Sunday, November 01, 2009
Fun With Words
This is sometimes referred to as agglutinative construction.
This process can create arbitrarily long words: for example, the prefixes pseudo (false, spurious) and anti (against, opposed to) can be added as many times as desired.
A word like anti-aircraft (pertaining to the defense against aircraft) is easily extended to anti-anti-aircraft (pertaining to counteracting the defense against aircraft, a legitimate concept) and can from there be prefixed with an endless stream of "anti-"s, each time creating a new level of counteraction. More familiarly, the addition of numerous "great"s to a relative, e.g. great-great-great-grandfather, can produce words of arbitrary length.
"Antidisestablishmentarianism" is the longest common example of a word formed by agglutinative construction, as follows (the numbers succeeding the word refer to the number of letters in the word):
to set up, put in place, or institute (originally from the Latin stare, to stand)
to end the established status of a body, in particular a church, given such status by law, such as the Church of England
the separation of church and state (specifically in this context it is the political movement of the 1860s in Britain)
opposition to disestablishment
of or pertaining to opposition to disestablishment
an opponent of disestablishment
the movement or ideology that opposes disestablishment
The use of additional affixes could stretch the word to the oft-cited 'pseudoantidisestablishmentarianism' (34) or 'antidisestablishmentarianisticalized,' (36)