Between Hamasstan and Dumbfuckistan: About blends

Camiel Hamans (European Parliament Brussels/Strasbourg)

Traditionally morphology deals with complex words, 'words which are not simple signs, but which are made up of more elementary ones' (Aronoff 1976). Although 'portmanteau' words such as smog, snark or chunnel are derived from other forms - 'smoke + fog, 'snake + shark' and 'channel + tunnel' - Aronoff does not include the pattern of word formation in his theory of morphology. These products of blending processes are just 'oddities'. Bauer(1983), Scalise (1984), Spencer (1991) and Rainer (1993) share the same view.

In the work of Suzanne Kemmer (for instance Kemmer 2000) blends play a more central role. She considers 'lexical blends, such as glitterati , stalkerazzi , imagineer and carjacking , as instances of one of the most vivid and creative word formation processes in English'. However, she realizes how problematic blends are for rule-based theories of morphology. Therefore she describes the process of blending within usage-based network theories.

In this paper I want to discuss in how far blending processes are more or less systematic.

I shall start with examples such as:

(1) brunch breakfast + lunch

flumpet Flügelhorn + trumpet

The process under (1) is not very productive and at first sight not really systematic, just as in examples such as:

(2) governator governor + terminator

Nescafé Nestlé + café

Nespresso Nestlé + espresso

On the other hand, examples such as under (3) suggests morphological boundaries might play a role in the formation of portmanteau words:

(3) Oxbridge Oxford + Cambridge

stagflation stagnation + inflation

infotainment information + entertainment

The last example under (3) makes clear how complicated the process is, since infotainment is a part of a paradigm

(4) entertainment wintertainment webtainment

infotainment sportstainment





The process which operates here might be described in terms of more or less productive forms of blending, just as in (5), (6) and (7). On the other hand it could be considered as a combination of clipping and suffixation, or sometimes of twofold clipping and compounding, as in (8), (9) and (10).

(5) hotel

motel motor + hotel

botel boat + hotel

(6) Hollywood

Bollywood Bombay + Hollywood

Mollywood Moskou + Hollywood

(7) globalisation



The last example, Englishation , suggests a conscious but normal process of suffixation is taking place already, as in some of the examples under (8)-(10) as well.

(8) Afghanistan




(9) advertising stopvertising

webverstising shockvertising

artvertising trashvertising

(10) English

Swenglish Dunglish Germish globalish

Spanglish Nenglish offlish (office English)




Aronoff, Mark. 1976. Word formation in generative grammar. Linguistic Inquiry Monograph 1. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Bauer, Laurie. 1983. English WordFormation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Kemmer, Suzanne. 2000. Lexical Blending: An integrated View, with Implications for

Morphology. Paper presented at First Landau International Symposium, Germany, March 2000.

Rainer, Franz. 1993. Spanische Wortbildungslehre. Tübingen: Niemeyer

Scalise, Sergio. 1984. Generative Morphology, Dordrecht: Foris

Spencer , Andrew. 1991. Morphological theory: an introduction to word structure in

generative grammar . Oxford: Blackwell.