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Minor Ways of Word Formation: Distinctive Stress

  • Date Submitted: 04/02/2014 06:43 AM
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Minor ways of word formation: distinctive stress

distinctive stress is the formation of a new word by means of the shift of the stress in the source word, cf.: ´export (n) — to ex´port; ´import (n) — to im´port; ‘conduct (n) — to con'duct; ‘present (n) — to pre’sent, etc.  

^ Distinctive stress is found in groups like `present – pres`ent, `conduct – con`duct, `abstract – abstr’act, etc. These words were French borrowings with the original stress on the last syllable. Verbs retained it, while in nouns and adjectives it was shifted. The place of stress helps to distinguish verbs and nouns or pronouns in speech.
The ways in which new words are formed, and the factors which govern their acceptance into the language, are generally taken very much for granted by the average speaker. To understand a word, it is not necessary to know how it is constructed, whether it is simple or complex, that is, whether or not it can be broken down into two or more constituents. We are able to use a word which is new to us when we find out what object or notion it denotes. Some words, of course, are more ‘transparent’ than others. For example, in the words unfathomable and indescribable we recognize the familiar pattern of negative prefix + transitive word + adjective-forming suffix on which many words of similar form are constructed. Knowing the pattern, we can easily guess their meanings – ‘cannot be fathomed’ and ‘cannot be described’ – although we are not surprised to find other similar-looking words, for instance unfashionable and unfavourable for which this analysis will not work. We recognize as ‘transparent’ the adjectives unassuming and unheard-of, which taking for granted the fact that we cannot use assuming and heard-of. We accept as quite natural the fact that although we can use the verbs to pipe, to drum and to trumpet, we cannot use the verbs to piano and to violin.

Kyiv National Linguistic...


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