Word Formation

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Word Formation


(1) The process or result of forming new words, called derived words, from words or word groups with the same root. Word formation occurs through formal means established within a given language that give a new or more precise meaning to the original elements. Such means include joining affixes to stems (Russian stol-ik, “little table”; za-stol’-n-yi, “at table”), joining several stems (uzko-kolei-nyi, “narrow-gauge”; gromko-govorit-el’, “loudspeaker”), transferring stems from one word class to another (rul’, “rudder”; rulit’, “to steer”; zoloto, “gold”; zolotoi, “golden”), and alternation within the stem (glukhoi, “remote”; glush’, “backwoods”).

Word formation is a means of deriving (generating) linguistic units in order to create a new one-word name having a semantic and formal connection with the original unit. It is an important means of supplementing vocabulary and forming specialized terms.

(2) The study of “how words are made” (L. V. Shcherba), how they are patterned, and by what unit (word or word group) their meaning is determined. Word formation is the branch of linguistics that examines derived words synchronically and diachronically and in terms of their origin and functioning, their productivity or unproductivity, and their use in different styles of speech.

Word formation has traditionally been considered a branch of lexicology or a branch of grammar equal in importance to morphology and syntax, or it has been assigned to morphology. Usually viewed as an independent linguistic (onomasiological) discipline, word formation ascertains and describes the structure and meaning of derived words, the components, classification, and patterns of derived words, and the basic devices and means of derivation. Word formation studies the alignment of derived words in series and families, as well as derivational meanings and categories. It establishes the structural and organizational principles of the derivational system as a whole. Word formation is distinct from inflection and the derivation of word forms.


Vinogradov, V. V. “Slovoobrazovanie v ego otnoshenii k grammatike i leksikologii.” In the collection Voprosy teorii i istorii iazyka v svete trudov I. V. Stalinapoiazykoznaniiu. Moscow, 1952.
Arutiunova, N. D. “O poniatii sistemy slovoobrazovaniia.” Filologicheskie nauki, 1960, no. 2.
Kubriakova, E. S. Chto takoe slovoobrazovanie. Moscow, 1965.
Obshchee iazykoznanie. Moscow, 1973.
Zemskaia, E. A Sovremennyi russkii iazyk: Slovoobrazovanie. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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