Difficult Obstacle In Learning English English Language Essay


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Vocabulary is the most difficult obstacle in learning English. However, English word formation is an effective way to learn English, because it can help us to correctly identify the word form, part of speech, and to understand the meaning of the word, and to rapidly expand our vocabulary. Among them, affixation is the strongest one, and it forms the largest number of words, and it is considered to be one of the best ways to learn English. Besides, compounding, conversion, blending, clipping, acronymy, back-formation are also the efficient ways of learning English. In the paper, the ways and characteristics of word formation are analyzed in affixation, compounding and conversion.

Keywords: English word formation, affixation, compounding, conversion

1. Introduction

Learning a language must to learn the speech, grammar and vocabulary. In these three elements, vocabulary occupies a pivotal position. Well-known scholar Wilkins said, without grammar, very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed. Vocabulary scientist McCarthy said more simply, no matter how well the student learns grammar, no matter how successfully he masters the sounds of a L2, without words to express a wide range of meanings, communication in that language cannot happen in any meaningful way. So many teachers and students pay a lot attention to the vocabulary learning. And the expansion of vocabulary in modern English depends chiefly on word formation. There is a variety of means being at work now. The most productive are affixation, compounding and conversion. Talking about word-forming patterns means dealing with rules. But not all words which are produced by applying the rule are acceptable. The acceptability is gained only when the words have gained an institutional currency in the language. Therefore, rules only provide a constant set of models from which new words are created from day to day. Rules themselves are not fixed but undergo changes to a certain extent. For instance, affixes and compounding processes may become productive at one time or lose their productivity. By word formation processes, we concentrate on productive or on productive rules. While applying the rules, we should keep in mind that there are always exceptions. Then I will analyze the ways and characteristics of word formation in affixation, compounding and conversion.

2. Affixation

Affixation is generally defined as the formation of words by adding word-forming or derivational affixes to bases. This process is also known as derivation, by which new words are derived from old or base forms. The words that are created in this way are called derivatives. According to the positions affixes occupy in words, affixation falls into two subcategories: prefixation and suffixation.

Prefixation is a way of forming new words by adding prefixes to stems. Usually, prefixes do not change the word-class of the stem but only modify its meaning. Prefixes can be divided, based on their meanings, into: negative prefixes, reversative prefixes, pejorative prefixes, prefixes of degree or size, prefixes of orientation and attitude, locative prefixes, prefixes of time and order, number prefixes, conversion prefixes, miscellaneous prefixes. For instance, negative prefixes include: 1) a-, apolitical, asexual, atypical; 2) dis-, disobey, discredit, disloyal; 3) in-, il-, ir-, im-, inaudible, illegitimate, irresistible, improbable; 4) non-, non-classical, non-smoker, non-violence; 5) un-, undemocratic, unwillingly, unbuilt.

Suffixation is the process of forming new words by adding suffixes to the end of stems. Suffixes have primary function being to change the word class with a slight modification of meaning. Suffixes can be divided into noun suffixes, adjective suffixes, adverb suffixes and verb suffixes. For instance, noun suffixes include: 1) denominal nouns, -eer, -er, -age, profiteer, teenager, mileage; 2) deverbal nouns, -ant, -ent, -ing, assistant, respondent, christening; 3) de-adjective nouns, -ity, -ness, productivity, youthfulness; 4) noun and adjective suffixes, -ese, -an, -ist, Chinese, Australian, Methodist.

Affixation is the strongest word formation, and it forms the largest number of words, and it is considered to be one of the best ways to learn English. Linguist David Crystal said, no matter how big your vocabulary is, only you know the range of prefixes and suffixes, and you know the main limitation of using them, your vocabulary will sharp increase soon. Famous author Lord Chesterfield said, the shortest and best way of learning a language is to know the roots of it, that is, those original primitive words of which other words are formed. Etymology scientists John Kennedy said, the stem and its value are the basis of the English language.

3. Compounding

Compounding or composition is a process of word formation by which two or more stems are put together to make a new word. Words formed in this way are called compounds. So a compound is a ‘lexical unit consisting of more than one base and functioning both grammatically and semantically as a single word’, Quirk et al said that. Compounds can be divided into noun compounds, adjective compounds and verb compounds. For instance, noun compounds include: 1) noun+ noun: moon cake, end product; 2) noun+ verb: toothache, frostbite; 3) verb+ noun: crybaby, tell-tale; 4) adjective+ noun: deadline, blueprint; 5) noun+ verb-ing: brainwashing, air-conditioning; 6) verb-ing+ noun: cleaning lady, wading bird; 7) noun+ verb-er: stockholder, crime reporter; 8) adverb+ verb: outbreak, downfall; 9) verb+ adverb: sit-in, have-not; 10)verb-ing+ adverb: going-over, carryings-on; 11) adverb+ verb-ing: up-bringing. And compounds have noticeable characteristics, such as phonological features, semantic features, grammatical features and orthographical features.

4. Conversion

Conversion is the formation of new words by converting words of one class to another class, without changes in morphological structures. New words are new only in a grammatical sense. For instance, the word paper as a noun has four senses: 1) material in thin sheets made from wood or cloth, 2) a newspaper, 3) a piece of writing for specialists, and 4) wallpaper. When turned into a transitive verb, it is related only to 4) as in ‘She papered the room green’.

5. Conclusion

English words are difficult to learn and hard to remember, but there are internal rules can be found. If we start from word formation, we can make vocabulary learning become simple and efficient, and make it possible for the rapid expansion of vocabulary. Word formation is an efficient way and powerful weapon for English study. We should grasp the three main ways, affixation, compounding and conversion, especially for our English major students.

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