Languages are changing as the world is constantly changing. After the Second World War, English neologisms emerged in a remarkable way. New vocabulary came into existence due to new technologies and new discoveries such as ; computing, internet , cell phones and the like. People’s daily activities like dancing, looking and many others, renewed their popularity giving birth to new lexicon. In deed, new words are invented rapidly and are developed quickly thanks to mass communication. They appear and fall into disuse when they have served their momentary purpose ( Bernhart 54).Only a few of them will get recorded in glossaries of neologisms of general dictionaries.
The matter of neologism becomes a new hot spot of research owing to its practical and prevailing use in reality. The study of neologisms evoked a whole cluster of questions:
-What are the reasons beyond the rise of new lexicon?
-Why are some new words just a flash in a pan?
-Why are other words successful?
-What are the qualities that make a word successful?
-Are Neologisms markers of changes in societies?
Chapter 01:Literature Review
1.Definition of a Neologism
The term neologism originates from Greek: neos means ‘new’, logos means ‘word’, i. e. a neologism is – literally – a new word.
“Neologism is the creation of a new lexical item as a response to changed circumstances in the external world, which achieves some currency within a speech community”(qtd. in Chrystal 1992: 264) at a particular time.
In linguistics, a neologism is a recently-coined word, or the act of inventing a word or phrase. Additionally it can imply the use of old words in a new sense (i.e., giving new meanings to existing words or phrases). Neologisms are especially useful in identifying new inventions, new phenomena, or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context. The word “neologism” was coined around 1800 and was, at that time, a neologism itself. A person who develops a neologism is sometimes called a neologist; neology is the act of introducing a new word into a language.
l. 2. Background of English Neologisms
The famous American new word expert John Algeo wrote in the preface of his
book Fifty Years Among the New Words, “Although the dictionary of new word is warmly welcomed by readers only in recent years, actually the compiling of English dictionary began with the collection of new word ever since 1604.” The early English dictionaries like Table Alphabeticall (1604, Robert Cawdrey), English Expositor (1616, John Bullokar), and The English Dictionarie (1623, Henry Cockeram) all embodied some “hard words”, which were absolutely new words to people in those days. Thus, those dictionaries somehow held the characteristics of neologism dictionary. However, the scientific and systematic study of neologism began at 200 years later, the 20th century.
In 1902, Leon Mead published a book named Word-Coinage, being an Inquiry
into Recent Neologisms, also a Brief Study of Literary Style, Slang, and
Provincialisms, which said to be the first book studying neologism in the 20th.
Although it was not a neologism dictionary, it contained some articles about new words. What’s more, Mead put forward the idea of making research on new words for the first time in the history. He also provided lots of examples of new words created by some American writers at that time.
In 1920, C.Alphonso Smith, the dean of the English department of American
Navy Institute wrote a book entitled New Words Self-defined, in which 420 new
words were illustrated by examples. This had proved to be a big progress in the
research on the neologisms.
From 1937 to 1940, the famous American scholar Dwight Bolinger first applied
newspapers and magazines to introduce new word. He created a column, The Living Language, in the newspaper, Words. In 1943, the column was brought into American speech and the title was changed into Among the New Words. Then, in the next year,Professor I. Willis Russell took the place of Bolinger and became the chief-editor of the column. He wrote articles entitled Words and Meanings, New, to introduce new words and their new meanings.
War is said to be the major cradle for the born of new words. Majorie Taylor, a
librarian in New York, collected numerous neologisms created during the World War II. In 1944, Taylor compiled a word-list, The Language of World War II: Abbreviation, captions, Quotations, Slogans, Titles and Other Terms and Phrases, in which every new word was explained. Similarly, Clarence Barnhart published his Dictionary of U.S. Army Terms. At that time, some academic magazines also published articles to introduce new words. Many neologism dictionaries in the 1950s are very popular, especially the Dictionary of New Words in English compiled by Paul Charles Berg in 1953 and The Dictionary of New Words by Mary Reifer in 1955. During 1950s, Mr. Paul Charles Berg did a lot of job to collect new words about the war, which brought us his Dictionary of New Words in English in 1953.
After the World War II, science and technology development had greatly
influenced the society. Subsequently, a lot of scientific and technical words were
flooding into the language field. A lot of neologism dictionaries about words in those fields were published. Two of them are mostly welcomed: An Explaining and Pronouncing Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Words by W. E. Flood & Michael West and Words of Sciences and the History Blind Them by Isaac Asimov.
From 1970s on, the study of English neologism drew great attention from
western scholars, many of them established special column to introduce new words in English, such as William Safire who was well known for his On Language in New York Times weekly and Anne H. Soukhanow who was the chief-editor of Word Watch.
In Safire’s column, he provided a considerably clear explanation of new words by citing typical examples, exploring their origins and performing their current usage.
Besides, the American Dialect Association Dispatches introduced some new words yearly to the public. For instance, in 1994, “information superhighway” was rewarded as the newest word; “cybersex” was the most surprising word and “mosaic culture” the most unnecessary word.
The digital revolution in 1990s is the radical reshaping and restructuring of
social patterns. “Because of the wild spread of internet, America is speaking a whole new language”, said Shawn Holley in his The New Word Revolution. Lots of neologisms that have a historical significance by reason of the influence they exerted on the language field are brought into existence. According to the statistics, more than 20 neologism dictionaries have been compiled, among which some put emphasis on the academic field and some are distinctive by their popularity. Oxford English Dictionary, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary and Barhart Dictionary of New English are the ones with the highest academic value.
New words are numerous. Sometimes it seems as if a new word has about as
much chance of developing into a permanent addition to our vocabulary. Only few of them will remain as serious candidates for the dictionary. Books especially about new words are abundant. However, only a few scholars have ventured to propose factors that make for the success of new words. One is Goran Kjellmer, whose article “Potential Words” in the journal Word for August 2000 also reviews previous proposals. The other is the executive secretary of American Dialect Society, Allan Metcalf who proposed the FUDGE scale. The two reached different conclusions.
Along with books and periodicals, there is the Internet. In particular, it makes my extensive searches for examples of how words are actually used today possible. Here the author has searched thousands of pages indexed by Google.com countless times to find current uses of words under discussion.
A jump of several decades has showed us more researches on the neologisms.
Language reflects our life, and the research on the neologisms has never been stopped.
By collecting new words or phrases occurring in languages, the previous researches have provided precious materials for the further exploration in this field. Therefore, a careful look at the research background of neologisms carries an essential academic significance.
In china, the study of neologism began from 1980s. Most of the specific works
and papers are mere introduction of theories from abroad lacking of much original study. To keep up with the latest English vocabulary is really difficult, thus a thorough and systematic analysis about English new words is of practical significance both in learning and teaching of English as a foreign language.
Chapter 02: Factors for the Rise of English Neologisms
It is not language change itself that has occupied the attention of historical linguists for the past decades, but the causes and the processes of change. Early researchers, such as Saussure (1922) or Bloomfield (1933), for instance, maintained that the causes of linguistic change cannot be established despite numerous attempts at feasible explanations (Wardhaugh,1990:187). The majority of the early researchers have maintained also that the actual processes of change cannot be observed – that what one can observe and perhaps analyses are the consequences of change. The findings of later research, however, envisage the process of change as an initial fluctuation between the new and the old, with the completion of the process occurring when the new replaces the old (Fromkin et al.,1996:295). In other words, if the new form, be it phonological, morpho-syntactic, lexical or semantic, spreads “the change is in progress, if it eventually replaces the old form, the change has become a fait accompli – it has gone to completion”(Holmes,1992:212).
In regard to the causes of change, although the reasons for an aspect of a language undergoing change at a particular point in time still remain unclear, a number of theories have been proposed, depending on the orientation of individual researchers. For instance, Mcmahon M.S (1994: 179-182) discussing causes of semantic change, delineates the following:
Historical causes (subdivided into “ideas” and “scientific concepts”)
Psychological causes (subdivided into “emotive factors” and “taboo”)
The need for a new name
Quite a lot of reasons are responsible for the creating of English neologisms.
Any new thing or new concept, which takes place in our society, may provide a foundation for the creating of the new words. In the following, four of the major
reasons will be emphasized: 1) the rise of new concepts and new ideas in social
culture; 2) new discoveries in science and technology; 3) the manufacture of new products in economy, and 4) the events in the field of politics. Accompanied by a series of neologisms, we can have a clearer understanding of the current English neologisms.
2.1. Sociolcultural Changes:
2.1.1. New Concepts and ideas in Social Culture.
The improving living condition and the enhancing cultural standard have formed
a solid basis on which a large number of new things find their occurrence. It is not necessary to demonstrate that with the development of social culture, new concepts and ideas are introduced into us constantly. Since there are many more concepts than there are existing words, there will always be new words created. Changes in social outlook and manners of behavior call for new terms such as beatnik, peacenik, and hippie. Even new culinary arrangements demand new labels and in English they have some forth in the form of cheeseburger, chiliburger, mushroomburger, etc.
Brian Foster presents us a striking example of how fast English vocabulary
changes. In the year 1914, a young girl named Monica Baldwin entered a convent, remaining secluded there until 1941. When she returned to the outer world, she found herself in a totally different world: the conditions of everyday life altered by technical developments and social changes were beyond recognition. What’s more puzzling to her was the language people speaking. During a railway journey, the term “luggage in advance” meant nothing to her. Reading the daily newspapers made her feel idiotic in the extreme, because words like jazz, Gin, Hollywood, Cool, noshing and Isolationism were completely incomprehensible to her. Not to mention how bewildered she was at hearing friends say, “It’s your funeral” or “believe it or not”.
(Brian Foster, 1981)
Let’s look at another example “moonlighting”. It was anything but new to the
vocabulary, and it gained a brand new meaning in 1957 as the verb to moonlight and its related noun, moonlighting. Time magazine, beamed moonlighting at its readers in its issue of July 22nd, 1957. According to Time, it was in fact not just a new name, but a new trend and a new concern. “MOON-LIGHTING,” proclaimed the headline: “A Problem Born of Prosperity.”
As a noun, moonlight goes back with the moon itself to the beginning of the
English language and even earlier to the Germanic and Indo-European ancestors of English. Presumably ever since humans could speak, they have talked about the light of the moon. As a verb, to moonlight is more recent, but it still goes back to the nineteenth century. From the start it has meant doing something by the light of the moon, but at first this was something that could get one arrested. In the nineteenth century, moonlight was a slang term for the activity of burglars, who benefited from moonlight at their work. In the twentieth century, it was also used for herding cattle and hunting deer by moonlight. Whether it was the illegal work that in 1957 caused the transmutation of moonlight into a standard term for legal work, or whether this new meaning was independently derived from the original moonlight, nobody knows. And it doesn’t matter much. Either way, moonlight meaning “the light of the moon” easily took on its second meaning of “to work a second job,” and Americans have been moonlighting ever since. This second meaning seems likely to stay in the vocabulary, as long as people continue to hold down second jobs.
2.1.2.Disguising Language, “Misnomers”
While taboo words are words that have been banned by the speech community,
“misnomers” are words that individuals have decided to coin in order to deceive the hearer by disguising unpleasant concepts. Examples: E. friendly fire instead of bombardment by own troops.
Lexical change may be based on the prestige of another language or another variety of the same language, certain fashionable word-formation patterns or certain fashionable semasiological centers of expansion. The kernel of this force is mostly found outside of language. It is often the prestige of a culture, the superiority of a group or politics which cause speakers to adopt linguistic elements (words, morphemes, morphs, sounds) from the prestigious group’s speech. Example: English, for instance, borrowed heavily from French during the ME. period because the upper social classes were made up of French
people: garment, flower, rose, face, prince, hour, question, dance, fork, royal, loyal, fine, zero are all Gallicisms. Today, English is now the most prestigious language for many parts of the world.
2.1.4.Social, or Demographic, Reasons
By social, or demographic, reasons we shall refer to the contact between different social groups. This contact may easily, and rather subconsciously, trigger off lexical change- the more intensive the social contact is, the more intensive the linguistic exchange. Example: In the history of the English language, the two prominent instances of exchanges between two social groups were the one with the Vikings in the 8th to 11th centuries and the one with the French in the 11th to 15th centuries. The force of direct contact between different speech communities must not be mixed up with the prestige force, where no direct contact with the other speech community is necessary. Thus, we
can say that the early French loans (from Northern French) rather go back to the
everyday contact with the English population and the French soldiers, not so early French loans (from Parisian French) go back to the prestige of the French aristocracy, the French loans in the official bilingual phase of England’s history may either go back to prestige or to the social contact or to both. Examples: The inherited ey is replaced by Scandinavian egg, the inherited nimen is replaced by Scandinavian taken except for theform benumb, throwen is supplemented by Scandinavian casten; early French loans are army, carpenter, catch.
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2.1.5.Culture-Induced Salience of a Concept (“Cultural Salience”)
Sometimes concepts are not salient to humans because of gerenal human nature, but because of the concepts’ cultural values. Their salience can change with the change of culture. Example: The increased importance of arts and fashion has affected the lexical treatment of the conceptual field of colors: from a vague differentiation between dark blue and light blue to a neat distinction between cobalt blue, royal blue, indigo etc. (such neat detailed differentiations often originate in expert slang and then penetrate the language of the general speech community).
Conceptual fields which have gained salience through cultural importance may very well serve as designations in other conceptual field in the form of metaphors. Example: In the US, a lot of metaphors in general language have been taken from the field of baseball, e.g. to be off base ‘to be completely wrong’, to hit a home run ‘to be highly successful’ and from the field of entrepreneurship.
The category of word play includes humor, irony and puns. Although word-play often goes hand in hand with other factors (such as taboo, prestige or anthropological salience), it can also trigger lexical change on its own. Example: ModE. perfect lady ‘prostitute’, to take French leave ‘to leave secretly (without paying)’, to cool ‘look’ (< look pronounced backwards, so-called back slang).
2.2 New discoveries and Products In Science and Technology
Suppose you’re advancing the cause of science rather than pitching a product,
and you have something new to report-a new element, a new compound, or a new species. How does it get a name? No new science is possible without neologisms, new words or new interpretations of old words to describe and explain reality in new ways. How could Aristotle have developed the logic of syllogisms or Newton thetheory of dynamics without new vocabularies and definitions? They were neologists, and everybody wanting to contribute new knowledge must be. For new knowledge there is no way around the creation of new terms and concepts. For new objects and new inventions, scientific discoveries, technical theories, etc, the new name is usually the work of one man or of a very few. To reject neologisms, often despicably, is to reject scientific development. No sign of scientific conservatism is so telling as the rejection of all but the established concepts of a school of thought. Neologisms are, however, relative to the terminological paradigm actually dominating a field of
knowledge. It may be a radical renewal to introduce terms from a tradition believed to be outmoded.
Nowadays the idea of the technical highway has been very familiar to people.
Development in the science and technology has brought tremendous energy to the improvement of our civilization. And these achievements also find their reflections in language. Technical advancements in a society demand new designator terms, many of which can be found in linguistics such as hypercorrection, phoneme, allomorph, etc. The progress of science and technology gives occasion for the large majority of new words; for a new thing we must have a new name; hence, for instance, motor, argon, and appendicitis. It is interesting to see that the last word did not exist, or was at least too obscure to be recorded, when the Oxford Dictionary began to come out in 1888; but we cannot do without it now.
Take the word software for example, that computer term was invented by John
W. Tukey, a statistician at Princeton University. As long ago as 1958, he used the word in the American Mathematical Monthly. Today the “software” comprising the carefully planned interpretive routines, compilers, and other aspects of automotive programming are at least as important to the modern electronic calculator as its “hardware” of tubes, transistors, wires, tapes and the like. Tukey was already known for inventing another now- famous computer term. In 1946 he used the little word bit as the designation for a unit of information, a “binary digit” with value 0 or 1. That led a decade later to bytes (groups of bits, now always eight, a term invented by Werner Buchholz at IBM) and to today’s kilo-, mega; and tera-bytes of computer storage and information.
2.3 The Manufacture of New Products in Economy
Economic development is the mainstream of our era. The improvement of
language, to a certain extent, benefits a lot from the new phenomenon that occurs in the economic field. In this competitive world, any innovation or fresh things taking place in economy will soon find their voice in the language. If there’s anything a new product needs, it’s a brand name. To the extent that the product succeeds, the name will too. It’s a sure thing, the one way to guarantee that a new term will be a success: spend mighty amounts of money on marketing persuade people to buy and keep on buying a product, and they will call it by the name you give it.
When you want a product, a company would like you to think of its brand name.
The Coca-Cola Company wants people to think of a Coke when they want a soft
drink. But if the marketing is successful enough and the name Coke is embedded in people’s vocabulary, people will ask for a Coke and be satisfied if they get a Pepsi. In fact, in the southeastern United States, home of Coca-Cola, Coke is such a successful brand that many people there (and in the rest of the country) refer to any soft drink as a coke.
Some brand names even joined the pack of the general vocabulary. Here are
some of them:
ô€º€ Aspirin: a name for acetylsalicylic acid, trademarked by the Bayer Company of
Germany at the start of the twentieth century.
ô€º€ Elevator and escalator: both originally trademarks of the Otis Elevator Company.
ô€º€ Zipper: a name given to a “separable fastener” by the B.F. Goodrich Company
many years after it was invented. The new name helped the zipper attain
popularity in the 1930s.
ô€º€ Loafer: for a moccasin-like shoe.
ô€º€ Cellophane: for a transparent wrap made of cellulose.
ô€º€ Granola: a trademark registered in 1886 by W K. Kellogg, now used for a
“natural” kind of breakfast cereal.
ô€º€ Ping-pong: for table tennis, a trademark registered by Parker Brothers in 1901.
ô€º€ Xerox: for photocopier.
ô€º€ Kleenex: for facial tissue.
ô€º€ Band-Aid: for adhesive bandage.
ô€º€ Tupperware: for storage container.
ô€º€ Scotch tape: for transparent adhesive tape.
ô€º€ Jazzercise: for exercise to jazz music.
2.4. The Events in the Field of Politics.
The forming of English new words is sometimes considered as the result of the
political changes. Language reflects the society, as it has always been. Politics is an essential part of the development of the world; therefore, it can easily find its relative neologisms in the language field.
For instance, when Mr. Bill Clinton was elected as the president of the US., his
name has been associated with many political words. His policy is Clintonian, he is carrying out the Clintionism, his economics policy is Clintonomics, and his supporters were called Clintonites, he ultimately wanted to realize his Clintonization. Another widespread usage of affixes is “-gate”, which came from the historical Watergate event. People took use of Irangate to disclose the involvement of some American government office workers in U.S. selling arms to Iran. Camillagate was used to mean the love affair of British Prince Charles and his lover Camilla Parker.
Nannygate was pointed to the illegal hire of baby-sitter or the hire of illegal
immigrants. Another striking example, On September 11, 2001, the peace of a sunny late-summer morning was shattered by the impact of four hijacked airplanes on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. There were more direct casualties in these disasters than on any previous day in American history, and soon the entire country felt the impact of damaged or destroyed lives, businesses,
and sense of security. Out of the ashes came patriotism, resolve, and unity. And out of the ashes came new words, too, to describe new situations never before imagined.
The events stir memories of Pearl Harbor and Oklahoma City, and we refer to other memorable occasions by their locations – Lexington and Concord, Gettysburg, Little Big Horn, and Wounded Knee – but in this case the name of place won’t work. It’s not just because several places were involved, but also because the places are too famous. New York City and Washington, DC, have too many other connotations, so do the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
For lack of a suitable designation deriving from place, we have used the date as a reference point: September 11. That does have a well-known precedent. One other event in American history is referred to by its date: July 4 or the Fourth of July, the date in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in Philadelphia.
In addition to the spelled-out month and day, the numerals 9/11 or 9-11 have
been used. Never before has such a historic event been so labeled, but because of the striking coincidence that 911 is the telephone number to call for help in an emergency, that numerical designation has been a success. Headline writers like the concision of this expression, just three numerals to take in all the events of that day. So far, the events of that day have resulted in just one new term: ground zero, for the place of impact, the center of destruction in New York City where the World Trade Towers once stood. That phrase has succeeded because it is not really new; it’s an old term for the location on the ground directly under a vast atomic explosion, corresponding to air zero, the location in the air above the ground where the bomb goes off. Ground zero had been gathering dust on the shelf in recent years because of a fortunate lack of atomic explosions. No one knows who first said ground zero in reference to the site where the World Trade Towers were attacked and collapsed, but the term immediately caught on because of its familiarity and emotional power.
Chapter 03:Success of English Neologisms
3.1. How are Neologisms Found?
The authority for a word – in fact, the authority for a language – rests with the users of the language. Thus, the process of adding new words to the dictionary begins with a systematic examination of almost everything printed and said in English. As far as ‘Among the New Words’ is concerned, this important task – “citation with source information” (qtd. in Algeo 1991a: 3) – is fulfilled by active members of the Words Committee, who contribute the words they regard as new in any material they read or listen to (Algeo 1991a: 3).
The cited word must contain the name of the publication, the day, and the page number. Concerning oral citations, the source information must consist of the day the sentence was heard and where and when one came across it (Algeo 1991a: 3). The following list shows that usually American dictionaries are consulted (with the exceptions of two British dictionaries: the OED and Webster’s Third) to check the newness of each contribution (Algeo 1991a: 2):
Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 1991.
Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989.
World Book Dictionary, 1989
Webster’s New World Dictionary, 3d College ed., 1988.
Random House Dictionary, 2d ed. Unabridged, 1987.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1983.
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1961.
Only if the new word is assumed to be British, are additional British dictionaries referred to. To make sure that a neologism has not been lexicalized yet, the following dictionaries of neologisms are used:
Third Barnhart Dictionary of New English. 1990.
Chambers English Dictionary, 1988.
Collins Concise Dictionary, 2d ed., 1988.
Collins Dictionary, 2d ed., 1986.
Longman Dictionary, 1984.
Reader’s Digest Great Illustrated Dictionary, 1984.
If a word entered one of these dictionaries, then it is usually not recorded in ‘Among the New Words’ (Algeo 91a: 2).
Since ‘Among the New Words’ receives more citations than there is space to print, a selection has to be made. The criteria on what and when to enter a word is up to the lexicographer. As I said, lexicographers have different opinions (Algeo 1991b: 75) and therefore it is hard to give exact rules. However, two principles can be set up: the absolutely newness of a word and the reflection of the zeitgeist.
3.2. Reasons of Success of Neologisms
3.2.1 The frequency of occurrences
The most important factor is that a word appears in as many different sources as possible. The more sources (newspapers, magazines, books etc.) a word appears in, the more obvious is the frequency and range of the term (Sheidlower 33). Besides, the more a word is cited the more popular it is; and consequently the more likely it is to be included in a dictionary.
3.2.2 Range among sources
It is of interest to know the range of the new word because if a word is only common in a special field, it is not a candidate for a general dictionary but rather for a technical one. Therefore, a general dictionary excludes technical terms or terms well known in a certain field because they are not of general interest. However, there are exceptions: the term intellectual property  was limited to certain fields. Today, its use is widespread because new technologies are invented; thus the intellectual property has to be preserved (Sheidlower 33).
The use of a term over a certain time gives information on its durability. Nevertheless, this criterion must not be overrated. It is true that a word that appears over a certain time span, but otherwise “does not constitute sufficient evidence” (qtd. in Barnhart 59) probably will not be included; however, a brandnew word with sufficient evidence (frequency of occurrences, range among sources, cruciality in a given field) is likely to enter a dictionary (Sheidlower 34).
Sheidlower points out that the criterion should rather be the number and range of citations than the newness of the word (34
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