Gries (2004)

morpkresearchkeytermsShouldn’t it be Breakfunch?

A really interesting example of research on morphology is a journal article which looks into blending and blend structure. But before looking at this research, you need to know what these things mean!

What is Blending and Blend Structure?

Blending is a process where a new word is created by combing non-morphemic parts (see column on the right for explanation) of two or more already existing words. These are either shortened and put together or are already overlapping. As you can see in the examples below blends are usually made up by the first part of one word and the last part of another. Some well-known examples in English are:

smog (smoke+fog)
brunch (breakfast + lunch)

Most speakers don’t realise that blends are actually fusions of words as they are often very well integrated in the language. Did you know that the computer term bit is actually a blend of binary and digit, and modem it put together by modulator and demodulator?[1]

Therefore the Blend Structure is the way in which the two source words have been put together (blended) to form the new word.

Examples of blending in English

While blending may not be considered one of the most productive forms of new word formation, it nonetheless gives us some valuable new words – some of which can be very entertaining!

We’ve all heard of words such as brunch (breakfast + lunch) and smog (smoke + fog), and probably are very aware that these are the result of blending- but some words become so much a part of our language that we forget their origins!

Glimmer = gleam + shimmer
Moped= motor + pedal

Sitcom= situation + comedy

And then there are the blends that make obscure words, words that wouldn’t come about if it weren’t for the development of new technology and a developing social culture:

Chexting= cheating + texting
Textpectation = texting + expectation
Flirtationship = Flirting + relationship

Most of these kind of constructions are made for slang use, whereas ones such as glimmer and moped have earned their places in dictionaries and are now considered words within their own right!

Shouldn’t it be be Breakfunch? – The journal article

So now you’re all clued up on the process of blending and the concept of blend structure and how Blendiferous it all is we can now give you a real example of linguistic research into this morphological phenomenon. The research is presented in a Journal Article entitled:

Shouldn’t it be be Breakfunch? A quantitative analysis of blend structure in English by Stefan Th. Gries.[2]

As you will find out if you go to university, journal articles can be really wordy and really long and rather difficult to get your head around! This is because they are written by researchers for other researchers to read so the writing style is very different to what you would find in textbooks. However, in this case we have just summarised the main points of the research to enable you to understand it.

  • The research investigates the word-formation process of blending in English and its main aim is to find out what factors determine why certain words are blended together in such a way.
  • The paper analyses the orthographic and phonemic structure of blends on a quantitative basis. The table below, taken from the journal article, shows the blend structure of the word Brunch which has been formed from the source words Breakfast and Lunch. It indicates the percentages of each word that appear in the blend.

example of table

  • The main factors discussed in relation to the blend structure of words are:
    • the amount of information each source word contributes.
    • the similarity of the source words to the blend.
  • The method that was used by Gries (the researcher) to produce the results included statistical tests using quantitative data. Mathematical equations and statistics are often important aspects of Linguistic Research when analysing data.
  • The results show that the amount of material contributed by the words is determined by the degree of recognisability of the source words and that the similarity of source words to the blend plays a vital role in blend formation.

Here you can download and read the whole journal article.


[1] O’Grady, W., (1997). Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction. London: Longman.
[2] Gries, S. T., (2004). Shouldn’t it be be Breakfunch? A Quantitative Analysis of Blend Structure in English. New York: Walter de Gruyter & Co.