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Word formation: initial training sessions


This is another quite technical area but, at initial training level, it is unwise to focus on more than the teachable (and learnable) areas and leave to one side many of the issues in the in-service guide to word formation (although you should look there to remind yourself of more than the basics).


The key ideas

Obviously, the names and functions of the basic classes of words will have to be presented and taught before you can consider how English makes new words from its existing resources.
There is no attempt here, either, to cover more than the basic ideas of morphology and the term is not used on any of the worksheets.  Terms used on worksheets are found below.
However, if you wish to introduce the term morpheme, that will be helpful in allowing people to talk about the area.  The topics of bound and free morphemes, combining forms, bound bases etc. should probably not need to be covered.

With that in mind, here are the main ideas that form the focus of these worksheets and mini-tasks:

  • General word-formation ideas
    • conversion
    • prefixation
    • suffixation
    • reduplication
    • compounding
    • clipping
    • blending
  • Affixation
    • prefixation
      • negatives
      • reversals
      • time and ordering
      • degree or size
    • suffixation
      • making nouns
      • making verbs
      • making adjectives
      • making adverbs


Workshop tasks

Worksheet #1:

The first task draws on the participants' existing knowledge of word class and simply asks them to notice and describe what is happening.


In feedback to the tasks, your function is to introduce the technical terms with simple (and rather non-technical) definitions, and a clear example, as follows:

using an existing word in a different word class
For example:
    I bank with Santander
    Santander is a
adding to the beginning of a word
For example:
    People say he was lucky not to have been badly hurt but he thinks he was unlucky to have had the accident!
adding to the end of a word
For example:
    I told him speculation was dangerous but he speculated anyway
doubling a word or doubling with a small change
For example:
    He chatted for a while but became bored with empty chit-chat quite soon
combining two words to make a third meaning
For example:
    The doorman checked our tickets
shortening a word
For example:
    We took the bus to the zoo
merging two words together to make a combined meaning (often combined with clipping)
For example:
    He's an Oxbridge graduate

Here's the key to task 1.:

  1. Conversion: noun to verb with the addition of the -d ending for tense
  2. Suffixation: noun to adverb
  3. Suffixation: verb to noun (doer)
  4. Prefixation: reversal of action
  5. Conversion: adjective to verb (or vice versa)
  6. Suffixation: verb to adjective
  7. Prefixation: antonym making
  8. Suffixation: adjective to verb
  9. Prefixation: time ordering
  10. Conversion: verb to noun (or vice versa)
  11. Conversion: adjective to noun
  12. Prefixation: size enhancement
  13. Compounding: verb + noun
  14. Clipping: removing the ending
  15. Clipping: removing the beginning
  16. Conversion: classifier noun to verb (note the stress change)
  17. Reduplication with a small change
  18. Blending (with clipping of the first word)

Task 2. on the worksheet is a revision of that with a simple matching task.  It will allow people to go away with a record of the basics.  You may need to have some more examples of each category in mind.

Worksheet #2

This worksheet focuses only on prefixation and suffixation but it is as well to remind yourself and your trainees that these are only two of the ways that English forms new words.


The first task is on prefixation and concerns only four types of meaning change with one or two examples of each only:

making an opposite with un-, in-, im-, ir- ,a-, non-
reversing an action with de-, un-, dis-
time and ordering
with fore-, ex- ,pre-, post-, re-
size and degree
with super-, sub-, under-, mega-, over-, out-

There are many other functions that prefixes perform, of course, and a fuller list is available in the in-service guide to the area.
Extend this task by asking for further examples of each prefix in use and of other prefixes which perform the same type of function.

The second task concerns suffixes which form nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs.  Not all the possibilities are represented but the in-service guide to the area provides a list for your reference.
Extend this task, too, by asking for further examples of each suffix in use and of other suffixes which perform the same type of function.


Related areas

There are guides which include considerations of morphology, word formation (beyond the seven areas considered here), compounding and other guides to related areas.

Related guides
For trainees:
lexis index for the index to the guides in the initial plus area to lexis
essentials of word formation for the guide to the basics
For you (as a reminder of what you need to know)
lexis for the in-service index of the guides in this area
word formation for the in-service guide to this area which covers very much more
A-Z index where you can find guides to or containing specific concepts and terms