junio - noviembre 2013
ISSN 2007-5480


Morphological Neologisms of Terminological Character in Modern

Nadezhda Lebedeva *
Olga Butenko
Kherson State University


The subject matter of the article is to establish practical links between the theory of neology and the reality of living speech. Thus as a subject of study it deals with the patterns according to which the   new words are coined.

In connection with the above, the purpose of the article is to consider morphological neologisms arising in the field of football vocabulary   in accordance with the existing patterns of word formation in modern English.


Neologisms, Affixation, Prefixation, Composition.


A perfect command of a language implies the conscious approach to the language resources and at least a partial understanding of the “inner mechanism” which makes the huge language system work.

Modern linguistics interprets word formation as a system of dynamic and creative processes.  If viewed structurally, word formation is the process of creating neologisms from the material available in the language after certain structural and semantic formulas and patterns (Verba, 2003: 25).

The subject matter of the article is to establish practical links between the theory of neology and the reality of living speech. Thus as a subject of study it deals with the patterns according to which the   new words are coined.

In connection with the above, the purpose of the article is to consider morphological neologisms arising in the field of football vocabulary   in accordance with the existing patterns of word formation in modern English.  

Given the extraordinary worldwide popularity of the game, as well as the Euro-2012 championship   taking place in Ukraine this year, the linguistic analysis of football terminology and football slang is of special interest. The data used for our study were obtained in electronic dictionaries of football terms and soccer slang (4; 5; 6; 7).

Thus our main concern has been the systematic analysis of morphological neologisms in the sphere of football communication in accordance with the existing word-patterns of forming new words and phrases in the English language. 

There are two principal morphological types of word building in modern English: word derivation and word composition. Within these types further distinction is made between various ways and means of forming neologisms.

Word derivation is one of the main ways of enriching vocabulary throughout the history of the English language. It consists in adding an affix to the stem of a definite part of speech. There is no denying the fact that there exist easily describable patterns which account for the regularities in the new words and give us an idea why certain formations will be more likely than the others. Productive derivational processes are sure to work in most cases to produce a desirable effect (Gvishiani, 2000: 85).  It is widely known that derived words are extremely numerous in the English football vocabulary.  Morphological and phraseological neologisms are usually built according to the patterns existing in the language, therefore they do not belong to the group of strong neologisms to which phonological ones are usually referred. They are formed with the help of affixation, compounding and compound-affixed models of morphological and syntactical types. Let us analyze each of the above mentioned groups in detail.

1. Neologisms formed with the help of affixation

Affixation has been one of the most productive ways of word-building in the history of English. It consists in adding an affix to the stem of a definite part of speech. Affixes are classified into productive and non-productive. By productive affixes we mean the ones which take part in deriving new words on the synchronic level of language development. The best way to identify productive affixes is to look for them among neologisms, in our case among those which arise in the sphere of football terms and slang.  The latter are usually formed on the level of living speech of football fans and reflect the most productive and progressive patterns in word-building.

Prefixation is forming a new word by adding a prefix to the stem. In English it is especially characteristic for forming verbs. Prefixes are more independent than suffixes. Prefixes can be classified according to the nature of words in which they are used: prefixes used in notional words and those used in functional words. Prefixes used in notional words are proper affixes and bound morphemes, e. g.: un-,  il-, de-, re-.

Prefixes used in functional words are semi-bound morphemes because they are found in the language as words, e.g.: over (overhead). The main function of prefixes in English is to change the lexical meaning of the same part of speech   thus forming a new word.

Factual material allows to register that in the sphere of football communication the most typical prefixes are the following:

  1. prefixes of negative meaning in-, il-, de-  (incompletepassn : apassthrownbythequarterbackbutnotcaught(4),illegalproceduren : illegalmovementbyanoffensiveplayerpriortothesnap(4), deflectionn:  the ball   touching a defender or another attacker on a shot on the goal  (7)); 
  2. repetition or reverse action re- (restartsn: all of the different methods that the ball may be brought into play (7);   
  3. interaction or degree relation inter- (interceptionn : a turnover where an opposing defensive player catches a ball thrown by the quarterback resulting in a change of possession (4);   
  4. evaluative meaning over- (overlapping n: a situation when an attacker on the wing cannot cross the ball because an opponent prevents him, the attack can be kept moving by a pass to an overlapping player who runs up on his outside. The overlapper may then be able to find space to cross (4). 

These prefixes are added mostly to noun and adjective stems. They only modify the lexical meaning of the same part of speech. Evidently as a productive way of word formation they are not frequently used in the sphere of football terminology, as their relative number   is insignificant compared to that of suffixes.

The main function of suffixes in modern English is to form one part of speech from another, the secondary function being to change the lexical meaning of the same part of speech.
Concerning suffixes, it should be borne in mind that the main varieties of productive suffixes have been established as follows:

  1. grammatical suffixes - -er and -est of the comparative and superlative degrees of the adjective;
  2. quasi-grammatical suffixes - -able, -ly, -ing, -ed;
  3. lexical derivational suffixes - -ness, -less, -like, -er (  Gvishiani, 2000: 67).

In our study we shall consider lexical morphemes proper, as we are not concerned with grammatical forms of the words.        Our research detects the popular noun-forming patterns N + suf   > N (gunnern  : special teams player whose primary job is to race down the field to tackle the player returning a punt or kickoff (4), flanker: football players terms for a wide receiver (4), wingers : The players that play the closest to the touchlines. Their job is to take the ball down the wing and then play it into the goal area (7) and  V +  er   > N ( striker, midfielder, defender,   rover, and goal keeper:  some of the more common positions  (7), sweeper n: thelastlineofdefenseforateam (7).

It should be noted here, that the extent to which speakers are aware of the components within a complex expression is an important factor in establishing the nature of a given formation. This characteristics has been described by modern linguists as analyzability. The greater analyzability suggests novelty and originality of a composite structure, while lack of analyzability presupposes its permanence and staleness (Gvishiani, 2000: 92).  As is seen from the examples above,   the suffix –er is easily recognized by the users as carrying the meaning of ‘doer of the action’ and in the sphere of football terms possesses rather low analyzability.

Other typical formation including  the pattern V + suf   > N    is realized with the help of the following suffixes:   V +  age  > N (coveragen:  preventing a player from gaining yards );    V +  tion (sion)  > N (divisionn: in the NFL, sub-groups within conferences, such as the Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western Divisions; also, a grouping of teams in college football );  V +  ment   > N (encroachmentn: a foul punishable by a 5-yard penalty );     V +  ry  > N (recoveryn :   securing or re-securing possession of a fumble (4);   V +  ing  > N (booking n: the issuing of a yellow or red card by a referee; named such because the referee writes a player’s number on his notebook after giving a card (5),  stashing n: in American football, the placing of an uninjured player on the injured reserve list to preserve rights to the player (6),tackling n: football term for contact of ball carrier with the intention of tackling him to the ground to end the play (4).

As shown in the examples above, there are numerous derived words whose meaning can be easily deduced from the meanings of the constituent parts. Yet such cases represent only the first and the simplest state of semantic readjustments within derived words. The constituent morphemes within derivatives do not always preserve their current meaning and are open to subtle and complicated semantic shifts. Consider, for example, the morphological neologisms formed by adding non-traditional suffixes    -ie, -ee, -y which form affixed nouns fumblerooskien:   in American football, a play in which the quarterback pretends to fumble and a teammate picks up the ball (6),  dummy n:  a pass made to a player who then allows the ball to roll through his legs (without him ever touching it) to another player (7), referee: another name for official. Do I hear a 'he's just calling 'em like he sees 'em'? (4), rookie: football jargon for first-year professional league player (4).

Few examples have been registered combining prefixation and affixation, as   unnecessary roughness: use of excessive force when tackling a player (4).

Another observation of interest is the fact that some affixes can extend or change their meaning owing to the process of singling out a/any word-forming element from the   used neologisms which are frequently used by fans. This phenomenon can be illustrated by the following example: the suffix   -aholic is separated from the word   workaholicn (which in its turn is coined after the alcoholicn pattern), and extended its meaning to “one possessed” in the words bookaholicn, footballholicn.

2. Neologisms formed with the help of composition

 The second wide-spread structure is a compound word consisting of two or more stems without any joining elements. Words of this structural type are produced by the word-building process called composition.   Composition is the way of word building when a word is formed by joining two or more stems to form a new word. The structural unity of a compound word depends on semantic unity and unity of morphological and syntactical functioning. The semantic unity of a compound word is often very strong. In such cases we have idiomatic compounds where the meaning of the whole is not a sum of meanings of its components, e.g.: line of scrimmage.

In non-idiomatic compounds the semantic unity is not strong, e.g.: penalty kick, break away etc.
English compounds have the unity of morphological and syntactic functioning. They are used in a sentence as one part of it and only one component changes grammatically. Thus, the plural of penalty kick is penalty kicks with the ending added to the more significant component.

A characteristic feature of English compounds is that their both components are free stems, that is they can be used as words with a distinctive meaning of their own, e.g.: free agent.

The most typical patterns of compounds registered are the following:
  1. N +  N > N (penalty kick n: it is awarded against a team which commits one of the ten offences for which a direct free kick is awarded, inside its own penalty area and while the ball is in play (7), linemann : a football term for offensive and defensive players on the line closest to the ball (4), nose guard: the central player on the defensive line who lines up opposite the center (4), pump fake: football jargon for a pass fake by a quarterback (4), home game: played at team's hometown venue (4);
  2. A   +  N > N (free agent n: term for expired contract player who can then select other team offers (4), free kick n: a punt that takes the place off a kickoff after a safety (4), yellow card n: a caution issued by the referee to a player (7), back heel : the technique of kicking the ball using the back of the heel (5)).

Less typical patterns prove to be  A+Num > N (Front Four: another name for the defensive line. Depending on the team, can be considered the 'fearsome four' (4); prep+N >N (byline n: the line between a goalpost and a corner flag (5)).

It also turns out   that numerous football terms are built after the model V + prep/adv >V (break away v:to run clear of all the defending players; typically used in situations where an attacker has run free from all the defenders and is in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper (5), throw-in: the method used to restart play when the ball has been played across one of the touchlines (7)).

Still most neologisms made after the pattern V + prep/adv   are registered as nouns. So the pattern V + prep/adv >N  can be illustrated by the following examples:   follow-throughn: the continued forward movement of the leg after the ball has been released   (7), cross-over n : an attacking technique where two players begin by making runs parallel to one another  (7), kickoff n: change of possession that occurs after a score in which the team that scored kicks the ball to the other team in order to determine field position (4),  touchback n: a kickoff that goes into the end zone: spotted at the 20-yard line (4), turnover n: change of possession (4), pitch-out: football jargon for lateral pass to a running back by the quarterback  (4) and others.

Among terminological neologisms there is a tendency to multi-component   compoundings. For example,  A +A +N >N ( indirect free-kick : a free kick that a goal may not be directly scored off of  (7)); N + N +N >N (goal line stand n : referred to when the defense stops the offense for consecutive downs when they are inside the five-yard line (4),  home field advantage n : game played at team's hometown venue  (4),  play action pass n : a pass in which a handoff is faked, followed by a pass thrown (4),  direct free-kick n: a free kick that a goal may be scored directly off   (7) , short goal-kick: a  tactic used when one of the defenders is left uncovered on a goal-kick. The ball is passed to the uncovered player on the ground just outside the 18-yard box, who is then able to turn and setup a play. The player with the ball should pass the ball quickly to reduce the chances of possible scoring opportunities (7).

The careful study of a great many compound words has revealed non-traditional patterns of word composition having been described in some latest investigations (Meshkov, 1976: 7). A special type of initial abbreviations are acronyms which are becoming increasingly productive in modern English. Their distributional formulas are:   Abbr +N >N (B-teamn:the reserve team of a club or national team (5), 3 D’sofdefencen:  delay the attack, destroy the attack, develop the counter-attack (7);  N/A +Num >N (backfour n: the players who make up the defensive line, a term used when a team plays with four defenders (5);  prep +N >N (by-line n : the line between a goalpost and a corner flag (5),  overtime n: extra period of play that happens when the score is tied at the end of the game (4), off-side n :  occurs when the offense moves across the neutral zone prior to the ball being snapped (4); N +prep >N (hand-off n : the act of the quarterback handing the ball to a player so they can advance the ball by running (4), pitch out n : football jargon for lateral pass to a running back by the quarterback (4); Num+V+N>N ( two-touch pass n:  a pass that allows the player to touch the ball once to control it, and then a second time to play it to a teammate (7).

In addition it is to be noted that the latter complexes contain nouns which are   converted from verbs. This seems to be a typical phenomenon being illustrated by a number of examples: kickoffn: the method of starting play at the beginning of the match. The referee and the two team captains decide on who gets first ball and who gets choice of side (7),, playoffn, turnovern, crossovern, followthroughn etc.breakaway n: a situation where an attacking player has broken through the defensive line and is now entering a one-on-one challe (7), pitch-out n: football jargon for lateral pass to a running back by the quarterback (4).

Although it should be remarked that the overlapping of grammatical and lexical morphologies has a direct bearing on the problem of ‘parts of speech’ classification: it becomes rather difficult to establish what parts of speech a polyfunctional word belongs to.

It is generally known that English compounds have a two-stem pattern, with the exception of compound words which have form-word stems in their structure, e.g.: off-the record, middle-of-the-road, up-and-down. Our investigation discovers    quite a number of     football terms composed of three notional stems, e.g.: play action pass, direct free-kick, home field advantage and others.

3. Neologisms formed with the help of combined means

The examination of factual material demonstrates that   multi-component combinations can be extended by affixes. . There are compound-affixed words of morphological type, mainly nouns. Most of them are terminological neologisms.    Numerous neologisms are created by combining  compounding and affixation, e. g.,  N +V +ing >N (time-wasting n: a deliberate attempt to keep the ball out of play longer than is necessary  (7), block tackling n : a tackling technique in soccer where a defender tries to dispossess his opponent by meeting him head on and kicking the ball away from him (5);  A+V +ing (back-heeling  n: a pass to a teammate made with the heel of the foot (7); N +V +er >N (kick returner n:  someone who returns kickoffs (4), slobber-knocker n:  especially in American football, a powerful collision or a match featuring unusual phsyical violence or intense play (6),  place-kicker: player on a team designated for kicking.(4); A +V +er > N (long snapper n:  football lingo for player who specializes in hiking the ball longer distances in order to be kicked (4), back header n:a type of header in football done using the back of the head (5),  linebacker n: a player in the middle of the defense that can rush the quarterback, drop back into coverage and stop the run (4), primary receiver: the number one target for a quarterback(4).

            Non-traditional multi-component phraseological compoundings discovered in the course of the research are of special   interest as they have not yet been sufficiently described and analysed in linguistic literature. Their complex structure is due to their origin. According to original word combinations they can be subdivided into:

  1. coordinated,  made of different parts of speech with the conjunction and (first and ten n : the first of four downs with ten yards to go (4) , third and long n : football jargon for play that requires an advance of more than 7 yards on a third down (4) ,   hitch and go n:  a route run by a receiver where they fake back to the quarterback and go deep (4),   back and face n: an instruction, usually given after a turnover, telling players to drop back and defend (7));
  2. nominal-attributive with the prepositions after (point-after-touchdown n :  a field goal that is worth one point (4);  in (man-in-motion n : the player who is in motion on offense prior to the snap (4);   of (line of scrimmage n : the line where the ball starts each play and then is advanced down the field as the offense moves the ball toward the end zone (4);   to (box-to-box midfielder n: a midfielder who possesses exceptional skills and stamina which allows him to play both in offense and defense; called such because he plays from one penalty box to the other (5);  man-to-man coverage n:   defensive scheme in which each player is assigned one offensive player to guard (4))   and with numerals ( two minute warning n: signal that there is two minutes left in the play segment (4), two point conversion n : attempt at two points after a touchdown by crossing the end zone instead of kicking (4);
  3. objective with the direct object (laying the ball off n: a   pass from a player into open space for another player to gain control of (7),  screening the ball n: standing in the way of the goal keeper's view of the ball, preventing him from seeing where the shot is coming from (7), roughing the kicker n: hitting of the kicker by the defense after the kick (4)  and with the indirect object (going for it n : football jargon for team decision to attempt a first down on the next play instead of punting  (4), running into the kicker n: inadvertent contact with the kicker, typically from momentum, after the kick has transpired (4).

The present study of    new words  of terminological character belonging to the sphere of football activity in the early XXI century has  revealed that though  football  terms registered by special dictionaries tend to be  simple stems, approximately a quarter of them are morphological neologisms  formed by means of affixation,  compounding, word composition  and by combined means.  The data presented in the article suggest that traditional types of productive word formation are prevailing. A new model may be used in the colloquial speech of football fans and professionals if it is built on the basis of the models which are easily recognized and understood by the speaking community. If a new word is acceptable to a significant subgroup of this community, it will be accepted first by that group and later in the speech of the whole community to the extent that it is required and useful there. This principal assumption is essential and appears to be justified by our investigation.


Верба Лідія Георгіївна, 2003. Порівняльна лексикологія англійської та української мов. – Київ: Нова книга.

Гвишиани Наталья Борисовна, 2000.  Современный английский язык: Лексикология (новый курс для филологических факультетов университетов). Modern English Lexicology: Vocabulary in Use. – Москва: Изд-во МГУ.

Мешков Олег Давыдович, 1976. Словообразование современного английского языка. – Москва: Наука.  






* Lebedeva Nadezhda: N. Lebedeva graduated from the Minsk State Pedagogical Institute of foreign languages.
In 1981 she took her degree of Philosophy Doctor. In 1982 became an associate professor.
Mrs. Lebedeva has been working at Kherson state university  since 1971. Since then she has published about 100 scientific articles and methodical recommendations in Ukrainian and international scientific journals. As Associate Professor  N. Lebedeva pays much attention to the process of students teaching supervising students’ research papers, course papers. Her specialization is English Lexicology, Stylistics, Language Analysis, composition.

** Butenko Olga: O. Butenko graduated from Dniepropetrovsk State University. After working as a teacher of English in high school she became a senior teacher at Kherson state university. Mrs. Butenko has published about 40 articles on methods of teaching foreign languages and on linguistic problems in Ukrainian and international scientific journals. Her field of interest is English lexicology, communicative syntax and methods of teaching foreign languages to University students..


Reserva de Dererchos-INDAUTOR: 04-2010-060210103400-203
ISSN 2007-5480