2020 was the year for new word formations. You’re probably thinking we’ve got COVID-19 to thank for that. Words such as ‘iso’, ‘covidiot’ and ‘the rona’ never existed pre-2020 and we probably would never have expected them to until now.
Word formations are defined by linguists as the creation of new words. Pretty self-explanatory, right? When you really think about it, coming up with a new word that doesn’t already have a spot in the English dictionary seems quite difficult, yet, year after year we still manage to do it.
Believe it or not there are several ways to come up with new words. There’s the incredibly difficult way of coming up with something new from scratch. Or there’s the slightly easier way of adopting or borrowing words from other languages, as done in the early stages of the English language. Adding prefixes and suffixes also contributes to word formation.
The most common method of word formation is truncation or ‘clipping’, where a longer word is shortened, creating a new form of that word. An example of this would be ‘iso’ originally coming from isolation.
Words can be truncated for many reasons whether it is for convenience or to lessen the level of difficulty when it comes to pronouncing the word. We see truncated words on social media constantly through photo captions or Facebook posts. As shorter versions of words become more utilised, the longer version of that word is usually forgotten or is no longer the preferred version to use. This may not necessarily occur for all words like ‘isolation’, but it has definitely occurred for words like ‘henceforth’ which is now ‘hence’ and ‘automobile’ which is simply just ‘auto’.
With word formations consistently occurring we are left to wonder what the English language will be like in a century’s time? Perhaps the generations that follow us will be speaking in acronyms with the word ‘laugh’ completely replaced by ‘lol’. Or maybe the longest word will be no longer than ten letters.
One thing is for sure – the future of the English language will look very different to the English we use today.