Abbreviation and other types of shortening in the aspect of their functions in Modern English language

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The theme of my diploma work sounds as following: “Abbreviation and other types of shortening in the aspect of their functions in Modern English language”. The actuality of this work caused by several important points. It is safe to say that nowadays the shortening of the words is one of the main trends in the development of Modern English language, especially in its colloquial layer, which, in its turn at high degree is supported by constant development of modern informational technologies and simplification of speech with no loss of its informative content. So the significance of this work can be proved by the following reasons: a) Shortening of words is one of the developing branches of lexicology nowadays.


Introduction……………………………………………………………… 1

I. General definition of abbreviation…...…………………………....... 3

II. Main types of abbreviation……………………………..………….. 10
2.1. Shortening of spoken words ……………………………….....……. 10
2.2. Graphical abbreviations and acronyms ………………...…………...20
2.3. Abbreviations as the major type of shortenings ………..…………. 25

III. Secondary ways of shortening…………………………………….. 29
3.1. Blending of words ………………………………………………….. 29
3.2. Back formation ……………………………………………………... 30
3.3. Back formation as a source for shortening of words …………..….. 31

Conclusion ……………………………………………………………… 36

Bibliography ……………………………………………………………. 37

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The correlation of a curtailed word with its prototype is of great interest. Two possible developments should be noted:

1. The curtailed form may be regarded as a variant or a synonym differing from the full form quantitatively, stylistically and sometimes emotionally, the prototype being stylistically and emotionally neutral, e.g. doc :: doctor; exam :: examination. Also in proper names: Becky :: Rebecca, Frisco :: San Francisco, Japs :: the Japanese. The missing part can at all times be supplied by the listener, so that the connection between the prototype and the short form is not lost. The relationship between the prototype and the curtailment belongs in this case to the present-day vocabulary system and forms a relevant feature for synchronistic analysis. Much yet remains to be done in studying the complex relations between the prototype and the clipping, as it is not clear when one should consider them two separate synonymous words and when they are variants of the same word.

2. In the opposite extreme case the connection can be established only etymologically. The denotative or lexico-grammatical meaning, or both, may have changed so much that the clipping becomes a separate word. Consequently a pair of etymological doublets comes into being. Cf. chap - chapmen 'a peddlers'; fan 'an enthusiastic devotee' – fanatic; fancy – fantasy; miss - mistress. A speaker who calls himself a football fan would probably be offended at being called a fanatic. A fanatic is understood to have unreasonable and exaggerated beliefs and opinions that make him socially dangerous, whereas a fan is a harmless devotee of a specified amusement. The relationship between curtailed forms and prototypes in this second group is irrelevant to the present-day vocabulary system, and is a matter of historic, i.e. diachronic study.

In both types the clipped forms (doc, exam, chap, fan, etc.) exist in the language alongside their respective prototypes. The difference, however, is that whereas words belonging to the first group can be replaced by their prototypes and show in this way a certain degree of interchangeability, the doublets are never equivalent lexically as there are no contexts where the prototype can replace the shortened word without a change of meaning.

The possibility of substitution in case of variants may be shown by the following example: if a newspaper article about a certain musician is entitled "The Boss of the Tenor Sax", there is nothing very unusual in substituting saxophone for sax ("The Boss of the Tenor Saxophone"). The prototype is stylistically neutral and therefore it can stand for the curtailed word. A similar example is furnished by the following heading of a brief newspaper note about the prescription of eyeglasses for racing horses in Chicago. It runs as follows: "Racehorses Are Fitted with Specs". The substitution of spectacles for specs would make the heading a little less lively but not unacceptable.

It is typical of the curtailed words to render only one of the secondary meanings of a polysemantic word. For instance the verb “double” may mean 'to multiply by two', 'to increase twofold', 'to amount to twice as much'; when used by musicians it means 'to add the same note in a higher or a lower octave'. In a military context the meaning is 'to move in double time or run'. As a nautical term it is synonymous to the expression 'to get round headland', etc. Dub, on the contrary, renders only one of the specific meanings.

The curtailed words belonging to this type are mostly mono-semantic as, for example, lab, exam, and fan. Also they are often homonymous: compare gym for gymnastics and gym for gymnasium, or vet for veteran and veterinary. Most of these by conversion produce verbs: to phone, to vet, etc., in which the semantic relationship with the prototype remains quite clear.

Between the two groups of well-defined extreme cases, namely variants or synonyms and doublets, there exist numerous intermediate cases, where the classification is difficult. The appearance of a more complex semantic structure in a word is a step towards its acquiring greater independence and thus becoming not a variant but a doublet of the prototype. This intermediate state is illustrated by the word “polio” which means not only the illness but also a person suffering from poliomyelitis, although the phrases “a polio case” or “a polio victim” are more often used.

The second extreme group, the etymological doublets, may develop semantic structures of their own. Very complex semantic cases like fancy with its many meanings and high valiancy are nevertheless rare.

It has been specified in the definition of the process that the clipped part is not always a complete morpheme, so that the division is only occasionally correlated with the division into immediate constituents. For instance, in phone for telephone and photo for photograph the remaining parts are complete morphemes occurring in other words. On the other hand in “ec” or “eco” (from economics) the morphological structure of the prototype is disregarded. All linguists agree that most often it is either the first or the stressed part of the word that remains to represent the whole. An interesting and convincing explanation for this is offered by M. M. Segal, who quotes the results of several experimental investigations dealing with informal. These experiments carried out by psychologists have proved very definitely that the initial components of words are imprinted in the mind and memory more readily than the final parts. The signaling value of the first stressed syllable, especially when it is at the same time the root syllable, is naturally much higher than that of the unstressed final syllables with their reduced vowel sounds.

As a rule, but not necessarily, clipping follows the syllabic principle of word division, e.g. pep – 'vigour', 'spirit' from pepper, or plane from aero plane. In other instances it may be quite an arbitrary part of the prototype, e.g. prep (school.) 'Homework' is from preparation.

Unlike conversion, shortening produces new words in the same part of speech. The bulk of curtailed words is constituted by nouns, Verbs are hardly ever shortened in present-day English, “Rev” from “revolve” and “tab” from “tabulate” may be considered exceptions. Such clipped verbs as do occur are in fact converted nouns. Consequently the verbs to perm, to phone, to taxi, to vet and many others are not curtailed words diachronically hut may be regarded as such by right of structure, from the synchronic point of view. As to the verbs to pent, to mend, to tend and a few others, they were actually coined as curtailed words but not at the present stage of language development.

Shortened adjectives are very few and mostly reveal a combined effect of shortening and suffixation, e.g. comfy ' – comfortable, dilly – delightful, imposes – impossible, muzzy – miserable, which occur in schoolgirl slang. As an example of a shortened interjection Shun! – attention, the word of command may be mentioned.

Various classifications of shortened words have been or may he offered. The generally accepted one is that based on the position of the clipped part. According to whether it is the final, initial or middle part of the word that is cut off we distinguish final clipping (or apocopate), initial clipping (or aphesis) and medial clipping (or syncope). 3



1. Final clipping in which the beginning of the prototype is retained, is practically the rule, and forms the bulk of the class: e.g. ad, advert - advertisement, coke - coca-cola, ed - 'editor, fab - fabulous, gym - gymnastics or gymnasium, lab - laboratory, mac - mackintosh, vegs - vegetables and many others.

2. Initial-clipped words retaining the final part of the prototype are less numerous but much more firmly established as separate lexical units with a meaning very different from that of the prototype and stylistically neutral doublets, e.g. cute adj, n (Am) - acute, fend v - defend, mend v - amend, story n - history, sport n - disport, tend v - attend. Cases like cello - violoncello and phone - telephone where the curtailed words are stylistically synonyms or even variants of their respective prototypes are very rare. Neologisms are few: e.g. chute - parachute. It is in this group that the process of assimilation of loan words takes place.

Final and initial clipping may be combined and result in curtailed words with the middle part of the prototype retained. These are few and definitely colloquial: e.g. flu - influenza, frig ox fridge - refrigerator, tec - detective. It is worthy of note that what is retained is the stressed syllable of the prototype.

3. Curtailed words with the middle part of the word left out are equally few. They may be further subdivided into two groups:

a) words with a final-clipped stem retaining the functional morpheme: math - mathematics, specs - spectacles;

b) contractions due to a gradual process of elision under the influence of rhythm and context. Thus fancy - fantasy, ma'am - madam may be regarded as accelerated forms.

It is also possible to approach shortened words on the basis of the structure characterizing the prototype. Then the two mutually exclusive groups are cases correlated with words and those correlated with phrases. The length of the word giving rise to a shortening might result from its being a derivative, a compound or a borrowing. The observation of language material, however, can furnish hardly any examples of the second type (compounds), all the word prototypes being derivatives, either native or borrowed, as is shown by all the examples quoted in the above paragraphs.

The few exceptions are exemplified by tarmac, a technical term for tar-macadam, a road surface of crushed stone and tar originally named after the inventor (J. L. Mc Adam, d. 1836); also cabbie for cabman. But then -man in such cases is most often a semi-affix, not a free form, and, besides, the process of shortening is here combined with derivation as in mightier for nightdress.

The group we have opposed to the curtailed forms of words is based on clipped phrases, chiefly set expressions. These differ severable from word clippings as they result from a combined effect of curtailment, ellipsis and substantiation.

Ellipsis is defined as the omission of a word or words considered essential for grammatical completeness but not for the conveyance of the intended lexical meaning, as in the following example: Police summonses are being served in an effort to stop the big sit-down planned for September 17 ("Daily Worker"), where sit-down stands for sit-down demonstration, S. Ullmann following Broal emphasizes the social causes for these. Professional and other communities with a specialized sphere of common interests are the ideal setting for ellipsis. Open on for open fire on, and put to sea for put ship to sea are of wartime and navy origin, and bill for bill of exchange comes from business circles; in a newspaper office daily paper and weekly paper were quite naturally shortened to daily and weekly. It is clear from the above examples that unlike other types of shortening, ellipsis always results in a change of lexico-gravimetrical meaning, and therefore the new word belongs to a different part of speech. Various other processes are often interwoven with ellipsis. For instance: finals for final examinations are a case of ellipsis combined with substantiation of the first element, whereas prelims for preliminary examinations results from ellipsis, substantiation and clipping. Cf. also modes (from Modern jazz). Other examples of the same complex type are perm - permanent wave, pop - popular music, prom - promenade concert, i.e. a concert at which at least part of the audience is not seated and can walk about, pub - public house —an inn or tavern, taxi - taxi-cab, itself formed from taximeter-cab. Inside this group a subgroup with prefixed derivatives as first elements of prototype phrases can do distinguished, e.g. co-ed 'a girl student at a co-educational institution', co-op 'co-operative store or society', non-com 'a noncommissioned officer', prefab 'a prefabricated house or structure'; to prefabricate means 'to manufacture component parts of buildings prior to their assembly on a site'.

It has already been mentioned that curtailed words from compounds are few; cases of curtailment combined with composition set off against phrasal prototypes are slightly more numerous, e.g. ad-lib v. 'to speak without notes or preparation' from the Latin phrase add labium meaning 'at pleasure'; sub chaser n. from submarine chaser. A curious derivational compound with a clipping for one of its stems is the word teen-ager 'a person between 13 and 19', i. e. 'a person in his or her teens'. The jocular and ironical name Lib-Labs (Liberal and Labor Party members) illustrates clipping, composition and ellipsis and imitation of reduplication all in one word.

Compare also snob which may have been originally an abbreviation for sine nobilities, written after a name in the registry of fashionable English schools to indicate that the bearer of the name did not belong to nobility. One of the most recent examples is bit, the fundamental unit of information, which is short for binary digit.

The analysis into immediate constituents is helpful in so far as it permits the definition of a blend as a word with the first constituent represented by a stem whose final part may be missing, and the second constituent by a stem of which the initial part is missing. The second constituent when used in a series of similar blends may turn into a suffix. A new suffix on is, for instance, well under way in such terms as nylon, rayon, salon, formed from the final element of cotton.

Depending upon the prototype phrases with which they can be correlated two types of blends can be distinguished. One may be termed additive, the second restrictive. Both involve the sliding together not only of sound but of meaning as well. Yet the semantic relations who are at work are different. The first, i.e. additive type is transformable into a phrase consisting of the respective complete stems combined by the conjunction and: e.g. smog < smoke and fog 'a mixture of smoke and fog. The element may be synonymous, belong to the same semantic field or at least "be members of the same lexico-grammatical class of words: (smoke) + (fog) > smog; cf. also a new coinage amaze smog + haze: A Weather Bureau official described the condition as a kind of smog-like haze. "Call it amaze," he said. Pakistan was made up of elements taken from the names of the five western provinces: the initials of Panjab, Afghanis, Kashmir, and Singh, and the final part of Baluchistan. Other examples are: brunch breakfast and lunch; transceiver transmitter and receiver, Niffles - Niagara Falls.

The restrictive type is transformable into an attributive phrase, where the first element serves as modifier of the second: cinematographic panorama Cinerama. Other examples are: positron < positive electron; telecast < television broadcast. An interesting variation of the same type is presented by cases of superposition, formed by pairs of words having similar clusters of sounds, which seem to provoke blending, e.g. a motel < motorists' hotel: the element -ot- is present in both parts of the prototype. Further examples are: shampoo < sham bamboo (imitation bamboo); egomaniac < atom maniac; language < slang + language, warphan - war orphan. Blends, although not very numerous altogether, seem to be on the rise, especially in terminology and also in trade advertisements.

Curtailed words arise in various types of colloquial speech, and have for the most part a pronounced stylistic coloring as long as their connection with the prototype is alive, so that they remain synonyms. When the connection with the prototype is lost, the curtailed word may become stylistically neutral: e.g. brig, cab, cello, and pram. Stylistically colored shortened words may belong to any variety of colloquial style. They are especially numerous in various branches of slang: school slang, service slang, sport slang, newspaper slang, etc. Familiar colloquial style gives such examples as bobby, cabbie, mac, and max from maximum, movies. Nursery words are often clipped: grand, granny, hanky from handkerchief, ma, nightie from nightdress, pinkie from pinafore. Stylistic peculiarity often goes hand in hand with emotional coloring as is revealed in the above diminutives. School and college slang, on the other hand, reveal some sort of reckless if not ironical attitude to the things named: caf from cafeteria 'self-service restaurant', digs from diggings 'lodgings', ec, eco from economics, home ecs, lab, math’s, prelims, prep, prof, trig, undergrad, vac, varsity. Service slang is very rich in clipped words; some of them penetrate the familiar colloquial style. A few examples are: demob from demobilize, civvy n from civilian, op n from operator, non-com n from non-combatant, corps n from corporal, serge n from sergeant.

The only types of clippings that belong to bookish style are the poetical contractions, such as e'en, e'er, ne'er, o'er





Because of the ever closer connection between the oral and the written forms of the language it is sometimes difficult to differentiate clippings coined in oral speech from graphical abbreviations. The latter often pass into oral speech and become widely used in conversation.

During World War I and later the custom became very popular not only in English-speaking countries, but in other parts of the world as well, to call countries, governmental, social, military, industrial and trade organizations and officials not by their full titles but by initial abbreviations derived from writing: the USSR, the U. N., the U. N. O. Such words formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term are called acronyms. Two possible types of orthoepic correlation between written and spoken forms should be noted:

1. If the abbreviated written form can be read as though it were an ordinary English word it will be read like one. Many examples are furnished by political and technical vocabulary. U. N. E. S. C. O., also Unesco [ju:'neskou] — United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization', U. N. O., also Uno ['ju:nou] — United Nations Organization; U. N. R. R. A., also Unrra [an'ra:] — United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, etc. A few recent technical terms may also be mentioned to illustrate this type such as jato, laser, maser and a more than twenty years old radar. JATO or jato means' jet-assisted take-off. Laser stands for light amplification by stimulated emission radiation; maser for micro-wave amplification and stimulated emission radiation; radar for radio detection and ranging denotes a system for ascertaining direction and ranging of aircraft, ships, coasts and other objects by means of the electro-magnetic waves which they reflect. One more military term might be added: sten-gun, as the name for a light weight machine gun derived from the initials of the inventors' surnames, Shepherd and Turpin + -en for England. Words belonging to this group are often isolated from the prototypes.

2. The opposite subgroup consists of initial abbreviations with the alphabetic reading retained. They also retain correlation with prototypes. The examples are well-known: B. B. C. ['bi:'bi:'si:] — the British Broadcasting Corporation; G. I. ['djii'aij] — for Government Issue, a widely spread metonymical name for American soldiers on the items of whose uniforms these letters are stamped. The last abbreviation was originally an Americanism but has been firmly established in British English as well. M. P. ['em 'pi:] is mostly used as an initial abbreviation for Member of Parliament, also military police, whereas P. M. stands for Prime Minister. These abbreviations are freely used in colloquial speech as seen from the following extract, in which C.P. Snow now describes the House of Commons gossip: They were swapping promises to speak for one another: one was bragging how two senior Ministers were "in the bag" to speak for him. Rigger was safe, someone said, he'd give a hand. "What has the P. M. got in mind for Roger when we come back?" The familiar colloquial quality of the context is very definitely marked by the set expressions: in the bag, give a hand, get in mind, etc.

Other examples of initial abbreviations with the alphabetical reading retained are: S.O.S. ['es 'ou 'es] — Save Our Souls, a wireless code-signal of extreme distress, also figuratively, any despairing cry for help; T.V, or TV ['ti: 'vi:] — television; Y. C. L. ['wai 'si: 'el] — the Young Communist League. The names of English letters seem to favor this type of abbreviation.

The term abbreviation may be also used for a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in a text in place of the whole, for economy of space and effort. Abbreviation is achieved by omission of letters from one or more parts of the whole, as for instance abr. for abbreviation, bldg for building, govt for government, cdr. for commander, doz or dz for dozen, ltd for limited, B. A. for Bachelor of Arts, N. Y. for New York State. Sometimes the part or parts retained show some alteration, thus oz denotes ounce and Xmas denotes Christmas. Doubling of initial letters shows plural forms as for instance pp for pages, ll for lines or cc for chapters. These are in fact not separate words but only graphic signs or symbols representing them. Consequently no orthopedic correlation exists in such cases and the unabbreviated word is pronounced: [lainz].

A specific type of abbreviations having no parallel in Russian is represented by Latin abbreviations which sometimes are not read as Latin words but substituted by their English equivalents. A few of the most important cases are listed below: ad lib (Lat ad libitum) — at pleasure; a. m. (Lat ante meridian) — in the morning; cf. (Lat conferre) — compare; cp. (Lat comparer) — compare; e.g. (Lat exempli gratia) — for example; ib (id) (Lat ibidem) — in the same place; i.e. (Lat id est) — that is; loc. cit. (Lat locus citato) -in the passage cited; ob. (Lat obiit) — he (she) died; q. v. (Lat quod vide) — which see; p. m. (Lat post meridiem) — in the afternoon; viz (Lat videlicet) — namely. An interesting feature of present-day English is the use of initial abbreviations for famous persons' names and surnames. Thus George Bernard Shaw is often alluded to as G. B. S. ['dji; 'bi: 'es], Herbert George Wells as H. G. The usage is clear from the following example: "Oh, yes ... where was I?" ''With H. G.'s Martians," I told him.

Journalistic abbreviations are often occasioned by a desire to economize head-line space, as seen from the following example - "CND Calls Lobby to Stop MLF" ("Daily Worker"). This means that a mass lobby of Parliament against the Nato multilateral nuclear force (MLF) is being called by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

These regular developments are in some cases combined with occasional jocular or accidental distortions. The National Economic Development Council is facetiously termed Needy. Elementary education is colloquially referred to as the three R's — reading, writing and Vithmetic. Some kind of witty folk etymology is at play when the abbreviation C. B. for construction battalions in the navy is respect into sea bees. The two well-known Americanisms jeep and okay may be mentioned in this connection. Jeep meaning 'a small military motor vehicle' comes from g. p. ['dgi: 'pi:j (the initials of general purpose). Okay may be an illiterate misinterpretation of the initials in all correct. Various other historical anecdotes have been also offered by way of explanation of the latter.

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