Language Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

Provide a comprehensive discussion of five ways in which English adds to its word stock. 

Expert Answers info

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write5,917 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

The traditional and most common linguistic means by which English adds to its word stock are: (1) loan word borrowings, (2) compounding and blending of morphemes, (3) combined words from combining forms, (4) derivatives from affixations, (5) word class mobility and back-formations. A sixth means is the creation of neologisms, often contributed by children and youth, as seen today in street sports and text messaging today, or contributed by adults in special business niches, like advertising, or as slang.

Loan words are borrowed from other languages and cultures, like the standard "panache" or the newer "homie." Immigration of large groups of people from one ethnicity introduces loan words through assimilation. 

Compounding of words occurs when words are so often used as collocations in a specific context that they come to have a specialized definition for that context, such as "on line: online" and "Web site: website." blending is similar but uses parts of words as representative parts in new words, such as the "e" in "electronic mail" that blended to become "e-mail," which then compounded to become "email."

Combined words from combining forms are often used in science and medicine. One or more Greek or Latin combining forms, like the Latin "homo-", are used to form new combined words, like "electromagnetic" or "biomagnetic" formed with the New Latin < Greek combining form "electro-" and with the Greek combining form "bio-".

Derivatives are formed by the affixation of suffixes and or prefixes. Very often, derivation of a words creates a word class change for the word undergoing affixation, such as when noun-forming -tion is affixed to a verb to create a noun, like "relation" from relate + -tion.

Words can also undergo word class mobility through usage, such as when the noun "text" came to be used in common parlance as a verb as in "Did you text him?" Back formation of words can also cause word class mobility as in the back-formation of the verb "to babysit" from the original compound noun "babysitter."

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write16,848 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The addition of words to the English lexicon has presented itself through pragmatic use.  This system provides "rules to guide culture-based, appropriate use of language in communication."  The aspect of "culture- based" usage can be seen with the explosion of technology.  This is one way in which English has added to its word stock.  The proliferation of technology and the language associated with it has assembled more to the English word stock.  Words like "selfie," "MOOC," and "Bitcoin are ways in which technology use has added to the English word stock.  This pragmatic use has met the standard of culture- based appropriation of language because of social dependence on technology.

The pragmatic embrace of culture-based appropriateness has enabled more words added to the English lexicon. Words like "twerk" and "vom" have become part of the English word stock because of cultural use that has been deemed appropriate.  "Sickened" was not effective as "vom" in communicating aspects of cultural expression, while cultural notions of the good have become attached to "twerk."  Reminiscent of the pragmatic system in which people "choose different styles" of verbal communication, examples of the addition to the English word stock has featured accepted language through the embrace of stylistic communication in which verbal emphasis needed to find new means of expression.

The use of contextual information is another way in which words have been added to the English word stock.  Consider words that pull from the domain of fashion as a means of enhancing linguistic context.  Words like "balayage" and "chandelier earrings" are taken into the English word stock because of contextual information.  Social communication has become more contextual in a way where specificity in language is required in order to facilitate communication.  Greater contextual insight is revealed with "chandelier earrings" as opposed to "earrings."  Hair coloring is too vague, while "balayage" is more specific. 

The ability to use language to express a condition of individual experience that others would immediately understand and comprehend in their own subjective is not only a fundamental part of the linguistic experience.  It is also a reason why more words are added into the English word stock.  For example, The Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year in 2012, "omnishambles" is one such addition.  Based off of the British political comedy "The Thick of It," the term is used to describe a "comprehensively mismanaged situation, characterized by a shambolic string of blunders."  In this instance, language was added to the English word stock because it embodied a condition that a group of people could immediately understand and to which there could be instant relation on a differentiated level through its use.

These four different reasons as to why words are added to the English word stock.  One final reason would  be related to the referential communication skills that can grow with more words added to the English language:  “New words, senses, and phrases are added to Oxford Dictionaries Online when we have gathered enough independent evidence from a range of sources to be confident that they have widespread currency in English."  The ability to generate "widespread currency in English" can be seen as another way to enhance the referential communication skills within the language.  The addition of words to the English word stock can be seen to accomplish this purpose.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial