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English Word Formation


Admission requirements

Introductory (BA-level) courses in (English) syntax and (English) phonology. If in doubt, consult the course tutor before registering.


The study of word formation deals with the ways in which new words are built on the bases of other words, e.g. clue-less-ness. In this course, we will examine a number of perspectives on word formation and apply these to English. What types of word formation processes are there in English? Are the rules that build words similar to the rules that build sentences? How are complex words stored in the brain? And how does word formation throw light on the way that languages change, and on how they are acquired?

Course objectives

  • Students have gained insight into the different types of word formation in English.

  • Students are familiar with different theoretical approaches to word formation, and are able to apply these approaches in their own work

  • Students are familiar with current issues in the study of word formation.


The timetable is available on the MA Linguistics website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Time spent on attending seminars: 26 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature and preparing for the presentation: 132 hours

  • Time to write a paper (including reading/research): 122 hours

Assessment Method

-Presentations, in-term assignments, classroom participation 30%
-Final essay 70%

To pass the course, a minimum of a 5.5 is required for the final essay.

If the final mark for the essay is a 5.49 or lower, a resit essay will have to be submitted during the resit period, with a new topic.


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

  • Plag, Ingo. (2018). Word Formation in English (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. A selection of recent articles (to be made available during the course).

    Note: the first (2003) edition of the coursebook is outdated, and is no longer suitable for this course. Final written exam, essay, (group) presentation, participation


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies.

General information about uSis is available in English.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration via Studeren à la carte
Registration via Contractonderwijs


Please contact Student administration van Eyckhof

The coordinator of studies is Else van Dijk