In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Blending in Morphology

  • Introduction
  • Overviews and Reference Works
  • Edited Collections
  • Encyclopedia and Handbook Entries
  • Textbooks and Reference Works on Word Formation and Morphology

Linguistics Blending in Morphology
Natalia Beliaeva
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0298


Blending is a way of forming new lexical units by putting together parts of existing words. Blends can also be called portmanteau words or telescope words. One defining feature of blends that is recognized in most morphological classifications is that blends combine the initial part or whole of one word with the final part or whole of another word, e.g., the blend brunch was formed by conjoining the initial part of the word breakfast and the final part of the word lunch. Blends are often formed in such a way that base words overlap, as in jumbrella where the base words jumbo and umbrella share the segment ‑umb‑. In some cases, blending involves clipping of both base words, in other cases one or both base words are incorporated into the blend, as in floordrobe (floor + wardrobe), frenemy (friend + enemy), or predictionary (prediction + dictionary). These examples represent only a fraction of possible configurations blends may have. The diversity of blends is a phenomenon that has been widely discussed, and one of the reasons why there is no agreement in literature as to whether blending is a productive process of regular word formation. One of the arguments to the contrary is that the exceptional formal diversity of blends makes it appear that their formation is completely unpredictable. The classifications of word formation systems differ in terms of what structures can be classified as blends, and many researchers admit that the category has fuzzy boundaries. Furthermore, the structural and semantic classifications of blends differ in terms of what formal or semantic attributes need to be considered defining characteristics of blends. One of the possible reasons for this is that blending can be regarded as either a subtype of compounding, a subtype of clipping, or an ad hoc process of a different nature; hence, different morphological classifications may use different criteria for defining the taxonomical status of blends. At the same time, growing evidence from quantitative studies of blends reveals notable regularities in their formation, phonological and semantic features, and patterns of use. Regarding the patterns of use, it is widely acknowledged that blends are often used as expressive means in such contexts as mass media, advertisement, or slang that imply a comparatively high degree of playfulness or a need for attention-catching linguistic means. Thus, the playful character of blends is sometimes denoted a defining characteristic of this type of word formation. Blending is attested in a number of typologically diverse languages, though there is evidence of its wider dissemination in Indo-European languages, and a vast majority of research works on blending covers English blends or blends in other European languages.

Overviews and Reference Works

Many reference works on blends address the fuzziness of this category and provide considerations for defining and delimiting blends, or arguments illustrating the challenges of such definition or delimitation. Some of the overviews consider both structural and semantic features of blends. A detailed review of the literature on blending provided in Bauer 2012 focuses on the fuzziness of the category of blending with regard to both formal and semantic considerations (see also Beliaeva 2019 [cited under Encyclopedia and Handbook Entries] for a detailed overview of phonological, phonotactic, and semantic properties of blends that may be considered their defining features). The central focus of other works is the semantic nature of blends and the semantic relationships between their base words. Thus, an overview of systematic categories of lexical blends, outlined in accordance with a Saussurean understanding of syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations, is given in Algeo 1977. In Böhmerová 2010 the focus is on onomatological status of blends. The main focus in Cannon 1986 is on delimiting the category of blending by considering the relations between blends and other word-formation types.

  • Algeo, John. 1977. Blends, a structural and systemic view. American Speech 52:47–64.

    DOI: 10.2307/454719

    A fundamental study of lexical blends from the point of view of their origin and semantics, on the material of English blends. Definitive aspects of lexical blends are described, all blends being classified into two main categories: syntagmatic (telescope) and associative (portmanteau).

  • Bauer, Laurie. 2012. Blends: Core and periphery. In Cross-disciplinary perspectives on lexical blending. Edited by Vincent Renner, François Maniez, and Pierre J. L. Arnaud, 11–22. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110289572.11

    An introduction to an edited volume on blending (see Renner, et al. 2012 [cited under Edited Collections]), presenting a review of literature on blends, focusing on the problems of defining blends, approaches to structural and semantic categorization, and the most prominent lacunes in research on blends in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

  • Böhmerová, Ada. 2010. Blending as lexical amalgamation and its onomatological and lexicographical status in English and in Slovak. Bratislava, Slovakia: ŠEVT.

    A detailed historical overview of the literature on blending in morphology, from the earliest mentions of the term “blend” to 2010, followed by a reanalysis of earlier definitions and classifications of blends and developing an original classification according to the syllabic structure, the number and the origin of the elements, and the resulting word class.

  • Cannon, Garland. 1986. Blends in English word formation. Linguistics 24.4: 725–753.

    DOI: 10.1515/ling.1986.24.4.725

    The paper provides an evaluation of the role of blends in English word formation and their relations to other morphological categories. Blends are classified as a subtype of shortening, with a subsequent analysis of phonological form (with a particular focus on syllable structure) and morphological origin of base words.

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