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A synchronic description of the English vocabulary deals with its present-day system and its patterns of word-formation by comparing words simultaneously existing in it.1

If the analysis is limited to stating the number and type of morphemes that make up the word, it is referred to as morphemic. For instance, the word girlishness may be analysed into three morphemes: the root -girl- and two suffixes -ish and -ness. The morphemic classification of words is as follows: one root morpheme — a root word (girl), one root morpheme plus one or more affixes — a derived word (girlish, girlishness), two or more stems — a compound word (girl-friend), two or more stems and a common affix — a compound derivative (old-maidish). The morphemic analysis establishes only the ultimate constituents that make up the word (see p. 85).

A structural word-formation analysis proceeds further: it studies the structural correlation with other words, the structural patterns or rules on which words are built.

This is done with the help of the principle of oppositions (see p. 25), i.e. by studying the partly similar elements, the difference between which is functionally relevant; in our case this difference is sufficient to create a new word. Girl and girlish are members of a morphemic opposition. They are similar as the root morpheme -girl- is the same. Their distinctive feature is the suffix -ish. Due to this suffix the second member of the opposition is a different word belonging to a different part of speech. This binary opposition comprises two elements.

А соrrelatiоn is a set of binary oppositions. It is composed of two subsets formed by the first and the second elements of each couple, i.e. opposition. Each element of the first set is coupled with exactly one element of the second set and vice versa. Each second element may be derived from the corresponding first element by a general rule valid for all members of the relation (see p. 26). Observing the proportional opposition:


girlish childish womanish monkeyish spinsterish bookish

1 The contribution of Soviet scholars to this problem is seen in the works by M.D. Stepanova, S.S. Khidekel, E.S. Koubryakova, T.M. Belyaeva, O.D. Meshkov, P.A. Soboleva and many other authors.

6 И. В. Арнольд 81

it is possible to conclude that there is in English a type of derived adjectives consisting of a noun stem and the suffix -ish. Observation also shows that the stems are mostly those of animate nouns, and permits us to define the relationship between the structural pattern of the word and its meaning. Any one word built according to this pattern contains a semantic component common to the whole group, namely: ‘typical of, or having the bad qualities of. There are also some other uses of the adjective forming ‘ish, but they do not concern us here.

In the above example the results of morphemic analysis and the structural word-formation analysis practically coincide. There are other cases, however, where they are of necessity separated. The morphemic analysis is, for instance, insufficient in showing the difference between the structure of inconvenience v and impatience n; it classifies both as derivatives. From the point of view of word-formation pattern, however, they are fundamentally different. It is only the second that is formed by derivation. Compare:

impatience n = patience n = corpulence n impatient a patient a corpulent a

The correlation that can be established for the verb inconvenience is different, namely:

inconvenience v = pain v = disgust v = anger v = daydream v

inconvenience n pain n disgust n anger n daydream n

Here nouns denoting some feeling or state are correlated with verbs causing this feeling or state, there being no difference in stems between the members of each separate opposition. Whether different pairs in the correlation are structured similarly or differently is irrelevant. Some of them are simple root words, others are derivatives or compounds. In terms of word-formation we state that the verb inconvenience when compared with the noun inconvenience shows relationships characteristic of the process of conversion. Cf. to position where the suffix -tion does not classify this word as an abstract noun but shows it is derived from one.

This approach also affords a possibility to distinguish between compound words formed by composition and those formed by other processes. The words honeymoon n and honeymoon v are both compounds, containing two free stems, yet the first is formed by composition: honey n + moon n > honeymoon n, and the second by conversion: honeymoon n> honeymoon v (see Ch. 8). The treatment remains synchronic because it is not the origin of the word that is established but its present correlations in the vocabulary and the patterns productive in present-day English, although sometimes it is difficult to say which is the derived form.

The analysis into immediate constituents described below permits us to obtain the morphemic structure and provides the basis for further word-formation analysis.


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