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Префиксация в английском языке

Prefixation is the formation of words with the help of prefixes. The interpretation of the terms prefix and prefixation now firmly rooted in linguistic literature has undergone a certain evolution. For instance, some time ago there were linguists who treated prefixation as part of word-composition (or compounding). The greater semantic independence of prefixes as compared with suffixes led the linguists to identify prefixes with the first component part of a compound word.

At present the majority of scholars treat prefixation as an integral part of word-derivation regarding prefixes as derivational affixes which differ essentially both from root-morphemes and non-derivational prepositive morphemes. Opinion sometimes differs concerning the interpretation of the functional status of certain individual groups of morphemes which commonly occur as first component parts of words. H. Marchand, for instance, analyses words like to overdo, to underestimate as compound verbs, the first components of which are locative particles, not prefixes. In a similar way he interprets words like income, onlooker, outhouse qualifying them as compounds with locative particles as first elements.

There are about 51 prefixes in the system of Modern English word-formation.

According to the available word-counts of prefixal derivatives l the greatest number are verbs — 42.4%, adjectives comprise 33,5% and nouns make up 22.4%. To give some examples.-

prefixal verbs: to enrich, to coexist, to disagree, to undergo, etc.;

prefixal adjectives: anti-war, biannual, uneasy, super-human, etc.;

prefixal nouns: ex-champion, co-author, disharmony, subcommittee, etc.

Proceeding from the three types of morphemes that the structural classification involves 2 two types of prefixes are to be distinguished:

1. those not correlated with any independent word (either notional or functional), e.g. un-, dis-, re-, pre-, post-, etc.; and

2. those correlated with functional words (prepositions or preposition like adverbs), e.g. out-, over-, up-, under-, etc.

Prefixes of the second type are qualified as semibound morphemes, which implies that they occur in speech in various utterances both as independent words and as derivational affixes, e.g. ‘over one’s head’, ‘over the river’ (cf. to overlap, to overpass); ‘to run out’, ‘to take smb out’ (cf. to outgrow, to outline); ‘to lookup’, ‘hands up’ (cf. upstairs, to upset); ‘under the same roof, ‘to go under’ (cf. to underestimate, undercurrent), etc.

It should be mentioned that English prefixes of the second type essentially differ from the functional words they are correlated with:

§ like any other derivational affixes they have a more generalised meaning in comparison with the more concrete meanings of the correlated words (see the examples given above); they are characterised by a unity of different denotational components of meaning — a generalised component common to a set of prefixes and individual semantic component distinguishing the given prefix within the set.

§ they are deprived of all grammatical features peculiar to the independent words they are correlated with;

§ they tend to develop a meaning not found in the correlated words;

§ they form regular sets of words of the same semantic type.

Of late some new investigations into the problem of prefixation in English have yielded interesting results. It appears that the traditional opinion, current among linguists, that prefixes modify only the lexical meaning of words without changing the part of speech is not quite correct with regard to the English language. In English there are about 25 prefixes which can transfer words to a different part of speech in comparison with their original stems. Such prefixes should perhaps be called conversive prefixes, e.g. to begulf (cf. gulf n), to debus (cf. bus n); to embronze (cf. bronze n), etc. If further investigation of English prefixation gives more proofs of the conversive ability of prefixes, it will then be possible to draw the conclusion that in this respect there is no functional difference between suffixes and prefixes, for suffixes in English are also both conversive (cf. hand — handless) and non-conversive (cf. father — fatherhood, horseman — horsemanship, etc.).


Unlike suffixation, which is usually more closely bound up with the paradigm of a certain part of speech, prefixation is considered to be more neutral in this respect. It is significant that in linguistic literature derivational suffixes are always divided into noun-forming, adjective-forming, etc. Prefixes, however, are treated differently. They are described either in alphabetical order or subdivided into several classes in accordance with their origin, meaning or function and never according to the part of speech.

Prefixes may be classified on different principles. Diachronically distinction is made between prefixes of native and foreign origin. Synchronically prefixes may be classified:

1. according to the class of words they preferably form. Recent investigations, as has been mentioned above, allow one to classify prefixes according to this principle. It must be noted that most of the 51 prefixes of Modern English function in more than one part of speech forming different structural and structural-semantic patterns. A small group of 5 prefixes may be referred to exclusively verb-forming (en-, be-, un-, etc.). The majority of prefixes (in their various denotational meanings) tend to function either in nominal parts of speech (41 patterns in adjectives, 42 in nouns) or in verbs (22 patterns);

2. as to the type of lexical-grammatical character of the base they are added to into:

§ a) deverbal, e. g. rewrite, outstay, overdo, etc.;

§ b) denominal, e.g. unbutton, detrain, ex-president, etc.

§ c) deadjectival, e.g. uneasy, biannual, etc. It is of interest to note that the most productive prefixal pattern for adjectives is the one made up of the prefix un- and the base built either on adjectival stems or present and past participle, e.g. unknown, unsmiling, unseen, etc.;

3. semantically prefixes fall into mono- and polysemantic;

4. as to the generic denotational meaning there are different groups that are distinguished in linguistic literature:

§ a) negative prefixes, such as: un1-, non-, in-, dis1-, a-, e.g. ungrateful (cf. grateful), unemployment (cf. employment), non-politician (cf. politician), non-scientific (cf. scientific), incorrect (cf. correct), disloyal (cf. loyal), disadvantage (cf. advantage), amoral (cf. moral), asymmetry (cf. symmetry), etc. It may be mentioned in passing that the prefix in- occurs in different phonetic shapes depending on the initial sound of the base it is affixed to; in other words, the prefixal morpheme in question has several allomporphs, namely il- (before [l]), im- (before [p, m],) ir- (before [r]), in- in all other cases, e.g.illegal, improbable, immaterial, irreligious, inactive, etc.;

§ b) reversative or privative prefixes, such as un2-, de-, dis2-, e.g. untie (cf. tie), unleash (cf. leash), decentralise (cf. centralise), disconnect (cf. connect), etc.;

§ c) pejorative prefixes, such as mis-, mal-, pseudo-, e.g. miscalculate (cf. calculate), misinform (cf. inform), maltreat (cf. treat), pseudo-classicism (cf.classicism), pseudo-scientific (cf. scientific), etc.;

§ d) prefixes of time and order, such as fore-, pre-, post-, ex-, e.g. foretell (cf. tell), foreknowledge (cf. knowledge), pre-war (cf. war), post-war (cf. war),post-classical (cf. classical), ex-president (cf. president);

§ e) prefix of repetition re-, e.g. rebuild (cf. build), re-write (cf. write), etc;

§ f) locative prefixes, such as super-, sub-, inter-, trans-, e.g. super-structure (cf. structure), subway (cf. way), inter-continental (cf. continental), trans-atlantic (cf. Atlantic), etc. and some other groups;

5. when viewed from the angle of their stylistic reference English prefixes fall into those characterised by neutral stylistic reference' and those possessing quite a definite stylistic value. As no exhaustive lexico-stylistic classification of English prefixes has yet been suggested, a few examples can only be adduced here. There is no doubt, for instance, that prefixes like un1-, un2-, out-, over-, re-, under- and some others can be qualified as neutral prefixes, e.g., unnatural, unknown, unlace, outnumber, oversee, resell, underestimate, etc. On the other hand, one can hardly fail to perceive the literary-bookish character of such prefixes as pseudo-, super-, ultra-, uni-, bi- and some others, e.g. pseudo-classical, superstructure, ultra-violet, unilateral, bifocal, etc. Sometimes one comes across pairs of prefixes one of which is neutral, the other is stylistically coloured. One example will suffice here: the prefix over- occurs in all functional styles, the prefix super- is peculiar to the style of scientific prose.

6. prefixes may be also classified as to the degree of productivity into

§ highly-productive,

§ productive,

§ non-productive.


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