Замишляк І.В. Abbreviation as one of the two types of shortening

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Замишляк Ірина Василівна – 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 проблему абревіатури як одного із двох типів скорочення в англійській мові. Автор розкриває причини для необхідності вивчення феномену абревіатури у процесі підготовки майбутніх учителів початкової школи у вищих навчальних закладах України.

Ключові слова: скорочення, абревіатура, контрактура, кліпінг, акроніми, типи абревіатури.

В статье рассмотрена проблема аббревиатуры как одного из двух типов сокращения в английском языке. Автор раскрывает причины для необходимости изучения феномена аббревиатуры в процессе подготовки будущих учителей начальной школы в высших учебных заведениях Украины.

Ключевые слова: сокращение, аббревиатура, контрактура, клипинг, акронимы, типы аббревиатуры.

The article dwells upon the problem of abbreviation as one of the two types of shortening in the English language. The author reveals reasons for the necessity of studying the phenomenon of the abbreviation in the process of training future primary school teachers at higher educational establishments of Ukraine.

Key words: shortening, abbreviation, contraction, clipping, acronyms, types of abbreviations.


Relevance of the topic

Realities of today, global interrelation of the nations and cultural varieties of our planet of the 21-st century, growing needs in communication and work among countries and people of different languages and cultural traditions demand training highly qualified primary school teachers that are expected to teach foreign languages, and who know two or three foreign languages and are capable to take part in an international cooperation and formation of a new attitude to Ukraine in Europe and the whole world as well.

The philologists distinguish two types of shortening: abbreviation and contraction. Nowadays, abbreviation is one of the main trends in the development of Modern English language, especially in its colloquial layer, which, in its turn, 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) abbreviation is one of the developing branches of lexicology nowadays; b) abbreviation reflects the general trend of simplification of a language; c) abbreviation is closely connected with the development of modern informational technologies.

Thus, the studying of the abbreviation phenomenon as one of the two types of shortening in the English language is important in the process of training future primary school teachers.

The analysis of research

The problems of abbreviations (i.e. shortened lexical units) as specific language phenomena in modern languages attract the attention of many researchers, and they have been considered in numerous articles and separate researches of Ukrainian, Russian and foreign authors. Towards the most circumstantial works relating to the last ones we can outline such scientists as D. Alekseeva, O. Jespersen, V. Pavlova, T. Pilze, M. Segal, L. Shelyahovsky, E. Voloshina, R. Walse, and others.

B. Voloshin and V. Borisov also described formal structure abbreviations and their relationships with generators units. The philologists I. Stern, M. Schlauch, L. Shelyahovska and L. Sapogova studied the basic principles of modeling of shortened lexical units [1].

The purpose formulation of research

Therefore, from the things that have been mentioned above, the main goals of this article are to show abbreviation as one of the two types of shortening words, and to describe different types of it.

The main material

Shortened form of a written word or phrase is used in place of the whole. Abbreviations take many forms and can be found in ancient Greek inscriptions, in medieval manuscripts, and in the Koran [2].

Abbreviations began to proliferate in the 19th century and have been prevalent since; they are employed to reduce the time required for writing or speaking, especially, when referring to the myriad new organizations, bureaucratic entities, and technological products typical of industrial societies [6].

An abbreviation (from Latin brevis, meaning short) is a shortened form of a word or phrase. Usually, it consists of a letter or group of letters taken from a word or a phrase. For example, a word abbreviation can itself be represented by the following abbreviations: abbr., abbrv., or abbrev.

In strict analysis, abbreviations should not be confused with contractions or acronyms (including initialisms), with which they share some semantic and phonetic functions, though all three are connoted by the term “abbreviation” in loose parlance [4, p.167].

In modern English there exist two main ways of shortening: contraction (or clipping) and abbreviation (or initial shortening). Contraction is the act or process of making words smaller. For example: lab (for laboratory), mag (for magazine), story (for history), fancy (for fantasy), Liz (for Elizabeth), etc.

Linguists distinguish various types of classification of abbreviations. Kazakh scientist A.Yskakov differentiates abbreviations as shown below:

a) a string of letters – often spoken as such – formed from the initial letters of the (main) words of a phrase (called initialism), eg.:

BBC – British Broadcast Corporation;

CBI – Confederation of British Industry;

ERM – Exchange Rate Mechanism;

OTT – over the top;

PCW – personal computer word processor;

UK – United Kingdom.

Sometimes the letters of abbreviation represent syllables of a word, e.g.:

ID – identity or identification card;

TB – tuberculosis.

b) a word (sometimes called clipping) standing for the whole, retaining at least one syllable of the original word. E.g.: ad – advertisement; demo – demonstration; flu – influenza; pub – public house; phone – telephone; sitcom – situation comedy.

There are a few special written abbreviations for plurals: pp – pages; ff – following pages; mss – manuscripts.

Chemical formulae and other symbols can be regarded as a special type of abbreviation: H2O – water; Fe – iron; & - and; + - plus; - – minus [5].

Sylvia Chalker states that initialism is a type of abbreviation. The use of the initial letters of a name or expression as an abbreviation for it, each letter being pronounced separately, as in BBC, RSVP, RSPCA (also called alphabet abbreviation), etc.

Clipping is a type of abbreviation. The formation of a new word by shortening an existing one; an example of this. E.g. (omni)bus, exam(ination), (in)flu(enza), (tele)phone.

Syllabic abbreviation

A syllabic abbreviation is an abbreviation formed from (usually) initial syllables of several words, such as Interpol = International + police.

Syllabic abbreviations are usually written using lower case, sometimes starting with a capital letter, they are always pronounced as words rather than letter by letter, and should be distinguished from portmanteaus [6].

Acccording to the research of the American linguist Garland Canon abbreviations as words produced by shortening the immediate constituents of phrasal terms up to their initial letters are subdivided into 5 groups: 1) acronyms; 2) alphabetic abbreviation; 3) compound abbreviations; 4) graphic abbreviations; 5) Latin abbreviations.

An acronym is usually formed by taking the first initials of a phrase or compounded word and using those initials to form a word that stands for something, e.g.: UNO /'ju:nəʋ/ (< United Nations Organization), UNESCO /'ju: 'neskəʋ/ (< United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization), NATO /'neItəʋ/ (< North Atlantic Treaty Organization), SALT /'sɔ:lt/ (< Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), STEM /'stem/ (for scanning transmission electron microscope), radar /'reIdə/ (< radio detecting and ranging), and so on.

Alphabetic abbreviation is a special kind of abbreviation in which letters get their full individual alphabetic pronunciation, rather than a phonetic pronunciation, and a full stress, e.g.: USA /'ju: 'es' eI/ (< the United States of America), B.B.C. /'bi: 'bi: 'si:/ (< the British Broadcasting Corporation), M.P. /'em 'pi:/ (< Member of Parliament), F.B.I. /'ef 'bi: 'aI/ (< Federal Bureau of Investigation), and further on.

Alphabetic abbreviations are sometimes used for famous persons’ names, for instance: B.B. (< Brigitte Bardot), F.D.R. (< Franklin Delano Roosevelt), G.B.S. (< George Bernard Shaw), etc.

Compound abbreviations are those in which the first IC (immediate constituent) is a letter ( or letters) and the second one is a complete word, e.g.: A-bomb (< atomic bomb), V-day (< Victory day), Z-hour (< zero hour), L-driver (< learner-driver), ACD solution (<acid citrate dextrose solution), and further on.

One or both ICs of compound abbreviations may be clipped, for example: mid-August (< middle August), Interpol (< International police), hi-fi (< high fidelity), sci-fic (< science fiction), etc.

Graphical abbreviations are the result of shortening of words and word-groups only in written speech while orally the corresponding full forms are used. They are used for the economy of space and effort in writing.

Scientists-linguists identify several semantic groups of graphical abbreviation: a) days of the week, e.g.: Mon – Monday, Tue – Tuesday, etc.; b) names of months, e.g.: Apr – April, Aug – August, etc.; c) names of counties in UK, e.g.: Yorks – Yorkshire, Berks – Berkshire, etc.; d) names of states in USA, e.g.: Ala – Alabama, Alas – Alaska, etc.; e) names of address, e.g.: Mr. – Mister, Mrs. – Mistress, Ms. – Miss, Dr. – doctor, etc.; f) military ranks, e.g.: capt. – captain, col. – colonel, sgt. – sergeant, etc.; g) scientific degrees, e.g.: B.A. – Bachelor of Arts, M.A. – Master of Arts; D.M. – Doctor of Medicine (Sometimes in scientific degrees we run across abbreviations of Latin origin, e.g.: M.B. – Medicinae Baccalaurus); h) units of time, length, weight, e.g.: f. / ft – foot/feet, sec. – second, in. – inch, mg. – milligram, etc. [3].

Latin abbreviation was once the universal academic language in Europe. From the eighteenth century authors started using their mother tongue to write books, papers or proceedings. However, many Latin abbreviations continued to be used due to their precise simplicity and also Latin’s status as a learned language. The most common Latin words, abbreviations, and initialisms are still in use. For instance: i.e. /'aI 'i:/ – that is, a.m. /'eI 'em/ – before midday, in the morning, e.g. – for example, id. – in the same place, cf. – compare, and further on.


An abbreviation is a shorter way to write a word or phrase. People use abbreviations for words that they write a lot.

In our article we investigated the aspects of abbreviations such as: the act or result of abbreviating; a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole. We also revealed various types of abbreviations as follows: acronyms; alphabetic abbreviation; compound abbreviations; graphic abbreviations; Latin abbreviations. The studying of the abbreviation phenomenon as one of the two types of shortening in the English language is immensely important in the process of learning a foreign language by future primary school teachers.

In our further research we are going to investigate contraction as the other type of shortening, 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 Ukraine in Europe and the whole world as well.


  1. Causes and tendencies of English abbreviations. – [Електронний ресурс] – Режим доступу: http://gendocs.ru/v12499/causes_and_tendencies_of_english_abbreviations.
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica / Britannica, 2012 Ultimate Reference Suite [2012, ENG] Год выпуска: 2012. Издатель: Encyclopaedia Britannica (UK) Ltd. – [Електронний ресурс] – Режим доступу: http://rutracker.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3943631
  3. Jespersen, Otto. Growth and Structure of the English Language. – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982. – Pp. 246 – 249.
  4. New Hart’s Rules. The handbook of style for writers and editors. – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. – 167 pp.
  5. A.Yskakov. Shortening words (английская аббревиатура) / A.Yskakov // English. – 2003. – Jan. № 4. – C. 23 – 31.
  6. The Merriam. Webster Unabridged Dictionary. – [Електронний ресурс] – Режим доступу: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abbreviation
  1. Луцкевич В. А., Иванова А. А., Поташников Н. М., Самойлова И. А. Англо-русский словарь современных сокращений. English-Russian Dictionary of Modern Abbreviations. – M.: Издательство «Русский язык», 2002. – 1056 c.

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