“Corpus Linguistics: past and present”

Debbie Danks: Separating Blends:
A Formal Investigation of the Blending Process in English and its Relationship to Associated Word Formation Processes


Blending is an occasional but enduring part of English word formation. It is a creative, non-morphological process and is important not only for its own sake but also in the production of new affixes and, thereby, the growing inventory of the English language. There have been few in-depth studies of this phenomenon and none using real data on a large scale.

This research takes a corpus-based approach, focussing in particular on the grey areas between blends and related word formation processes. As such, this is a formal rather than functional study. There is still much scope for research that tackles the psycho-linguistic aspects of why and how blends are coined and by whom. Similarly, work requires undertaking regarding socio-linguistic issues, including an exploration of the domain, genres and prolific coinage periods of different kinds of blends. Additionally, a user-survey which addresses the questions of if, how, why and which blends are perceived as different from 'normal words' by native speakers would undoubtedly yield interesting results. However, it is difficult to undertake these kinds of research whilst blending remains an ill defined and hazy process. Consequently, this study presents a workable definition of a blend and separates blending from related word-formation processes, including clipping, compounding, neo-classical compounding, acronomy and affixation.

In developing this corpus-based classification, new subcategories of blending are devised to better account for phenomena encountered. Other, closely-related, types of word formation are differentiated from blending either by definition, through the implementation of a proposed rule, or through the application of a range of criteria.

Numerous case studies are undertaken which show the proposed criteria to be largely successful. New categories of word formation are introduced to account for borderline blends which cannot be classified with regard to the definitions, rules or criteria.

Finally, a workable typology of blends is arrived at, which can account for all sub-categories of blending dealt with in this research.

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Thesis (PDF) [1.4MB]
Appendices (PDF) [0.4MB]

Thesis submitted in accordance with the requirements of the University of Liverpool for the degree of Doctor in Philosophy by Debbie Danks. September 2003.
Supervised by Prof. Antoinette Renouf and Prof. Michael Hoey

This thesis appears here with the permission of the University of Liverpool and the author.