Form Building

Form Building


(in Russian, formoobrazovanie), in linguistics, the formation of grammatical word forms. Form building, as opposed to word formation, is the process that generates the forms of a single word, as in stol–stola (“table–of the table”) and govoriu–govoril (“I speak”–“I spoke”). Word formation, on the other hand, refers to the generating of different words from the same root, for example, govoriu (“I speak”) and peregovoriu (“I will discuss”).

Whether particular examples are forms of the same word or constitute different words—a question of the boundary between form building and word formation—depends on several factors and is not always clear. Forms with the same nominal definition (directly reflecting extralinguistic reality) but different syntactic meanings (reflecting the syntactic possibilities of word forms) are often considered a single word, for example, stol–stola or khozhu–khodish’ (“I walk”–“you walk”). Similarly, examples with different nominal definitions are considered different words and are classified as the products of word formation, as in the aspectual pair otuchit’–otuchivat’ (“to cease doing”) and baniabanshchik (“bathhouse”–“bathhouse attendant”).

Another approach establishes an opposition between grammatical meaning, which requires expression, and nongrammatical meaning. Forms that differ only in grammatical meaning are grouped together as one word and classified as products of form building, for example, stol–stola, stol–stoly (“table”–“tables”), khozhu–khodish, and otuchit’–otuchivat’. Only those forms differing in nongrammatical meaning are classified as products of word formation, for example, bania–banshchik and uchit’–uchenik (“learn”–“pupil”). Forms created according to a regular paradigm are considered by some scholars as products of form building, such as the class of English adverbs ending in -ly (bright-ly), which can be formed from any adjective.

Sometimes form building is understood in a narrower sense as applying to those forms that differ in nominal grammatical meaning, such as forms expressing number, aspect, and causal relationships given grammatical expression in speech. In this narrower sense, form building occupies an intermediate position between word formation and inflection, the latter referring to forms that differ only in syntactic meaning.


Vinogradov, V. V. “Slovoobrazovanie v ego otnoshenii k grammatike i leksikologii.” in his book Issledovaniia po russkoi grammatike. Moscow, 1975.


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