18 October 2005


Again, I worked overtime today. I arrived at my office around 8:30 in the morning, and spent the whole day working. In the morning, I read a chapter from my textbook for LIN 539, so that means that I only have one final chapter to read (I did a lot of advanced reading; so I am a few weeks ahead.). I also edited my handout for my Thursday lecture, and I have also started to make the exercise sheet. That was my morning. I went home to fix myself a quick sandwich, and went back around 12:00 PM. I then had a meeting with my professor and received the answer sheet for the homework that I will be grading starting tomorrow, and from 1:30 to 2:00 in the afternoon, I was in the library borrowing some books about languages. From 2:30 to 3:30, which happened to be my office hours, a total of seven students came and asked last-minute questions about the homework that they will be submitting tomorrow and I will grade. I basically did a recap lecture for them to understand. Then at 4:00 I attended my own class, and at 5:30 to 8:00 I finished my exercise handout. I returned home, printed the papers, reheated my dinner, and now I am blogging.

Somehow, blogging seems to be a diversion. Weird...

Now that I had filled my head with things about word-formation, I cannot get them settled down, so I am blogging about it.

Word-formation, or, if you would permit me to use the technical term, morphology, is the branch of linguistics where you study about the different ways that languages form their words. Some languages use affixes. There are four types of affixes, according to the location. The prefix is the thing you add at the beginning of the root. The suffix is the thing you add at the end of the root. English has both of these. The less common ones are the infixes and the circumfixes. The infix is an affix that you stick in the middle of the root. And a circumfix is an affix that you put at the beginning and at the end of the root. The only English examples are un-fucking-believable for the infix and em-bold-en and en-light-en for the circumfix.

There is also this thing called compounding. This is where you take two words that can stand alone and put them together to create a new word. Hotdog, for example, is a word created by compounding.

Reduplication is when you take a part of the root and repeat it. You can also take the whole root and repeat it. Austronesian languages (Languages in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Madagascar) use reduplication very prolifically.

Then, there is the process of alternation. This is when you make an internal modification to the root. In English, you have the examples of sing-sang-sung, and woman-women. You cannot say that s-ng is the root, and you have an infix vowel, but instead, you modify a part of the root to make the changes. The Semitic languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, etc) use this process productively, especially on their verbal conjugation. They only have three consonants (called a triliteral) as a root, and they put a lot of different sounds before, after, and in between those three consonants to conjugate the verbs.

Finally, you have the suppletion. This is when you have a variant of the word that is historically unrelated to the word. An English example is the good-better-best compared to the regular dark-darker-darkest.

There, that's my lecture. In a very shortened form. I hope my students don't find this blog, read it, and not attend my lecture.


  1. "Languages in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Madagascar"

    How did the same thing develop in Both SE Asia / Pacific and Madagascar? I mean, it must have entered the Pacific through migration, but Madagascar - that's not only the other way, it's easily reached from the African continent. You'd expect it to share most it's traits with surrounding African languages.