Rules and Patterns of Word Formation
I. The following are some rules to keep in mind when trying to figure
out the elements that make up a word. Please note: like all "rules"
in the study of languages, there are enormous numbers of exceptions,
but you can usually depend on the following:
1) PREFIXES need not come at the beginning of the word, but they almost NEVER come at the end:
RIGHT: A-the-ist: "a-" = not/without
RIGHT: my-A-sthen-ia: "a-" = not/without
WRONG: amphi-bi-AN "an-" = not/without
INSTEAD: "-an" = pertaining to
2) Similarly, SUFFIXES need not come at the end of the word, but they
will NEVER EVER come at the beginning (this one you can bank on)
RIGHT: tox-IC: "-ic" = characterized by
RIGHT: tox-IC-o-gnath: "-ic" = characterized by
Question: What is a word that means "Tumour composed of fat"?
WRONG: OMAlip: "-oma" = "Tumour composed of"
WRONG: AN-a-drom-ous: "-an" = pertaining to
INSTEAD: ana-DROM-ous: "ana-" = up
3) Between BASES (I repeat, BASES), a Linking Vowel may occur for ease
of pronunciation. In Greek, the most common linking vowel is "O".
These vowels have no meaning and are not needed with some combinations
EXAMPLE: ech-O-cardi-O-gram (Linking Vowel between every base)
EXAMPLE: CHOL-ANGI-ENTER-o-STOM-y (4 bases, 1 Linking Vowel)
3a) COROLLARY: Linking Vowels usually do NOT come between PREFIXES and
WRONG: par-O-dyn-ia ("O" = Linking Vowel; "DYN" = power)
RIGHT: par-ODYN-ia ("ODYN" = pain)
WRONG: peri-O-dont-ist ("DONT" = tooth?????)
RIGHT: peri- ODONT-ist ("ODONT" = tooth)
Nor do they come between SUFFIXES and other elements:
WRONG: psych-O-sis ("-sis" = act of or process of)
RIGHT: psych-OSIS ("-osis" = diseased condition of)
1. Linking Vowels can be used before the so-called
"compound suffixes" (see lessons 5 & 6). This is not truly an
exception since the compound suffixes are composed of a base and a
EXAMPLES: psych-O-logy (LOG+y); hem-O-philia (PHIL + ia)
2. Linking Vowels can be used to add extra elements onto a
pre-existing word. In such cases, Linking vowes can occur adjacent to
prefixes and suffixes
EXAMPLE: Tox-IC-O-gnath (Toxic + GNATH)
EXAMPLE: Arthr-O-endo-scop-y (ARTHR + endoscopy)
4) You should try as hard as you can to account for EVERY LETTER in a
word. If, after analysing a word, you find you have some unexplained
letters left, start over again and try to analyse it differently.
Question: What elements make up the word ENTOMOLOGY?
-logy "science of"
-MO-: it's only 2 letters; I can ignore them, right?
TOM- "to cut"
-logy: "science of"