In linguistics, morphology is the study of the internal structure of words. Fromkin et al (2011:61) state that, “words have internal structure which is rule-governed. Morphology is part of our grammatical knowledge of language.”
Social media neologisms, like other lexemes, are made up of minimal units of meaning, known as morphemes. According to Plag (2002:13),
Words that are obviously composed by putting together smaller elements to form larger words with more complex meanings can be referred to as morphologically complex words. If we know how complex lexical items are made by the association of different constituent morphemes, then we can also analyze any complex word into its various constituents. In contrast, the words which cannot be decomposed into smaller meaningful units because they consist of only one morpheme are referred to as mono-morphemic.
For example, if we know how the plural morpheme -s is added to singular nouns to make them plural, then we can analyze any complex noun which is already inflected for plurality into its constituent parts. Similarly, if we know how the comparative suffix -er and the superlative -est are added to adjectives, then given any inflected adjective, we can also analyze it into its constituent morphemes. We can thus, analyze ‘keys’ into ‘key +s
for instance, and analyze ‘brighter’ into ‘bright + er’. The word ‘morphology’ itself consists of two morphemes ‘morph + ology’, meaning ‘form and study’. Fromkin et al (2011:61) further pointed out that:
Internet blogger love to point out ‘inconsistencies’ in the English language. they observe that while singers sing and flingers fling, it is not the case that fingers ‘fing’. However, morphology shows that ‘finger’ is a single morpheme, or a mono-morphemic word. The final ‘-er’ syllable in ‘finger’ is not separate morpheme because a finger is not one who fings.
A further way in which the vocabulary in English has expanded to accommodate the social world in which it is used has been to employ means internal to the language itself for devising new words. This is the area of the word-formation (or lexical morphology), and it includes what is known as composition/compounding and derivation. As summarized in Gramley and Patzold (1992:23):
Among the more recent additions to English, derivations and compounds account for 54.9 per cent; conversions for 19.6 per cent and shortenings for 18 per cent, while new meanings (14.4 per cent) and borrowing (7.5 per cent) are less prominent (cf. Cannon 1987:279).
In contrast to the above statement, the findings of this study revealed blending to be the most common word-formation process. This study however agrees with the description of word-formation by Jackson and Amvela (2011) and Gramley (2001) below that word formation is the vocabulary development process of using existing language material –words and morphemes- to create new lexical items.
Jackson and Amvela (2001:16) by ‘word formation processes’ mean ‘the different devices which are used in English to build new words from existing ones. Each word-formation process will result in the production of a specific type of word.”
Gramley (2001:67). Defines word formation as the processes by means of which new words are formed in a language using the resources of the language itself, rather than borrowing. Though it is possible to cut a new word from entirely whole cloth, most neologisms employ a combination of existing elements, and many of these new forms are clear variations of well-known words and phrases. Variation or extension of an established word or phrase is a common strategy in linguistic creativity, and indeed, the lexicographer Patrick hanks (2004) argues that is our dominant means of doing meaningfully novel things with language. This section on word formation would not be complete without mentioning the lexical creation processes in English. Most of these processes were applied in the creation of the neologisms that will be examined in this study. Despite the disagreement among scholars in this area, there do seem to be some regular processes involved.
The study objective is to “describe the morphological processes that form the social media neologisms” and hence a fitting definition of the term “morphology” is given. This study uses the term ‘morphology’ in the same context as defined as follows: Aronoff and Fudeman (2011:1) define ‘morphology’ as the mental system involved in word formation. It also refers to the branch of linguistics that deals with words, their internal structure, and how they are formed. Neologisms in any language are derived from the morphological processes that bring forth new expansion in a language. The word formation processes can be divided into two main categories which can be further sub-divided into smaller different meaningful units. The primary word-formation i.e. the coining of new words not based on existing material, and secondary word-formation, i.e. formation from already existing morphemes of the language. the primary word formation can be further sub-divided to word-manufacture/root-creation which is formation of new word without morphological, phonological, orthographical motivation, and onomatopoeia which is words that reflect/imitate sounds. The secondary word-formation process, can be sub-divided to: compounding, neo-classical combining, affixation, preffixation, back-formation, conversion, clipping, blending, acronym and alphabetization.
The word formation is a particular process of creating a new word. There are various theories of word formation. Lipka is one of those linguists who support the semantic theory of word formation, saying that it is “a powerful method in the study of semantic structure of lexical items” (Lipka 1972:190). The semantic theory distinguishes between ‘two constituents of word-formative syntagmas; the derminant – which corresponds to the modifier or satellite in syntax, and the ‘determinatum’ – which is equivalent to the head or nucleus of a construction (Lipka 1985). Various types of word formation are more or less productive, productivity is innovation of vocabulary by particular rules. It ‘is one of the defining features of human language… and allows native speaker to produce an infinitely large number of sentences”. (Bauer 1963). For Marchand (1969:2) word formation is fundamentally a matter of productive processes since he defines it as “that branch of the science of language which studies the patterns on which language forms new lexical units, i.e. words”. For him, productivity is a matter of more or less productive types. In Bauer (1983: 62-199) a whole chapter is devoted to problems of productivity. He adopts a distinction originally drawn by Lyons (1977:549) between ‘productivity’ and ‘creativity’. The former is a rule governed feature of the language system, the latter concerns the unpredictable (non-rule-governed) innovations, i.e. the language users’ ability to extend the language system. Bauer illustrates the former with the literal meaning of the complex lexeme ‘headhunter’ and the latter with the metaphorical extension on this lexeme which means “one who recruits executives for a large corporation’. For Lyons, metaphorical creativity is a matter of strategies, not rules. Although Bauer recognizes both productivity and creativity give rise to many neologisms, he restricts himself to the rule-governed neologisms and the external process of adopting loanwords have to be included in a comprehensive description in order to capture the total process. He repeatedly stresses that the dynamic nature of lexical processes must be captured in an adequate description, and to do this proposes various lexeme-producing matrices, or modules Bauer (1985:47ff 50; cfTorunier 1988:18-24). He distinguishes three large categories, or macro-mechanisms, of such productive patterns, namely according to which elements of Saussures’s linguistic sign are concerned:
1. Both signifier and signified (morpho-semantic neologism).
2. Only the signifier (semantic neologism)
3. Only the signified (morphological neologism).
Derivation is by far the most common type of word-formation in English. New words are derived by affixes from already existing words. There are three types of affixes – prefixes, infixes and suffixes. Affixes are ‘small’ bits of the English language which are not usually given separate listings in dictionaries”. (Yule 2001:68) Prefixes are added to the beginning of a word. Suffixes are added to the end of the word. Infixes; affixes incorporated inside a word, are not normally found in English, Although , according to Yule, “It is possible to see the general principle at work in certain expressions, occasionally used in fortuitous or aggravating circumstances by emotionally arouse English speakers: ‘Halle-bloody-lujah!’ (Yule, 2001:69) This process of putting an infix in the middle of a word is also called “expletive infixation ” (Shtekauer, 2003:103).
As Fromkin et al state, “even new bound morphemes may enter the language.” (2011:48). They also give an example, the prefix ‘e-‘. It is barely two decades old and we can find it in many words such as ‘e-mail’. Examples of prefixes ‘un-, mis-, pre-‘. Examples of suffixes: -less, -ish, -ness’. Some suffixes can imply a specific meaning. This fact can then be used in creating new words.
Bauer gives some examples of that: ‘the suffix –ee.. is the one which is used to form patient nouns like appointee …” (Bauer, 2003:16), ‘”the ‘-ese’ suffix … is the one denoting a ‘characteristic jargon’… and is used for deriving nationality adjectives from noun bases.” The suffix ‘-i’ is used for forming a word describing nationality as in ‘Israeli’. The suffix ‘-nik’ appears to mean simply ‘person’. The meaning of the suffix ‘-esque’ is “in the manner or style of the person in the base or having the (artistic, bizarre, picturesque) style of the person in the base”. The suffix ‘-ie’ produces hypocoristics. (Peprnik, 2006:106) and ‘some English… suffixes are inherently depreciative or negative: -ard, -eer…”
Compounding or Composition
This is the joining of two separate words to produce a single form. In other words, it is the “combination of two free forms, or words that have an otherwise independent existence” (Adams , 1973:30). The result is called a compound word. The items of a compound word “may not be separated by other words and their order is fixed.” “Compounds are variously spelled with dashes, spaces, or nothing between the individual words.'(Fromkin, 2011:38) They are called open, hyphenated or solid compounds. Compound words are usually “constructed out of a relatively small number of morphemes, whose meanings are well known.” (Francis, 1965:92) Francis gives us examples: ‘tele’ – meaning ‘far, distant’; ‘meter’ meaning ‘measure’; ‘bio’ meaning ‘life’ and so on.
However, “the meaning of a compound is not always the sum of the meanings of its parts; …” (Fromkin 2011:38) For instance ‘a blackbird’ can also be white.
Compounding is a very common way of creating new words in English and “the kinds of combinations that occur in English are nearly limitless (Fromkin, ibid.) “The vast majority of compounds in English are nouns.” (Bauer 2003:12)
Bauer in his English Word-Formation (2003-10) states “the sub-classification of compounds is done in many different ways: by the form classes of the items that make up the compound… by semantic classes…. By presumed underlying operators linking the two elements… by presumed underlying syntactic functions… and so on.”
He also adds that “many scholars use a mixture of two or more of these methods of classification.”
However, he generally distinguishes these types