In the most recent edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 171,476 words that are currently in use are included, together with 47,156 words that are obsolete. Derivative words number about 9,500. These are added as subentries. Still many more are included in the 20-volume dictionary. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (3rd Edition, Unabridged) has about 470,000 entries, which is similar to the entries in Oxford Dictionary. Merriam-Webster also reports that the English vocabulary contains between 750,000 and one million words.
We take words for granted because we have been hearing and using them since birth. But if you think about it, where do new words come from?
Formation of new words
Very few words are invented by coining from a series of sounds that are chosen randomly. Many of them come from existing words with new meanings given. Some words are formed by changing some parts of speech. Still others create new words by combining different parts. They are called neologisms, which were manifested around 1772.
Neologisms are words that can come from several sources. For example, the word ”quark” came from “Finnegan’s Wake” by James Joyce, while ”cyberspace” came from William Gibson’s “Neomancer.”
The title of the novel “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller became an often-used phrase to describe a circumstance that is too difficult such that there is no escape in sight because the conditions are reciprocally conflicting. Names of authors become descriptive words as well, such as “Kafkaesque” and “Orwellian” from Franz Kafka and James Orwell, respectively.
Characters from famous books are also sources of new words, such as ”pollyanna,” (overly optimistic), ”scrooge” (selfish) and ”quixotic” (idealistic, romantic, unrealistic).
New words become integrated though constant use. Selected countries have organizations that adjudge when words are accepted. However, even if words are accepted, how people speak is not directly influenced by that. Phrasing is determined by which words are included in a language. The way people use words tells a lot about their culture.
In popular culture
Technology and culture are also influential in the development of neologism. Some of the latest neologisms in pop-culture are “Monstration” in Russian and ”Snowmageddon” in Canadian.
You might also remember the Doggo-Lingo that was popular in social media a few years back. Doggo-Lingo was used by some groups on Twitter and Facebook who posted pictures of dogs with funny captions. It became popular in Australia, a country known for creating diminutives of words and giving them an ”o” ending.
Still other words come from popular brands, such as ”Colgate” that became a common term for ”toothpaste” even if it is made by a different company. Others that belong to this group include Frigidaire, Xerox, Coke and Kleenex.
Effect on translations
Neologisms come from one language therefore translating them into other languages can be problematic.
Naturalization is used when doing translations that sound similar to English for published studies and research. Likewise, the English word is retained accompanied by a short explanation of its meaning. When translating neologisms, four translation methods are put into focus: loan translation, calque, use of analogues and transcription and transliteration.
Naturalization is usually used when English is the source language. Translators typically apply the ”think aloud protocol” when translating neologisms. This is the way they can find the appropriate word that sounds the most natural for the new word when used in speech. This is important because the right translation is critical in the legal systems and several industries. When the translation is inaccurate, it can lead to conceptual misunderstanding (translation asymmetry) that can result in miscommunication.
It takes time for new words to be embedded into mainstream language. Some languages often borrow English neologisms and include them in their modern lexicon. For example, it is very rare for new words to be created in the Danish language, but it has borrowed several from English, including ”twerking, ”Brexit,” ”blog,” ”click bait,” ”selfie” and ”foodie.” Some of the spellings of borrowed words were altered to fit local spelling, such as ”metroseksuel” and ”oute.” The latter came from the word, ”out,” a term meaning, ”to out someone as a homosexual.”
Other words came from more exotic source, such as the Italian “barista” and the Japanese “emoji” that were introduced into other languages from English rather than from their original source. An exception is the word, ”quinoa” that was directly borrowed from Spanish, which was also sourced by the Spanish language from the Quechua, an indigenous language spoken in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.
English-sounding words that did not come from English
Surprisingly, there are new words that did not come from the English language. ”Helicopter parents” is a term used to describe parents who continuously hover over their children. In Denmark, what they use is ”curlingforaeldre” that translates to ”curling parents.” This means that the parents sweep aside all the obstacles that are on the path of their children. Some were used by Danes long before they became known to English speakers, like “facerape” and “fit to fight.” Danish speakers even have literal translations of English terms such as “svingvaelger” (swing voter), ”undskyld mit franske” (pardon my French) and ”veryvrede” (road rage).
What becomes clear is that globalization has something to do with the creation of new words because more people are learning English and adapting English to fit their own local language.
Processes of new word creation
The history of linguistic forms is called etymology. In an English dictionary, the etymology of a word is included, which describes what is known about the work before it was included in the dictionary. If it is a loanword, its etymology backtracks the process of the word from entering the English language to its earliest source.
An etymologist understands that various methods of how a new word is formed. Several processes are utilized and some of the important ones are as follows.
A large part of the English words used today came from foreign sources. A majority came from Greek and Latin, but English still borrowed words from almost all the languages spoken in Europe. In the process of linguistic acquisition, the voyages of Englishmen during the Renaissance period enriched the traditional English language.
Some of these include French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Gothic, Celtic languages, Norman and Indian (khaki, shampoo, curry, jungle, pajamas). English was also influenced by Old Norse (knife, sky, egg), Arabic (mohair, saffron, henna, cotton, coffee) as well as Yiddish and Hebrew (jubilee, kosher).
2. Clipping or shortening
Another method in the creation of new words is truncation or clipping. This means that part of an existing word is removed. The process could be back clipping, for example gymnasium becomes ”gym” and examination was clipped to form, ”exam.” Some words are fore-clipped, although this is rare. Examples are influenza that became ”flu” and telephone that was shortened to ”phone.”
3. Functional shift
This method involves a shift in the function of a word, such as a verb form becoming a noun. Some examples are gaslight, party and accessorize.
4. Back formation and affixation
In back formation, a supposed or real affix (suffix or prefix) is omitted from an existing word to form a new word. Enthusiasm, which is a noun, became ”enthuse,” which is verb. The small apple-like fruit called cherry, used to be called ”cherise.” However, many users thought that it looks like a plural term and started using ”cherry” that they thought was the singular term for the fruit. ”Liaise” came from the noun, liaison.
On the other hand, affixation is the method of adding prefixes or suffixes, like in the words, ”awesomeness,” ”subprime” or ”semi-celebrity.”
Combining parts of or entire words is called a blend. In some words, they overlap. For example, ”chortle” was created from parts of two words – ”snort” and ”chuckle.” Other examples include ”motel” that was a combination of motor and hotel, ”brunch” from breakfast and lunch. Blends are words that you cannot break into morphemes. They are different from compound words, for example, psychohistory and birdcage, which you can divide into two stand-alone words. New ones include ”staycation” (stay and vacation) and ”pixel” that stands for picture and element.
Several acronyms are accepted as words, such as FBI (pronounced F-B-I), MRI (M-R-I, for Magnetic Resonance Imaging), NASA (NA-SA) and NATO (NA-TO). In this examples, you can still see that they started as acronyms, particularly because they are written in capital letters (uppercase). Some words that used to be acronyms are now written in lowercase, like ”radar” that stands from ”radio detecting and ranging.” In the medical field, you often hear the term CT scan or CAT scan, which stands for ”computed tomography” scan or ”computerized axial tomography” scan.
7. Transfer of place or personal names
New words can be formed by using the names of things, places or people. For example, ”denim” came from serge de Nimes, while ”silhouette” was from a Frenchman named Étienne de Silhouette. William Forsyth, a botanist from Scotland, lent his name to the flower called ”forsythia.”
Many words were formed by the imitation of the sounds they are associated with, such as ”pop,” ”whiz,” ”guffaw,” ”hiss” and ”buzz.”
9. Popular etymology
Sometimes referred to as folk etymology, this process alters a word to either partially resemble a familiar word or make sense of a word that has been borrowed. An example of this is ”feverfew” that came from febrigugia¸ a Late Latin word for a medicinal plant that translates to ”fever expeller.”
10. Combining elements
Another process, mentioned earlier is the combining elements that already exist to create new words, without considering if the words in their original language match. Many of these combination words can be found in technical and scientific terms.
11. Creative and literary coinage
At times, a creative play on words leads to the creation of new words. ”Googol” was coined in 1920 by Milton Sirotta. At that time, he was only nine years old. A googol is represented by 10100. ”Boondoggle,” which means pointless or meaningless activity was first used in 1927 as a scouting term.
From these you’ll realize the origin of new words that made it into the English lexicon. They enrich the language and influence other languages as well. Ensure that your documents, which may contain a combination of old and new words are properly translated from or into English and other languages by calling the experts. Day Translations, Inc. has a large team of human translators who are native speakers of over 100 languages. They are located all over the world and ready to serve you translation needs. We have subject matter experts to translate medical, legal, business art and other documents for specialized fields. You can get in touch with Day Translations through email at email@example.com or through phone at 1-800-969-6853. You can reach us anytime, anywhere you are. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year.
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