Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 2 February 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Teaching English Word Formation in Academic Writing
Analysis and Remedy

Qays Amir Kadhim, Ph.D.


This paper is both a linguistic study and a search for learning using word formation, such as English compound. Compound constructions are very common in everyday speech and all types of written texts. They have been selected for study because ELL (English Language Learners) often ignore them from their academic writing. The reasons for conducting such research are also linguistic and pedagogic in nature. ELL might find it difficult to cope with the complex constructions which might absent in their languages.

Key words: compounds, strategies, problems, ELT and semantics


Different approaches to English Language Teaching have dealt with word formation in different ways. Not so long when Michael West's books were in vogue, there was a great deal of emphasis on the teaching of word formation, based on the well- known word- frequency counts. Those word formation processes were found to be most frequently used in written texts.

In the 1950s, and as some sort of attention to the teaching of formal grammar and the emphasis on vocabulary, the audio-lingual approach went to the other extreme, focusing on the structures of language which had to be taught in a practical manner. This considerably de-emphasized the role of word formation Kharma & Hajjaj (1989:36).

Though the ELT scene is radically changing nowadays, no serious attention is being paid to word formation as such. It is being taught without any reference to word counts, even in spoken English, and without any predetermined plan. The emphasis at present is neither on structure nor on word formation, but on the functions of language. It is too early to tell now what will happen to the word formation of those under graduate students being taught English in this way, or what the outcome of the whole approach is going to be Kharma & Hajjaj (1989:36).

I agree with Kharma & Hajjaj (1989:36) when they give their opinion on teaching word formation. They state that "that whatever the approach to ELT or the method of teaching EFL may be, word formation must have a prominent place in the overall plan of TEFL." Thus, they have reached their conclusion through observing during their long years in teaching TEFL. The very important and simple fact that learners of English in a non-English environment are opt to forget more words that those they can store and recall either for speech or writing. There are several ways of forming words in English, but as the most common ways are derivation, inflection and compounds. I will limit myself to discuss the types of English compounds in general.


Compounds are groups of two or more elements treated as a unit. They consist of two or more bases joined together without the use of derivational affixes. Compounds are either primary or secondary Al-Jarf (2004). In a primary compound or base-compound, two bases (derivationally bound forms) are joined together Al-Jarf (2004). In a secondary compounds or stem-compound, both or all of the constituents of the compound are stems (free forms) Al-Jarf (2004). Many derived forms are very complex, involving two or more layers of derivation. The formation of larger compounds is generally based on those of two-element compounds as light housekeeper is constructed from housekeeper and light (house) Al-Jarf (2004).

Adjectives may be embedded in nominal constructions with no special marker (black coffee). For analyzing embedded constructions, the term head is used to refer to the centre of the construction, the term attribute for the modifier. An endocentric construction is one in which the primary constituent or constituents are comparable to the complete construction Al-Jarf (2004). An exocentric construction is one in which the primary constituents do not function like the complete construction Al-Jarf (2004). The contrast between endocentric and exocentric is present in compounds as well as in derivatives. If the function of the compound is the same as that of one of its elements, it is to be classed as endocentric. If the compound belongs to a form-class or subdivision of one different from that of its elements, then it is exocentric Al-Jarf (2004).

Compounds constitute a considerable part of English vocabulary, and the process is very productive in the sense that new compounds are being used daily in written texts. They can also be virtually any part of speech. We do not only have compounds nouns such as goldsmith, compound adjectives like seasick, and compound verbs like overcome, but there are also compound pronouns such as yourself, adverbs like moreover, prepositions such as in front of , conjunctions like whenever, numerals like twenty-five, and a compound of indefinite such as another.(Kharma& Hajaj, 1989:48).The most disturbing fact about English compounds is their irregularity and the high complexity of their methods of composition, and of the syntactic and semantic relations that hold between the elements composting each word.

The majority of English compound types are headed - especially, right -headed and the heads of these compounds display the syntactic and semantic characteristics that are expected of heads Maalej (1994). These compounds refer to classes of things and they have used daily. Compounds play a role in the lexicon because they have the ability for creating a class of noun phrase (NPs) intended for naming entities with no pre-existing names. According to Downing (1977:823) cited in Maalej (1994) is characterized by "packing a maximum amount of information into a minimal amount of linguistic structure". Finin (1980:310) cited in Maalej (1994) claims that one of the characteristic features of compounds in English is their semantic compactness, i.e. the covert nature of the relations linking the head (the one which is modified and often occupies the right most position in the nominal sequence) and the non-head (the modifier). Compounding widen the range of combinational possibilities for the suffixes which create new meaning. The following combinations of lexemes may exemplify such productivity: bathroom towel rack, designer training program (Selkirk, 1982:5). It is found that major issues to be studied in compounding are the generation, interpretation, and headedness of compound.


This kind of compound is considered the largest one because is divided into four main categories with subdivisions.These categories are N.N, A.A, V.N and P.N. According to Selkirk (1982:14) a compound noun could have a syntax like N.N (livingroom), A.N (wellwisher), P.n (outbuilding and V.N (rattlesnake).N.N is divided into two word and multi word. Two word is divided into non-deverbativity (nominal verbles compound), deverbal with -er (nominal verbal compound), deverbal with (-ing,-ment.-ion), deverbal with countable and the last one is deverbal with deriving preposition.

The difference between non-deverbal (nominal verbles compound) and deverbal with -er(nominal verbale compound) is that the verbale element of non-devebativity (nominal verbless compound is) is missing Dillon (1977:51), which means the headnoun of non deverbativity does not take suffix like -er,-ing,-ment and -tion, but this kind of compound consists of two sequences noun.noun and the interpretation of the noun compounds depends on the relation that is understood between them.

Another kind of compounds of noun is the nominal verbal compound with suffixes to the headnoun (deverbal). The headnoun of nominal verbal compounds is formed by adding the suffixes -er, -tion, -ment, -ing to base verb to make deverbal noun. Dillon (1977) described this kind of compound:"The sense of the compound can be at least roughly paraphrased as a sentence in which the verb is the one underlying the second (deverbal noun ) and the first plays some role in relation to it".

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Development of Stroop Effect in Bilinguals | Subtlety, Mockery and Dharma in Shashi Tharoor's The Great Indian Novel | Language Alternation Strategies in Nigerian Hip Hop and Rap Texts | Faithfulness and Adequacy in Translation - A Case Study of the Translation of a Poem Written by Bharathiar | Indianized English in Shashi Deshpande's That Long Silence | Naipaul's Perception of India | Teaching English Word Formation in Academic Writing - Analysis and Remedy | Sabotaged Submission - Interpreting the Role of Women in Scriptures | Socio-economic Profile of Women Prisoners | Study on the Levels of Living of Self-help Groups in Coimbatore District, with Particular Reference to Thondamuthur and Perianaicken Palayam Blocks | Agreement in Tamil and Telugu | Etymological Analysis for Some Words of Body Parts in Semitic Languages (Especially in Arabic & Hebrew) | HOME PAGE of February 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Qays Amir Kadhim, Ph.D.
Universiti Utara Malaysia

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