Methods of Word Formation

The formation of new words is not a random process. There are several distinct patterns and paths by which new words come into the language. These fall into four major categories, which in turn can be subdivided.

New Root Formation

Root formation is the creation of new words. Roots come from one of three sources: they are inherited from Old English, they are adopted from other languages, or they are coined by an individual to express a particular idea.

Inherited roots are those native to the language, dating back to antiquity. For English, this means roots that are found in Old English. Of all the words in the English language, relatively few (one or two percent) have Old English roots. But this number is deceptive. About half of the most commonly used words are Old English in origin. So the bulk of everyday English speech and writing is rooted in Old English.

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