), and so on, came into colloquial layer of the vocabulary from school or college slang; cap (<captain), copter (<helicopter), chute (<parachute) – from army slang; bra (<brassiere), nighty (<nightdress), pants (<panties) – from shop slang. Some influential group clippings have a tendency to pass into common usage, becoming part of RP (Received Pronunciation) or BBC English claimed to be Standard English, while clippings of a socially unimportant class or group will remain group slang.

David Crystal defines clippings as reductions of longer forms, usually removing the end of the word, but sometimes the beginning, the middle, or both beginning and ending together [5].

A linguist from New Zealand Laurie Bauer in his survey of the types of English word-formation points out that clipping refers to the process whereby a lexeme is shortened, while retaining the same meaning and still being a member of the same form class. The result of clipping is often a change of stylistic level. The scientist points out that it is formally very similar to back-formation, because in both cases the base of the word or full form is clipped (or shortened) [6, p.17].

French linguist Denis Jamet says that clipping has more than one name, namely truncation, and shortening. The scientist explains that clipping and truncation are quasi synonymous terms, clipping being of Anglo-Saxon origin, whereas truncation is a borrowing from French. The difference in the meaning is observed in the use of the term shortening which acts as a hyperonym (a word or phrase naming a broad category which includes other words: “primate” is a hyperonym for “chimpanzee” and “human.”) for clipping and truncation as well as blends, backformations, acronyms (one of the types of abbreviation), etc [6, p.16].

The next point we are going to investigate deals with the semantic role of clipping. Laurie Bauer claims: “clipping always provides synonymous words from the same base but here the different style level (not the different meaning) allows both to co-exist.” [6, p.16]

And now, we wonder, what the difference is between the meaning of clipping and truncation. D. Jamet states that the truncations, in addition to the meaning of the base word, signal their belonging to a certain group. And clippings are considered to be a rather mixed bag of forms being shortened from other words that share a common function relating to express familiarity with the denotation (direct meaning) of the derivative. For example, clipped form demo for the base lexical unit (full form) demonstration is a part of the vocabulary of people who take part in demonstrations, or people who work in the music industry [6, p.19].

Some clippings are used in speech by larger groups of speakers, and in this case they lose flavour belonging to this or that community, e.g., ad (<advertisement) [2].

The linguists enumerate three cases in which the semantic difference or differences between clipped forms or base lexemes can be observed:

1) the clipped form and the full one have more or less identical meaning, and seems to be the most frequently used case;

2) the clipped form is marked colloquial or slang as compared to the full form which appears to be the unmarked form;

3) the clipped form belongs to another “register”, that is, its use is restricted to a particular field, which follows the so-called phenomenon of “specialization of meaning”; accordingly, the clipped form is more technical than the base lexeme. Therefore, the meaning of the clipped form is narrowed, and only one of the meanings is kept in the clipped form. For instance:

examination: school, academic; medical; scrutiny

exam: just the test

The clipped forms may pluralize that confirms the restriction of meaning:

examinations = exams (tests) ⇒ result

examination (no plural) ⇒ process

And, finally, the clipped form needs to be “long enough” to have some meaning: univer for university [6, pp.19-20].

It is worth considering types of clipping which consist of:

a) back (or final) clipping;

b) fore (or initial) clipping;

c) middle (or median) clipping;

d) mixed clipping;

e) complex (or compound) clipping.

Back clipping (in phonetics – apocope or apocopation) is the most common type of shortening, in which the final part of the word is omitted, and the fore part is retained. It can be either simple or composite, e.g.: ad (<advertisement), bi (<bisexual), biopic (<biographical picture), cable (<cablegram), doc (<doctor), exam (<examination), exec (<executive), expat (<expatriate), expo (<exposition), fave (<favourite), fax (<facsimile), fed (<federal), flex (<flexible), frat (<fraternity), gas (<gasoline), gig (<gigabyte), glam (<glamour/glamorous), gov (<governor), gozz (<gossip), grad (<graduate), gym (<gymnastics, gymnasium), hanky/hankie (<handkerchief), hyper (<hyperactive), intro (<introduction), lab (<laboratory), mag (<magazine), memo (<memorandum), mike (<microphone), mutt (<uttonhead), prefab (<prefabricated), pop (<popular music), pub (<public house), sci-fi (<scientific fiction), sitcom (<situation comedy), trad (<traditional jazz), vegs (<vegetables), Al (<Albert), Nick (<Nickolas), Phil (<Philip), etc. [3, p.206].

Fore clipping (in phonetics – aphaeresis) is the omission of the fore (initial) part of the word, and as a result of it the final part retains, e.g.: bot (<robot), bus (<omnibus), cello (<violoncello), cid (<acid), chute (<parachute), coon (<raccoon), drome (<airdrome), fence (<defence), fro (<Afro), gator (<alligator), graf (<paragraph), net (<the Internet), phone (<telephone), pike (<turnpike), roach (<cockroach), sample (<example), story (<history), van (<caravan), varsity (<university), Dora (<Theodora), Fred (<Alfred), etc. [3, p.206].

Middle or median clipping (in phonetics – syncope) is the omission of the middle part of the word, getting rid of the beginning and ending parts, e.g.: binos (<binoculars), fancy (<fantasy), maths (<mathematics), paratrooper (<parachute trooper), specs (<spectacles), through (<thorough), and so on [3, p.207].

Mixed clipping, where the fore and the final parts of the word are clipped, e.g.: flu (<influenza), fridge (<refrigerator), jams or jammies (<pajamas /pyjamas), polly (apollinaris), stach (<moustache), tec (<detective), Liz (<Elizabeth), and further on [3, p.207].

Complex clipping occurs in compound words. It is a special case of word formation by clipping. In complex clipping, one part of the original compound word most often remains intact while the meaning of it retains. But sometimes both halves of a compound are clipped, e. g.: antilog (<antilogarithm), cablegram (<cable telegram), chum (<chamber fellow), forex (<foreign exchange), frag (<fragmentation grenade), garbo (<garbage man), govvy (<government-run or sponsored), grandma (<grandmother), grandpa (<grandfather), linocut (<linoleum cut), midcult (<middlebrow culture), modem (<modulator demodulator), navicert (<navigation certificate), op art (<optical art), org-man (<organization man), shrink (<head-shrinker), sitcom (<situation comedy), etc. [1].

In the case when both halves of a compound are clipped, as, for example, in navicert, it becomes confusing whether to consider the resultant formation as clipping or as blending for the border between the two types is not always clear.


In conclusion, we would say that creation of new words in any language is an immensely important process, and word formation by clipping is one of the most common ways of it. In recent times, there is the tendency towards shortness, and people use more often clipping, the speech-economizing type of words. The investigation and studying the clipping is of great importance for the development of social and culture competence of future preschool and primary school teachers in the process of their training at any educational establishment.

In our article we’ve have endeavored to explain the etymology of the verb “to clip”, define the notion “clipping”, examine the semantic role of it, distinguish and exemplify different types of this way of word formation in the English language.

In our further research we are going to investigate the phenomenon of clipping on the phonetic approach, for we are sure that it will help training future primary school teachers as competent professionals, ready to take part in an international cooperation and formation of a new attitude to our home country Ukraine in Europe and the whole world as well.


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