back-formation. analogy

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mimischka
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:51 am UTC

back-formation. analogy

Postby mimischka » Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:53 am UTC

In dictionaries and literary works I found a number of examples of back-formed verbs, such as

1. to hand-pick (1825-35 to select personally and with care) from hand-picked ( 1540)
to hand-write (1840-50 To write (a document, text, etc.) by hand) from hand-writing (1375-1425)
2. to headhunt (1969 1)collect the heads of dead enemies as trophies 2) identify and approach to fill a business position) from headhunter (1850-55)
job-hunt (1945-50,to seek employment; look for a job) from jobhunter
3. lip-read (1880 to understand spoken words by interpreting the movements of aspeaker's lips without hearing the sounds made) from lip-reading (1852)
4. flyfish (to fish using artificial flies as lures, 1745-55) from flyfishing
5. sun-dry (dry in the sun, as opposed to using artificial heat,1805-15) from sundrying
It is obvious that some left or right parts of these verbs are the same. It seems they are formed by analogy.
That’s why I tried to form other verbs according to this model just using composition:
1. hand-finish, hand-assemble, hand-select and hand – choose.
2. to wife-hunt, to flat-hunt, to husband-hunt
3. to face-read, to smile read
4. to bread-fish, to dough-fish, to worm-fish
5. to heat-dry, to machine-dry
Will the native speaker understand them? And how should we write such verbs : separately, solidly or with a hyphen?
Moreover, I’ve found such words as whistle-blower(n) (a person who informs on someone engaged in an illicit activity) and whistle-blowing (n, adj) (the act of telling the authorities or the public that the organization you are working for is doing something immoral or illegal.). Is it possible to use the verb to whistle-blow, for example in this context: Did she whistle-blow it to the authorities?
Could you please prove your point of view, if it is impossible and give your own examples with such kinds of verbs.

KarenRei
Posts: 272
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:48 pm UTC

Re: back-formation. analogy

Postby KarenRei » Tue Jan 26, 2016 4:12 pm UTC

That’s why I tried to form other verbs according to this model just using composition:
1. hand-finish, hand-assemble, hand-select and hand – choose.
2. to wife-hunt, to flat-hunt, to husband-hunt
3. to face-read, to smile read
4. to bread-fish, to dough-fish, to worm-fish
5. to heat-dry, to machine-dry
Will the native speaker understand them?


If they know the basic concept (for example, I didn't know that people fish with bread or dough, so those sound kind of weird to me). More to the point I've heard half of those before. That said, "heat dry" sounds overly generic, since most drying is done with heat, it's more worth noting if you don't use heat (most people call that "air drying"). Machine drying would make sense in the context of clothes (but be weird elsewhere), though people are usually more specific because you generally need to know the setting - "tumble dry", for example. If you just want to dry it in a drier most people will just simply say "dry". "Face read", you're not really reading a face, you're reading expressions, a smile being an example of one. But hand-finishing, hand-assembly, hand-selection (not hand-choose, that sounds weird - what would that even mean?), wife/husband hunting, flat-hunting (if you're British, in the US it'd be apartment-hunting)... all of those are perfectly normal, if not common terms.

And how should we write such verbs : separately, solidly or with a hyphen?


Either way. Actually I think it looks better without one (to me the hyphen makes it look more old-fashioned), but either way is fine. And you forgot the third option: no break at all. But I'd probably recommend as a general rule going with a space.

Is it possible to use the verb to whistle-blow, for example in this context: Did she whistle-blow it to the authorities?


Yes and no. You don't whistle blow a thing ("it"); you simply whistleblow. "Did she whistleblow to the authorities?" or just "Did she whistleblow" or "Did she blow the whistle?" If you want it to describe a particular activity you could say "whistleblow about (activity)".


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