Blends. A creative means of word-formation

Term Paper, 2014

20 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Blending: A creative way of coining new words

3 The process of blending

4 Blending and word classes
4.1 Blending within one word class
4.2 Blending across word classes

5 The classification of blendings according to Plag
5.1 Shortened compounds
5.2 Proper blends
5.3 Bauer’s way of categorizing blends

6 Blends in everyday speech

7 Summary

8 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Blending is anything but a new phenomenon in the English language. This is proven by the fact that the word brunch, which is one of the most widely known blends, was first recorded in 1896 - more than 100 years ago (Quinion 2014). However, only over the last couple of decades has blending become a very popular word-formation process. Today, in the English lexicon a large number of blends can be found which are no longer recognized as such since they have been in everyday use for quite a long time (Katamba 1994: 184). This can be explained by the fact that blends tend to be abbreviations in the beginning and, due to their word-like appearance, are lexicalized over time (Hadžiahmetović-Jurida 2006: 283). Although blending plays a significant role in terms of word-formation, it is hardly mentioned in monographs focusing on this particular aspect of morphology. The marginal role of blending in sources about word- formation triggered my interest and made me want to find out more about this vivid and highly creative process.

This paper aims to explore the rules that determine the creation of blends as well as to have a closer look on two ways of categorizing them. Therefore, the paper is structured as follows: First, a definition of the term blending will be given. Second, the rules and restriction that play a role in the creation of blendings will be explained. Third, I will try to find out which word classes can deliver source words for blends and whether word class restricts the process of blending in some way. Fourth, the classification of blends according to Plag (2003: 122-126) will be discussed critically. As an alternative to his classification Bauer’s (2012: 12) classification will be looked at. Fifth, I briefly want to focus on the importance of blends in everyday speech.

Unless indicated otherwise, all my example blends are taken from the webpage Portmanteau Words (2011).

2 Blending: A creative way of coining new words

Lexical blending is a highly creative process of word-formation and, especially in the English language, a popular and significant way of constructing neologisms for both, written and spoken language (Kemmer 2003: 69 f.). It is not easy to find a good definition of what blends actually are. Bauer (1983: 236 f.) states the problem:

Generally speaking, the category of blends is not well-defined, and blending tends to shade off into compounding, neo-classical compounding, affixation, clipping and, […], acronyming. Nevertheless, it is a very productive source of words in modern English, in both literary and scientific contexts. (Bauer 1983: 236 f.)

Elsewhere Bauer (1983: 234) delivers a definition of the term blend and defines it in the following way:

A blend may be defined as a new lexeme formed from parts of two (or possibly more) other words in such a way that there is no transparent analysis into morphs. The question of analysis into morphs is the awkward part of this definition, since in many cases some kind of analysis can be made: for example, in some instances at least one of the elements is transparently recoverable.

According to Bauer (1983: 234), the most distinct paradigms of blends are those, where the etymological root is not obvious and can only be discovered through specific explanation. As examples of such clear blendings Bauer (1983: 234) lists the following:

Table 1: Clear blendings

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

However, Plag (2003: 122) offers a definition of blendings which I find much more practicable for the purpose of this paper.

Definitions of blends in the morphological literature differ a great deal, but most treatments converge on a definition of blends as words that combine two (rarely three or more) words into one, deleting material from one or both of the source words.

3 The process of blending

Lipka (2002: 110) argues that blendings can not be defined as complex lexemes since they are not the result of morphemes combined to a syntagma. Moreover, he claims that blendings are not arbitrary words as, to some extent, their linguistic form is the force motivating them. Therefore, Lipka (2002: 145 f.) concludes that blendings are not a result of grammatical word-formation since they can neither be categorized as syntagmas nor as combinations of full units. Other non-morphemic word- formation patterns are clipping, acronymy, abbreviation and reduplication (Schmid 2011: 88).

According to Plag (2003: 123) blendings are the result of two clipped words that are blended together. As a rule, to receive a blend the first part of the first source word is combined with the second part of the second source word. Gries (2004: 418) observed that usually the shorter source word delivers the larger part to the blend and the longer source word contributes less to it. Consequently, Plag (2003: 123) formulates the blending rule AB + CD => AD. The vast majority of all blends follows this rule. However, examples that violate this rule can be found, although they are rather rare.

Table 2: How source-words combine

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Considering these examples, I assume that if the rule formulated by Plag and mentioned above does not apply, blends are either formed by the pattern AB + CD => AC or one of the source words is not truncated at all. The example “chortle” seems to be unique since I could not find any other blend of this pattern. Certainly, in order to prove this more examples would have to be examined, which goes beyond the scope of this paper. At least the paradigm of retaining one of the base words fully is mentioned in some sources where it is termed as “clipped compounds”, a subtype of blends (Hadžiahmetović-Jurida 2006: 284).

Another term worth mentioning here is “haplology” which means that parts of the source words of a blend overlap (vowels, consonants or even whole syllables). An example of this phenomenon is the blend selectorate which derives from the bases select and electorate. The source word select shares five out of its six letters with the second source word (Adams 1973: 150). In some cases one base word sounds completely the same as a part of the second base word. Such blendings can only be recognized in spelling (Enarsson 2006: 4 f.). Examples are:

Table 3: Homophones (examples taken from Enarsson 2006: 5)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The morphological structure of the source words does not seem to play an important role in the creation of blends (Kemmer 2003: 75). However, according to Plag (2003: 123), two restrictions seem to characterize where the cuts of the source words are made. First, cuts do not occur within the constituents of syllables. Monosyllabic blends either take “the onset of the first element and the rime of the second element, or onset and nucleus of the first element and the coda of the second.” (Plag 2003: 123) Polysyllabic blends follow the same rule the only difference being the larger number of possible constituents that can be combined (Plag 2003: 124). Second, most blends are a combination of words with the same amount of syllables and, furthermore, have the same number of syllables as the words from which they derive. In cases where words with a different number of syllables are combined, the blend usually has the same number of syllables as the second original element (Plag 2003: 125).


Excerpt out of 20 pages


Blends. A creative means of word-formation
Klagenfurt University  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
Topics in Linguistics: Syntax and Morphology
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word formation, morphology
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Carmen Peresich (Author), 2014, Blends. A creative means of word-formation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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