WelcomeOriginally Posted by Tori
Backformation, also called clipping, is a word formation process that shifts a word's function from one category to another. That is, it's a functional shift: by clipping off a word's suffix, the word's function changes. Take, for example, the noun television and the verb televise, which entered into English when the Television was invented. First, the noun television was coined (from tele-, a prefix meaning at a distance, + vision, meaning to see), and then the suffix -ion was clipped off, giving a new word, the verb televise.
With backformations, specifically verbs, the verb is created from the noun, which is the opposite of what we expect. Generally, -ion is added to verbs to create nouns, and not the other way around:
Verb, revise => add -ion => Noun, revision
Noun, television => clip -ion => Verb, televise
So when we see, say, the word television, we automatically assume that it is made from the verb televise + -ion, but it's not. It's the other way around: televise is made from the noun television.
To be able to tell if a given word is a backformation, one has to know about the history of the English language or has to invest in a dictionary that lists backformations.
Where does backformation come from?
Backformation is based on analogy, or a partial similarity with other words in the language:
Analogy revise : revision :: televise : television
Read as, revise is to revision as televise is to television
Check out these sources:
English Word Formation Processes: backformation
Examples of backformation
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