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A neologism is a word, term, or phrase which has been recently created ("coined") — often to apply to new concepts, to synthesize pre-existing concepts, or to make older terminology sound more contemporary. Neologisms are especially useful in identifying inventions, new phenomena, or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context. The term e-mail, as used today, would be an example of a neologism.
Neologisms are by definition "new", and as such are often directly attributable to a specific individual, publication, period or event. The term "neologism" was itself coined around 1800; so for some time in the early 19th Century, the word "neologism" was itself a neologism.
Neologisms can also refer to an existing word or phrase which has been assigned a new meaning.
In psychiatry, the term is used to describe the creation of words which only have meaning to the person who uses them. It is considered normal in children, but a symptom of thought disorder indicative of a psychotic mental illness such as schizophrenia in adults. Usage of neologisms may also be related to aphasia acquired after brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury.
Changing culture[edit | edit source]
Neologisms tend to occur more often in cultures which are rapidly changing like South Africa, and also in situations where there is easy and fast propagation of information. They are often created by combining existing words (see compound noun and adjective) or by giving words new and unique suffixes or prefixes. Those which are portmanteaux are shortened. Neologisms can also be created through abbreviation or acronym, by intentionally rhyming with existing words, or simply through playing with sounds.
Neologisms often become accepted parts of the language. Other times, however, they disappear from common usage. Whether a neologism continues as part of the language depends on many factors, probably the most important of which is acceptance by the public. Acceptance by linguistic experts and incorporation into dictionaries also plays a part, as does whether the phenomenon described by a neologism remains current, thus continuing to need a descriptor. It is unusual, however, for a word to enter common use if it does not resemble another word or words in an identifiable way. (In some cases however, strange new words succeed because the idea behind them is especially memorable or exciting). When a word or phrase is no longer "new," it is no longer a neologism. Neologisms may take decades to become "old," though. Opinions differ on exactly how old a word must be to no longer be considered a neologism; cultural acceptance probably plays a more important role than time in this regard.
Cultural acceptance[edit | edit source]
After being coined, neologisms invariably undergo scrutiny by the public and by language prescriptivists to determine their suitability to the language. Many are accepted very quickly; others attract opposition. Language experts (not linguists) sometimes object to a neologism on the grounds that a suitable term for the thing described already exists in the language. Non-experts who dislike the neologism sometimes also use this argument, deriding the neologism as "abuse and ignorance of the language."
Some neologisms, especially those dealing with sensitive subjects, are often objected to on the grounds that they obscure the issue being discussed, and that such a word's novelty often leads a discussion away from the root issue and onto a sidetrack about the meaning of the neologism itself.
Proponents of a neologism see it as being useful, and also helping the language to grow and change; often they perceive these words as being a fun and creative way to play with a language. Also, the semantic precision of most neologisms, along with what is usually a straightforward syntax, often makes them easier to grasp by people who are not native speakers of the language.
The outcome of these debates, when they occur, has a great deal of influence on whether a neologism eventually becomes an accepted part of the language[How to reference and link to summary or text]. Linguists may sometimes delay acceptance, for instance by refusing to include the neologism in dictionaries; this can sometimes cause a neologism to die out over time[How to reference and link to summary or text]. Nevertheless if the public continues to use the term, it eventually sheds its status as a neologism and enters the language even over the objections of language experts.
Evolution of neologisms[edit | edit source]
- Unstable - Extremely new, being proposed, or being used only by a very small subculture (also known as protologism).
- Diffused - Having reached a significant audience, but not yet having gained widespread acceptance.
- Stable - Having gained recognizable and probably lasting acceptance.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Neologistic aesthetics
- Word formation
[edit | edit source]
English[edit | edit source]
- Fowler, H.W., "The King's English," Chapter I. Vocabulary, Neologism, 2nd ed. 1908.
Information[edit | edit source]
- Root knowledge : The need for neologisms
- Neologism History & Evaluation
- International Dictionary of Literary Terms : Neologisms
- The Urban Dictionary : http://urbandictionary.com
Wiktionary[edit | edit source]
Indices[edit | edit source]
- The Rice University Neologisms Database 1998-2005
- The Internalational Dictionary of Neologisms
- Neologisms in Journalistic Text
- Lexicon of Neologism
- Internet Neologisms
- Neologisms in the Dictionaries of All-Consonant and All-Vowel Words
- Wordmint Blog
- Neologisms A-Z
- Collected by Rice University linguistics class, 2003
- It Figures-Figures of Speech
- Word Central a neologism project for children
- poor mallows An international single-purpose neologism project
- Coin your own word a German neologism project
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