Obligatory Introduction Post
Or should I say, introbligatory? Obligatroduction? Perhaps I shouldn’t.
Hello all! My name is Matthew Aston Seaver, and I am a senior linguistics student at the University of Mary Washington. This semester I’m undertaking an independent study on morphological blends.
What’s a morphological blend?
Well, it can also be called a portmanteau, a blend-word, or just a blend- but fundamentally, a blend is a word like brunch- from breakfast and lunch- that is formed by fusing together two other words. What’s interesting about blends is that they are not a simple case of compounding or affixation. (An example of compounding is icehouse, from ice and house; an example of affixation is affixation, from affix, -ate, and -ion.) Both of those processes act on morphemes, the smallest units in language that can carry their own meanings. Morphemes can be bound, like affixes, and be unable to stand on their own, or they can be free, like independent words.
The thing to notice here is that neither *br- nor *-unch is a meaningful unit on its own. (In this context, the asterixes mean something like unattested, ungrammatical, or just plain wrong.) Because the units aren’t morphemes, traditional approaches to morphology- here, the inner structure of words- have trouble analyzing blends. Breakfast is meaningful, and so is lunch, but some of the material from both words is missing; what happened to ‘eakfast’ and ‘l’?
For that matter, what about a word like slanguage (Irwin by way of Wood by way of Pound 1914), where slang and language both make it into the word intact? Or Lewis Carrol’s coinage slithy from slimy and lithe, where the words don’t even have the decency to occur linearly? Slimy wraps right around lithe- is that even allowed?
For my purposes- and this definition is subject to revision!- a blend is formed in such a way that there are at least two parent words, and in the output, there is no place where the end of one word is followed by the beginning of the other. You’ll notice in slanguage that the end of slang occurs well after the beginning of language, and that in slithy, lithe starts and ends entirely within the bounds of slimy.
Well, now that we’ve got that all cleared up, what’s left for me to talk about for this whole semester? I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s gonna be a whole lot.
~Follow for more soft morphology~