Neologisms in American News Reporting

Seminar Paper, 2005

13 Pages, Grade: 2,4


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Definitions and Major Features of Neologisms

3. Morphological Classification of New Words

4. Semantic Fields of Neologisms

5. Conclusion

6. Works Cited

“Et Verba Nova Et Origines Exquirere” (To seek out new words and their origins)[1]

1. Introduction

Every nation is known by the culture represented through the language it keeps, and every aspect of the life of a people is reflected in their vocabulary. Like the history of a country, its vocabulary bears witness of its past and present. As the community changes in its technological development or social transformation, so does its language. Some words get out of usage or get transformed; new words are created to represent the reality brought to us by mass media in particular through news reporting.

Although there are general patterns of word-formation, language is not a fixed, rigid system; according to the current stage of development new words enter the vocabulary continuously, and certain tendencies of forming new words appear and may disappear again. This work will be focused on current trends in American English word-formation and new words in news reporting. After the presentation of general definitions of neologisms, their aspects and major word-formation patterns, morphological classification will be shown. Although various semantic fields of neologisms will be introduced, it is almost impossible to present all tendencies. In order to fix certain trends, largely have been chosen and examined examples from John Algeo′s Fifty Years Among the New Words ( A Dictionary of Neologisms, 1941 – 1991) and Jonathon Green′s Neologisms - New Words since 1960.

2. Definitions and Major Features of Neologisms

In order to clarify the major question of this paper it is important to define clearly what "new words" are - "…a new word is a form or the use of a form not recorded in general dictionaries". (Algeo 2) The main condition for the inclusion in dictionaries is frequent usage of a new word.

The term neologism was coined around 1800 and can also refer to “…an existing word or phrase which has been assigned a new meaning. Neologisms are especially useful in identifying inventions, new phenomena, or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context.”(

Thus the basic purpose of new words is to fill representational gaps new meanings or new mental concepts open on a special step of technological, scientific or social development. Neologisms are called “nonce” words (from the 16th century phrase meaning ′for the once′). A “nonce-word” is one that is constructed to serve a need of the moment. The writer is not seriously putting forward his word as one that is to have an independent existence for the future; he merely has a fancy to it for this once. The motives of word creation can be of two types: pragmatic and esthetic. The first one implies social or technological development: “changes in society, whether material or intellectual, call for new words; and the more intense the social change, the more need we have to name new things or rename old one.”(Algeo 14), whereas the latter one defines the creative feature of a language: “we use some new words because we take delight in them” (Algeo 15).

3. Morphological Classification of New Words.

As far as neologisms represent complex linguistic phenomena there are some ways of classifying them. Thus they can be classified according to the type of word formation or regarding their contextual fields, i.e. spheres of their usage. The first classification describing etymological sources is presented by Algeo in his book “Fifty Years Among the New Words”.

He defines six basic morphological sources with a number of subcategories described below:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Diagram 1. Sources of new words from“Among the New Words” 1941-1991. (Algeo 14)

1. Combining is considered to be the most productive way of word formation. It means combining existing words or word parts (morphemes) into a new word. The words created in this way are classified into derivatives (a root and two or more affixes) and compounds (two or more full words or roots). It is important to note that some affixes can also be used as independent words, e.g.: “- like” or “- happy”. (Algeo 5)

Regarding derivatives, besides a great variety of traditional productive prefixes and suffixes some new tendencies are worth mentioned.

Some of the old prefixes often gain new senses, e.g.: “aero-” is a form meaning „air”. However it has some other connotation in the word “aeropolitics” (aviation politics). Another currently much used form is “Euro-“, that has both the general sense of “European”, and the more specific one “pertaining to the European Community”.

Some new suffixes are formed through blending, e.g.: suffix - holic created from alcoholic and used in workaholic. The ending – cast of broadcast became a productive suffix in such examples as: narrowcast (to transmit programs over subscription), telecast, newscast. Other derivates of this form are: - caster in sportscaster, and –casting in beercasting (beer advertising on TV).

(Algeo 7)

The formative “happy” lying on the borderline between suffixation and compounding isn’t a real suffix as far as it is usually spelled with a hyphen (headline-happy) or a space (flak happy). In comparison to the positive meaning of the independent word happy, suffix – happy has some doubtful meanings, e.g : “confused and disoriented” in battle-happy and “impulsive and obsessive about” in trigger-happy or power-happy. (Algeo 7)

The other subcategory of combining is presented by compound words consisting of two (occasionally more) words combined in lexical units, e.g.: user-friendly, block-buster, sweepswinger, etc. (Algeo 7)

2. Shifting is the second productive source of new words formation which occurs in grammar, meaning or context, e.g.: tabloid (characterized by celebrity interviews and a lurid treatment of taboo subjects, spin (the interpretation of an event for public presentation). (Algeo 13-14)

3. Shortening means omitting some parts of an old word. It is represented in various subcategories:

Alphabetisms (also initialisms) are abbreviations using the initial letters of the words of an expression pronounced by the alphabetical names of the letters. E.g.: TV, CNN, VIP.

Acronyms are made in a similar way as alphabetisms but are pronounced according to the normal rules of English orthography, e.g.: ZIP code, uppie (young urban professional).

Phonetic elision is omission of a sound, e.g.: stonewash from stonewashed (of denim cloth).

Back formation is the process of shortening a word by omitting an affix or a constituent morpheme, e.g. brainstorm (brainstorming), fact - find (act finding).

4. Blending – the process of simultaneous combining and shortening. Such words are also called portmanteau words, the term being coined by Lewis Carol in “Through the Looking-Glass” and “What Alice Found There”. Carroll has Humpty Dumpty say, "Well, slithy means 'lithe and slimy'... You see it's like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word." (

Another example of a portmanteau is infomercial, a combination of the words information and commercial. Many corporate brand names, trademarks, and initiatives, as well as names of corporations and organizations themselves, are portmanteau.

Blending has a number of variations, some of which can be quite complex.

Blending with clipped first element: netiquette (Internet and etiquette) - politeness recognized on Usenet, in mailing lists, and other electronic forms such as internet web boards.

Blending with clipped second element: newrun (new and rerun) - episode from a talk-show where old subjects are rehashed.

Blending with both elements clipped: infotainment from information and entertainment. The information in infotainment programming consists of mostly celebrity news and human drama.

advertainment (advertising and entertainment),

advertorial (advertising and editorial) means advertisement written in the form of editorial copy in a printed publication. They are usually designed to look like news stories in a style like press-release.

Blending by overlapping sounds only: playwright from play + write

5. Borrowing – loan word taken from foreign languages. However, the extremely high percentage of borrowings is mistakenly exaggerated. Loan words refer mostly to science and technology and are rarely observed in news reporting, e.g.: kybernetes (Greek) – cybernetics.

6. Creating is the last productive way of word formation. New words created resemble some sounds in nature: e.g.: bleep/ bleeper – an electronic device that generates telephonic signals.


[1] The motto for „Among the New Words“. (Algeo 2)

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Neologisms in American News Reporting
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
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Neologisms, American, News, Reporting
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Natalia Gavrylenko (Author), 2005, Neologisms in American News Reporting, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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