Abbreviations of Words

Магистрант Алекенова Г.Ш., к.ф.н. доцент Тасанбаева З.Р.,

Академический Инновационный Университет


The fashionable use of abbreviation — a kind of society slang — comes and goes in waves, though it is never totally absent. In the present century, however, it has been eclipsed by the emergence of abbreviations in science, technology, and other special fields, such as cricket, baseball, drug trafficking, the armed forces, and the media. The reasons for using abbreviated forms are obvious enough. One is the desire for linguistic economy — the same motivation which makes us want to criticise someone who uses two words where one will do. Succinctness and precision are highly valued, and abbreviations can contribute greatly to a concise style. They also help to convey a sense of social identity: to use an abbreviated form is to be ‘in die know’ – part of the social group to which the abbreviation belongs. Computer buffs the world over will be recognized by their fluent talk of ROM and RAM, of DOS and WYSIWYG. You are no buff if you are unable to use such forms, or need to look them up (respectively, ‘read­only memory’, ‘random-access memory’, ‘disk operating system’, and ‘what you see is what you get’). It would only irritate computer-literate colleagues and waste time or space (and thus money) if a computer-literate person pedantically expanded every abbreviated form. And the same applies to those abbreviations which have entered everyday speech. It would be strange indeed to hear someone routinely expanding BBC, NATO, USA, AIDS, and all die other common abbreviations of contemporary English.

In the process of communication words and word-groups can be shortened. The causes of shortening can be linguistic and extra-linguistic. By extra-linguistic causes changes in the life of people are meant. In Modern English many new abbreviations, acronyms, initials, blends are formed because the tempo of life is increasing and it becomes necessary to give more and more i information in the shortest possible time [1:120].

There are also linguistic causes of abbreviating words and word-groups, such as the demand of rhythm, which is satisfied in English by monosyllabic words. When borrowings from other languages are assimilated in English they are shortened. Here we have modification of form on the basis of analogy, e.g. the Latin borrowing «fanaticus» is shortened to «fan» on the analogy with native words: man, pan, tan etc.

There are two main types of shortenings: graphical and lexical.

Graphical abbreviations are the result of shortening of words and word-groups only in written speech while orally the corresponding full forms are used. They are used for the economy of space and effort in writing.

The oldest group of graphical abbreviations in English is of Latin origin. In Russian this type of abbreviation is not typical. In these abbreviations in the spelling Latin words are shortened, while orally the corresponding English equivalents are pronounced in the full form,e.g. for example / (Latin exampli gratia), a.m. – in the morning (ante meridiem), No -number (numero), p.a. – a year (per annum), d – penny (dinarius), lb – pound (libra), i. e. – that is (id est) etc.

Some graphical abbreviations of Latin origin have different English equivalents in different contexts, e.g. p.m. can be pronounced «in the afternoon» (post meridiem) and «after death» (post mortem).

There are also graphical abbreviations of native origin, where in the spelling we have abbreviations of words and word-groups of the corresponding English equivalents in the full form. We have several semantic groups of them:

a) days of the week, e.g. Mon – Monday, Tue – Tuesday etc

b) names of months, e.g. Apr – April, Aug – August etc.

c) names of counties in UK, e.g. Yorks – Yorkshire, Berks -Berkshire etc

d) names of states in USA, e.g. Ala – Alabama, Alas – Alaska etc.

e) names of address, e.g. Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr. etc.

f) military ranks, e.g. capt. -captain, col. – colonel, sgt – sergeant etc.

g) scientific degrees, e.g. B.A. – Bachelor of Arts, D.M. – Doctor of Medicine . ( Sometimes in scientific degrees we have abbreviations of Latin origin, e.g., M.B. – Medicinae Baccalauras).

h) units of time, length, weight, e.g. f. / ft -foot/feet, sec. – second, in. -inch, mg. -milligram etc.

The reading of some graphical abbreviations depends ofi the context, e.g. «m» can be read as: male, married, masculine, metre, mile, million, minute, «l.p.» can be read as long-playing, low pressure.

Initialisms are the bordering case between graphical and lexical abbreviations. When they appear in the language, as a rule, to denote some new offices they are closer to graphical abbreviations because orally full forms are used, e.g. J.V. – joint venture. When they are used for some duration of time they acquire the shortened form of pronouncing and become closer to lexical abbreviations, e.g. BBC is as a rule pronounced in the shortened form.

In some cases the translation of initialisms is next to impossible without using special dictionaries. Initialisms are denoted in different ways. Very often they are expressed in the way they are pronounced in the language of their origin, e.g. ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States) is given in Russian as АНЗУС, SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) was for a long time used in Russian as COJIT, now a translation variant is used (ОСВ -Договор об ограничении стратегических вооружений). This type of initialisms borrowed into other languages is preferable, e.g. UFO -НЛО, СП-JVetc.

There are three types of initialisms in English:

a) initialisms with alphabetical reading, such as UK, BUP, CND etc

b) initialisms which are read as if they are words, e.g. UNESCO, UNO, NATO etc.

c) initialisms which coincide with English words in their sound form, such initialisms are called acronyms, e.g. CLASS (Computor-based Laboratory for Automated School System).

Some scientists unite groups b) and c) into one group which they call acronyms. Some initialisms can form new words in which they act as root morphemes by different ways of wordbuilding:

a) affixation, e.g. AWALism, ex-rafer, ex- POW, to waafize, AIDSophobia etc.

b) conversion, e.g. to raff, to fly IFR (Instalment Flight Rules),

c) composition, e.g. STOLport, USAFman etc.

d) there are also compound-shortened words where the first component is an initial abbreviation with the alphabetical reading and the second one is a complete word, e.g. A-bomb, U-pronunciation, V -day etc. hi some cases the first component is a complete word and the second component is an initial abbreviation with the alphabetical pronunciation, e.g. Three -Ds (Three dimensions) -стереофильм.

Abbreviation of words consists in clipping a part of a word. As a result we get a new lexical unit where either the lexical meaning or the style is different form the full form of the word. In such cases as »fantasy» and «fancy», «fence» and «defence» we have different lexical meanings. In such cases as «laboratory» and «lab» we have different styles.

Abbreviation does not change the part-of-speech meaning, as we have it in the case of conversion or affixation, it produces words belonging to the same part of speech as the primary word, e.g. prof is a noun and professor is also a noun. Mostly nouns undergo abbreviation, but we can also meet abbreviation of verbs, such as to rev from to revolve, to tab from to tabulate etc. But mostly abbreviated forms of verbs are formed by means of conversion from abbreviated nouns, e.g. to taxi, to vac etc. Adjectives can be abbreviated but they are mostly used in school slang and are combined with suffixation, e.g. comfy, dilly, mizzy etc.

Here we can mention a group of words ending in «o», such as disco (dicotheque), expo (exposition), intro (introduction) and many others. On the analogy with these words there developed in Modern English a number of words where «o» is added as a kind of a suffix to the shortened form of the word, e.g. combo (combination) – небольшой эстрадный ансамбль, Afro (African) -прическа под африканца etc. In other cases the beginning of the word is clipped. In such cases we have apheresis e.g. chute (parachute), varsity (university), copter (helicopter), thuse (enthuse) etc. Sometimes the middle of the word is clipped, e.g. mart (market), fanzine (fan magazine) maths (mathematics). Such abbreviations are called syncope. Sometimes we have a combination of apocope with apheresis,when the beginning and the end of the word are clipped, e.g. tec (detective), van (avanguard) [2:90]

Sometimes shortening influences the spelling of the word, e.g. «c» can be substituted by «k» before «e» to preserve pronunciation, e.g. mike (microphone), Coke (coca-cola) etc. The same rule is observed in the following cases: fax( facsimile), teck (technical college), trank (tranquilizer) etc. The final consonants in the shortened forms are substituded by letters characteristic of native English words.

This comparatively new way of word-building has achieved a high degree of productivity nowadays, especially in American English.

The second way of shortening is to make a new word from the initial letters of a word group: U.N.O. from the United Nations Organization, BBC. from the British Broadcasting Corporation, MP. from Member of Parliament. This type is called initial shortenings. They are found not only among formal words, such as the ones above, but also among colloquialisms and slang. So, g. f is a shortened word made from the compound girl-friend, с The word, though, seems to be somewhat ambiguous as the following conversation between two undergraduates clearly shows:

— Who’s the letter from?

— My g. f. I

— Didn’t know you had girl-friends. A nice girl?

— Idiot! It’s from my grandfather!

It is commonly believed that the preference for shortenings can be explained by their brevity and is due to the ever-increasing tempo of modern life. Yet, in the conversation given above the use of an ambiguous contraction does not in the least contribute to the brevity of the communication: on the contrary, it takes the speakers some time to clarify the misunderstanding. Confusion and ambiguousness are quite natural consequences of the modern overabundance of shortened words, and initial shortenings are often especially enigmatic and misleading.

Both types of shortenings are characteristic of informal speech in general and of uncultivated speech particularly. The history of the American okay seems to be rather typical. Originally this initial shortening was spelt O.K. and was supposed to stand for all correct. The purely oral manner in which sounds were recorded for letters resulted in O.K. whereas it should have been AC. or ay see. Indeed, the ways of words are full of surprises.

Here are some more examples of informal shortenings. Movie (from moving-picture), gent (from gentleman), specs (from spectacles), circs (from circumstances, e. g. under the circs), I. O. Y. (a written acknowledgement of debt, made from / owe you), lib (from liberty, as in May I take the lib of saying something to you?), cert (from certainty, as in This enterprise is a cert if you have a bit of capital), metrop (from metropoly, e. g. Paris is a gay metrop), exhibish (from» exhibition), posish (from position).

Undergraduates informal speech abounds in words of the type: exam, lab, prof, vac, hoi, co-ed (a girl student at a coeducational school or college) [3:114]


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