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Review of  Handbook of Word-Formation

Reviewer: Kalyanamalini Sahoo
Book Title: Handbook of Word-Formation
Book Author: Pavol Štekauer Rochelle Lieber
Publisher: Springer
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
History of Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 17.1059

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EDITORS: Stekauer, Pavol; Lieber, Rochelle
TITLE: Handbook of Word-Formation
SERIES: Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 64
YEAR: 2005

Kalyanamalini Sahoo, Zi Corporation, Calgary


This book is a collection of 17 articles by different authors. It is a
contribution to the topic of word-formation, especially on English word-
formation processes. The volume starts with a short preface by the
editors and a brief description about the contributors, followed by the
series of articles in an order beginning with the basic terminologies to
the latest trends in the realm of word-formation. The book ends with a
subject index, a name index and a language index.

The opening chapter of the book is Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy's
article which introduces the reader with the basic terminologies used
for formation of words, such as 'morpheme' and 'word'. Centered
around Ferdinand de Saussure's (1973) notion of 'sign' which has
influenced the theory of word-formation since early 20th century,
McCarthy discusses 'morpheme' and 'word' in terms of 'sign', and
shows how non-Indo-European languages have a preference
for 'morpheme-as-sign', while Indo-European languages stick to 'word-
as-sign'. Providing evidence from English nouns and verbs, he
discusses morphemes in terms of phonologically conditioned
allomorphs. He discusses the notion of 'morpheme' adopted since the
1960s by different linguists and points out the ambiguous status of the
term 'morpheme' as ''phonological shape of minimal units'' (e.g. the
suffixes in 'given' and 'lived' count as distinct morphemes)
vs ''meanings'' or ''functions'' of these units (e.g. the suffixes in 'given'
and 'lived' count as belonging to the same morpheme).

The interaction of word-formation with other levels of linguistics
(phonology, morphology and syntax) has been dealt with in the
following three articles.
Considering the pros and cons of the interaction between word-
formation and phonology, Ellen M. Kaisse points out the ways
phonology can get in the way of word-formation as well as the ways it
can be of help. On the other hand, she also discusses how
morphology interferes with the phonological processes as well as how
it can help phonology too. She considers some of the major processes
of English in which morphological effects are seen in phonological
rules and the vise versa. Phonology can interfere with word formation
in cases of derivation where there is no suitable compromise between
the goals of morphology and pronunciation. It can induce allomorphy
where morphology would prefer uniformity. On the other hand
phonology can help morphology having distinct applications in derived
and underived forms. It can help to delimit morphological boundaries
with syllabifications and foot structures that are phonologically sub-
optimal. It can help in the stress pattern of different parts of speech
too. Word-formation also responds to phonology in certain ways. It
can get in the way of phonology by concatenating phonologically
displeasing strings. Subverting the realization of well-formed strings
of sounds to maintain easily reconstructed relations between base
and derivative, it can cause non-cohering affixes to be unavailable to
phonology. Morphology also can help phonology in maintaining base-
derivative resemblances.

Gregory Stump's article explores the relation between word-formation
and inflectional morphology. Although ''inflection'' and ''word-
formation'' are treated as two different concepts in morphological
theory, studying English inflectional categories Stump shows how
there exists a parallelism between inflection and word-formation in the
operations like affixation, segmental and suprasegmental modification,
identity operation, suppletion, syncretism, periphrasis, head marking
and blocking. The distinction is further complicated because of
complex interaction between the two. Usually, operations of word-
formation tend to precede inflectional operations; but on the other
hand word-formation operations sometimes apply to inflected forms
too, thus making it difficult to say if rules of one feeds the other.

The next article ''Word-formation and syntax'' by Andrew Spencer
considers the relationship between word formation and phrase
formation across theoretical models. It examines the extent to which
syntactic principles can have access to 'lexical integrity' or the internal
structure of words. Spencer discusses to what extent syntactic
constructions can be incorporated into words and to what extent
properties of newly formed words show up in their syntactic behaviour,
especially in argument structure realization. He concludes that
irrespective of any theoretical model, syntax can be relevant for word
formation from the point of lexical integrity, phrase-based word
formation and the realization of argument structure. He suggests that
it would be simpler and hence methodologically superior to assume a
single overarching model encompassing both sentence structure and
word structure.

The next two articles review the way word-formation has been
analyzed since 1960s by Marchand and his followers and by
Chomsky. Dieter Kastovsky characterizes the contribution to the
study of (English) word formation by Hans Marchand and the
Marchandeans which included scholars like Klaus Hansen, and an in-
group of researchers working under the supervision of Marchand
such as Herbert Ernst Brekle, Leonhard Lipka, Gabriele Stein and the
author himself. Beginning with Marchand's descriptive-structuralist
approach to word-formation, Kastovsky provides a vivid account of
Hansen's semantic analysis of word-formations, Brekle's generative
semantics, Lipka's dynamic lexicology, Stein's English lexicography,
and zero-derivation of his own.

Tom Roeper's article ''Chomsky's Remarks and the transformationalist
hypothesis'' considers the two primary properties of Chomsky's theory
of nominalization: phrase-structure and movement. The core idea of
phrase-structure is commonly used/found in grammar, while the
concept of transformation survives only at the covert level in the same
way as Chomsky proposed. The current phrase structure analyses
predict that highly differentiated nominalization should exist in a
corresponding fashion. Roeper however, argues for a view of
grammar where there is no distinction between core and peripheral
parts of grammar and the abstract properties of grammar are etched
precisely in the non-central constructions.

These are followed by articles which discuss how word-formation is
treated by different theoretical approaches including the lexicalist,
cognitive, onomasiological, and lexeme-morpheme based approaches,
and by optimality theory and natural morphology. Sergio Scalise and
Emiliano Guevara discuss the lexicalist approach to word-formation
and the notion of the lexicon. They discuss the historical
developments in morphology preceding the lexicalist approach in
generative linguistics including Chomsky (1957, 1965, 1970), Lees
(1960), etc. and how the notion of lexicon was adopted therein. They
point out how lexicalism originated by subtracting computational space
in the grammar to both phonology and syntax, and developed into a
theory of morphology as a separate component with its own set of
principles. Along with most important enhancements to the lexicalist
approach, they discuss two important works by Halle (1973) and
Aronoff (1976), which brought most influential developments in
lexicalist framework. Halle's proposal to handle all morphological
phenomena in a single space (i.e. the lexicon) and by means of
specific rules (i.e. word-formation rules) provided a way to account for
a fundamental difference between syntax and morphology. Aronoff
argues against morpheme-based theories of morphology and goes for
a word-based hypothesis, in which morphology must be explained on
the basis of words, which are indeed true minimal signs (Saussurean
signs, arbitrary constant unions of sound and meanings). The authors
discuss some major problems, especially the relation between
morphology and syntax that a lexicalist view has to confront with and
conclude that morphology and syntax must be allowed to interact with,
rather than ignore each other.

Robert Beard and Mark Volpe discuss Lexeme-morpheme base
morphology (LMBM) which claims that lexical morphemes (Lexemes)
and grammatical morphemes (Morphemes) are radically different
linguistic phenomena. LMBM distinguishes itself from other
morphological theories by three central hypotheses:
(i) Derivation rules change grammatical functions only and are distinct
from the rules that mark these changes phonologically (the Separation
(ii) The functions that the inflectional rules operate over are the same
as those which lexical (derivational) rules operate over (the Unitary
grammatical function hypothesis).
(iii) This is accomplished via a set of grammatical functions which are
inserted by the base components of grammar (the Base rule

The base rule component of a theory of language must be one which
feeds both lexical operations (derivations) and high-level syntactic
operations (inflection). Thus, the types of lexical derivation rules that
are available to grammars are determined by the categories of the
Base and the Lexicon.

Pavol Stekauer's article ''Onomasiological approach to word-
formation'' discusses a concept-based approach to word-formation,
which is basically a reaction to the formalism followed by the
generative morphologists. This model interrelates the cognitive
abilities of a speech community with both extra-linguistic and linguistic
phenomena. The account of word-formation as a very real act of
naming within a speech community and performed by a member of
that speech community makes it possible to interrelate the role of
productive word-formation Types/Rules and the creative approach to
word-formation by a specific coiner.

David Tuggy discusses ''Cognitive approach to word-formation'',
where a language or its grammar is characterized as a structural
inventory of conventional linguistic units. These linguistic units are
either semantic or phonological or symbolic. Symbolic structures
usually involve the pairing of a semantic with a phonological structure.
In this approach, words and their meanings and phonological forms
are included as part of the grammar and the patterns of their
formation are grammatical under exactly the same conditions. The
same is true of particular phrases, clauses, and so forth, and the
patterns of their formation. The differences between lexicon,
morphology (word-formation), and syntax are all matters of degree
rather than strict differences in kind. Hence, small word-pieces often
known as 'grammatical morphemes' are meaningful, and function
similarly as they do in larger syntactic constructions because of their

Wolfgang U. Dressler discusses ''word-formation in natural
morphology'' (NM) where 'natural' denotes cognitively simple, easily
accessible (esp. to children), elementary and therefore universally
preferred. The first part of the chapter is a theory of universals; the
second is of morphological typology; the third is of language specific
system adequacy. NM takes naturalness as a cover term for three
(i) a universal markedness theory of system-independent
morphological naturalness, focusing on universal preferences;
(ii) a theory of typological adequacy;
(iii) a theory of system-dependent naturalness or system-adequacy.

These subtheories function as subsequent filters on possible and
probable words of a language. Typological adequacy may be
understood as a filter and elaboration on universal
naturalness/markedness, and language-specific system adequacy as
a filter and elaboration on typological adequacy. Each lower-level
filter can specify and even overturn preferences of the preceding
higher-order level. As a consequence, lack of the typological and the
language-specific system-dependent filter leaves universal
preferences intact. Therefore, these play a higher role in the earliest
phases of morphology acquisition by small children and in
extragrammatical or expressive morphology, such as in echo-word

Assuming Prince & Smolensky's 1993 [2004] optimality theory (OT),
Peter Ackema and Ad Neeleman discuss Word-formation in optimality
theory. One of the core phenomena of morphology is that one form
can compete with, and hence block, others; e.g. inflectional
morphology as regulated by the Elsewhere Principle. Thus,
competition plays an important role for word-formation, such as
competition between different morphemes (e.g. Elsewhere cases),
competition between different orderings of the same morphemes,
competition between morphological and syntactic realization of the
same concept. The authors discuss many examples of competition
and conclude that OT is the natural framework for exploring
morphological competition.

The following two articles are concerned with theories and constraints
on productivity of morphological process. Laurie Bauer's
article ''Productivity: Theories'' considers the productivity of a
morphological process in the creation of forms which are not listed in
the lexicon. It discusses why a word-formation process is considered
to be unproductive and what maximal productivity consists of. Bauer
starts with a historical approach to ideas about productivity, considers
different approaches to it and shows how seriously it has been taken
as a part of linguistic theorizing.

Franz Rainer presents a typology of constraints on productivity valid
for natural languages in general, although has illustrated with
examples mainly from English. He considers universal constraints as
well as language-specific constraints on patterns of word-formation.
Universal constraints cover constraints supposedly located at
Universal Grammar, such as Word Based hypothesis, No phrase
constraint, Binary branching condition, Unitary base hypothesis,
Unitary output hypothesis, Adjacency condition, Atom condition; and
processing constraints such as Blocking, Complexity based ordering,
Productivity, frequency and length of bases. He discusses Language-
specific constraints including Level ordering and Affix-specific

The next article reflects the post word-formation phase. Peter
Hohenhaus in the article ''Lexicalization and institutionalization''
discusses what can happen to the words during the course of their life
after they have been formed. Along with diachronic phenomena
involved with lexicalization and institutionalization, he discusses the
synchronic phenomena including the nature of lexicon, the listing of
complex forms in the lexicon and the problems for inclusion of it, etc.
and concludes that lexicalization is of great relevance even beyond

The last two chapters are devoted to English word-formation
processes and the latest trends in it. Rochelle Lieber's article
provides a synchronic study of English word-formation processes,
which focuses on productive processes like compounding, affixation,
conversion, and highlights the ways in which they have figured in
various theoretical developments in phonology, syntax and

Bogdan Szymanek in the article ''The latest trend in English word-
formation'' discusses the prominent tendencies in the English
vocabulary appearing since the last quarter of the 20th century, like
derivational neologisms, analogical formations. He provides a vivid
description of the recent system of English word-formation processes.
He focuses not only on major productive processes like compounding,
conversion, affixation but also on minor word-formation processes like
back-formation, blending, clipping, acronym, initialism etc.


The book is interesting and very well-written with lots of argumentation
based on a number of empirical data. As the title of the book says,
each article focuses well on word-formation. Touching important
issues in the process of word-formation, authors validate their claims
with neat and illuminating examples along with an important insight
and an original line of argument. The volume covers theories of word-
formation not only within generative grammar, but also in various
recent frameworks like Cognitive grammar, Natural morphology,
Optimality theory, Onomasiological theory and Lexeme morpheme
base morphology. It is an excellent reference book not only for the
variety of issues and various up-to-date approaches it covers, but also
for their way of presentation. It should be interesting for scholars
working not only in morphology and lexicography, but also in
phonology and syntax. It is written in a style that is accessible to a
wide audience. Overall, it is an excellent reference book for advanced
students and scholars in the field.


* Typo p.105 line-10: 'is' should be replaced by 'it'.
* p.186: Missing reference for Sapir (1921).


Aronoff, Mark. 1976. word-formation in generative grammar.
Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.

Chomsky, Noam. 1957. Syntactic Structures. Den Haag: Mouton.

Chomsky, Noam. 1965. Aspects of the theory of Syntax. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.

Chomsky, Noam. 1970. ''Remarks on nominalization.'' In: R. Jacobs
and P.Rosenbaum (eds.), Readings in English transformational
grammar. Ginn, Waltham (MA): Ginn, 184-221.

Halle, Morris. 1973. ''Prolegomena to a theory of word formation.''
Linguistic Inquiry 4, 3-16.

Lees, Robert B. 1960. The Grammar of English nominalizations.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Prince, Alan & Smolensky, Paul. 1993 Optimality Theory. Ms. Rutgers
University / John Hopkins University. Published 2004 by Blackwell,

Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1973. Cours de linguistique générale (ed. By
Charles Bally, Albert Sechehaye and Albert Riedlinger; critical edition
by Tullio de Mauro). Paris: Payot.

Kalyanamalini Sahoo works on computational morphology and South
Asian languages for the Zi Corporation, Calgary, Canada. She is
primarily interested in computational morphology and syntax.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1402035950
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 470
Prices: U.K. £ 145.50
U.S. $ 249.00