Tuesday, November 20, 2007

History of a New Word in English: Weblog

New words (neologisms) in English are either coined by using elements already in the language or borrowed by taking words or ideas from outside the language.

The word weblog was coined by using two familiar words in English. The word web comes from the Old English word webb, “woven fabric.” This word is related to the Old English word wefan, “weave,” which would later be used in the compound cobweb, formed from the clipped word for “spider” -- atorcoppe -- plus webb. The word log, meaning “written record,” derives from the Ancient Greek word logos, “word, speech, or reason.”

There are five major processes used to create new words in English:
1. compounding -- using two elements to create a new word: book + store > bookstore

2. derivation -- using derivational affixes to form new words: teach + er > teacher

3. conversion / zero derivation -- change from one part of speech to another: book n. > book v., e.g., I booked my flight yesterday.

4. clipping / shortening -- removing parts from the beginning or end of the word: condominium > condo

5. blending -- deleting letters from either one or both of the bases: breakfast + lunch > brunch
Now let’s take a look at how these processes were used to create weblog and the many related terms that followed:

world wide web > web -- clipping / shortening

web + log > weblog -- compounding / blending
The term weblog was coined by Jorn Barger in 1997 to describe his daily “logging the web” on his website, where he provided links and brief comments on what he was reading and “logging.” It probably should not be surprising that Barger was an amateur enthusiast of James Joyce, a writer whose later work was marked by wordplay bordering on nonsense.
weblog > blog -- clipping / shortening
In 1999 Peter Merholz broke the word weblog into two words and used that phrase to head his links to other blogs: we blog. The clipped form, blog, was taken up by others to designate online diaries.
Once the word blog became accepted for online diaries, English speakers used the usual, at-hand linguistic processes to stake out new semantic territories.
blog (noun) > blog (verb) -- conversion / zero derivation

blog > blogger, blogging, bloggable -- derivation

blog + sphere > blogosphere -- compounding, with either native or neoclassical elements

military + blogger > milblogger -- blending
Compounding is the most productive process for making neologisms in English. Here are just a few new words created by using either web or blog:

art blogger
cat blogger
And here are a few fanciful, possible neologisms that I have created using either web or blog:
lunablogger -- one who blogs from or about the moon
hyperblogger -- a dominant, hegemonic blogger
web-weary -- characterized by lassitude from excessive web-searching
multiblogger -- a blogger who maintains more than one blog
urblogger -- the first or original blogger for a sub-genre of blogs;
e.g., Salam Pax was the urblogger of the Iraqi blogosphere.
protoblogger -- also possibly used to denote the first or original blogger
omniblogger -- someone who blogs day and night on all topics
simulbloggers -- bloggers who blog about a topic or event at the same time
Can you guess what these coinages might mean?
analog blogger
country blogger
dude blogger

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