Journal of Danubian Studies and Research, Vol 6, No 2 (2016)

The Role of Author’s Neologisms in Literary Text

Galina Oleynikova1

Abstract: The emergence and usage of new words in the texts of different genres makes a problem of author’s new formations’ typology in different genres and areas of functioning of language and speech as one of the central problems in modern Linguistics. Interest in the neology due to the important role of neologisms is defined as the process of language development that reflects the language adaptation to changing external factors for its functioning.

Keywords: neologisms; literary text; language development

It should be noted that the study of different lexical units in the texts of works of science fiction and fantasy as specific genres of literature is of current interest. Such works abound with so-called author’s new formations or neologisms that have not yet found its place in the typology of new words, first of all, because of their relevance to virtual languages created by the author himself. In addition, these innovations require a special attention in the field of translation into another language, while the necessary translation strategy transferring the realities are not developed in modern translation studies yet. Every writer, due to his skills and imagination, builds his own imaginary world, sometimes almost indistinguishable from the real life of the reader (H.G. Wells, A. Azimov, R. Bredberi), and sometimes it is so incomparable with reality, permeated such a kind of logic and mental ability that the reader requires a certain skill and a strong strain of imagination to understand the meaning of an author’s innovation (Fr. Herbert, F. Braun, M. Krichton). Thus, the creation of new words is involved in “formation of the author’s idiostyle as one of the individual components of language, defining the specifics of the writer's art system” (Брандис, 1977, p. 111). As a rule, writers create a certain model of an imaginary reality in their work of art, which is designed to correspond to the real one. For example, in science fiction, authors usually depict alternative worlds, which are different from any of the known cultures. Their creation is made with the help of quasi-terms, new concepts, frames and notions which lead to the formation of new lexical units in language. The relevance of the presented article is defined by the fact that the semantic, word-building and word-formation analysis of new lexical units, their functioning in the discourse of the original text and in another language version of the text, open up new perspectives for understanding the specific laws of the language system. This article is an attempt to make the system analysis of new formations or new author’s neologisms, operating in the original science-fiction texts, and to identify their nature. The working hypothesis of our research work is the assumption that new formations, functioning in the discourse of fiction, reflect marked linguistic information, which is the main link to the understanding of the specifity of the virtual image, quasi-real worlds and idiostyle of the writer.

The problem of the emergence and usage of new words, author’s neologisms, has always interested linguists, especially in our era, when the emancipation of language and the flight of author’s fantasy in creation different referential situations in a fictional world, leads to the appearance of different, new lexical formations. Moreover, these innovations require a special approach when being translated into the Ukrainian and Russian languages.

New formation’s problem was studied at different times in the works of such scientists as Ryabov, V.N.; Senko, R.B.; Vasileva, A.D.; Gugupavy, D.V.;  Plotnikova, L.I.; Smirnitsky, A.I.; Feldman, N.I.; Vinogradov, V.V.; Algeo, J.J.; Ayto, R.; Barnhart, G.; Cannon, G.; Forgue, S.; Rot, D.; Odmark, A.; Rey, G. Guilbert and others.

More actively neologisms began their investigation in the end of the XX century, as evidenced by a monograph, dissertation research, numerous articles in which new lexical units are considered from various aspects: word-formative, lexical, sociolinguistic, normative, stylistic, onomassiological.

According to R.Y. Namitokova, “new words are lexical units, which are non-consuming, but which can become, appearing in the language in a certain period and did not exist previously, perceived as new in language consciousness of native speakers”(Намитокова, 1986, c. 160; Петриченко, 1981, c. 310).

There were some attempts to create terms of new words like special lexical units, which are created in a speech in a particular situation (for one time usage) and do not belong to the language. They distinguish the existence of several terms that define the essence of these lexical units. In language and literature one can find the following concepts: occasionalisms, potential words, homemade words, original (individual) words, quasiiterms, quasiilexems, neologisms, etc. The abundance of terms is due to the divergency of experts in their understanding. Thus, the term “occasionalism” is widely used in linguistic literature, but there is no generally accepted definition of the occasional word. In the linguistic literature, there are few names of this category of words: the author's neologism (Kiseleva, 1970; Bragin, 1973; Namitokov, 1986), stylistic neologism (Manoli, 1971; Budagov, 1976), a one-time neologism (King, 1978), potential word (Smirnitsky, 1956), occasional word (Lykov, 1972; Weisgerber, 1962; Kowalik, 2002), one-time education (Ebert, 1966) and others. All these designations have undergone a scrupulous, critical analysis (Retunskaya, 1974; Degtar, 1975; Teslenko, 1989).

Some researchers have used specific terminology in addition to the above-mentioned terms, thus, marking the specifics of such units in the science fiction genre. Therefore, Soskina, S.I.  introduces the concept of quasi-lexeme and quasi-term of science fiction (Соскина, 1980, 17с.). Such words, in her opinion, constitute a special group of words in the text, they are created to describe non-existent denotations and haven’t occupied a certain place in the vocabulary of the language fund yet (Петриченко, 1981, p. 24).

However, it should be noted, that the term “neologism” has more generalized meaning. Some linguists prefer to use “neologism” for new formations in the language, in such a way narrowing its meaning. So, E.I. Hanpira believes that “the term “neologism” is the most old. It is the only term, used in the literary work. Only this term is recognized by high school. Meanwhile, one term is not enough to describe the variety of facts, bound up with the emergence of new words” (Ханпира, 1972, p. 30).

In foreign linguistics the term “neologism” appears as the most commonly used in a broader sense, denoting language and speech innovations. Encyclopedic publications define several types of neologisms, and among them there are the so-called “pop music words, coined and used only for a particular occasion, usually for a special literary effect» (Ханпира, 1972, p. 30). Neologism (from Greek “neo” – new, “logos” – word). As noted by N.M. Naer, neologisms are divided into proper neologisms, words of artificial origin, neologisms- abbreviations and semantic neologisms. (Наер, 2006)

As researchers note, the text with neologisms has a special structure, contributing understanding and perception of it. Many scientific works, related to this issue, appears lately. First of all, researchers are trying to identify “key” words, reference points, indicators (Goncharenko, G.E. & Kiseleva, R.A.) to help the reader understand the author`s innovations, draw unusual situations and characters. Therefore, M.A. Petrychenko assigns a special role to the systematization of lexical actualizations in author`s new formations. In general, the last one, as M.A. Petrichenko notes, is based on the “objective factor of the existence of structural and semantic scheme of word building, interpreting the role of the contest”. (Петриченко, 1981, 310с).

As it was noted above, works of science fiction contain the author's neologisms, reflecting the author's intentions of depicting quasi-reality of what is happening. Science fiction as a separate kind of art literature usually tells about the fictional worlds of alien civilizations. Respectively, there is a need in the expressing and nominating of non-existent objects and phenomena in the objective reality.

An analysis of the factual material showed that in the studied texts neologisms are author’s formation, he produces new words arbitrarily or constructs words from elements presented in the language.

As a result, working on the stated problem of literary science fiction texts (totaling 849 pages) by method of continuous sampling, 120 lexical items were worked out. The analysis has showed the following results: neologisms of English science fiction are divided into the following groups of:

  1. proper names -Morloks, Eloi, Settlers, Flatlander; Tyrannosaurus rex;

  2. names of flora and fauna of extraterrestrial worlds - lichenous plants, livid green liverworts, spiked plants, cactus masses, fungi, terrestrial mushroom, fungoid bulk, airweed, boffer, Gastropodal mollusks;

  3. the name states extraterrestrial, planets, constellations: Aurora, Solar, Empire, the Llanvabon, The Crab Nebula, the sun Alpha, Lupus;

  4. the name, describing the human intellect: cyborg, roboman, prison robot, android;

  5. the names of extraterrestrial weapons: blaster, robo-gun, thunder rizer;

  6. the name, transmitting scientific and technical ideas of the authors: Cavorite, Titan Euphorbia, Herakleophorbia.

Regarding the morphological features, neologisms reveal two trends: the first is absolutely free author’s nomination of quaziterms of fictional world (hyperspecial link) and the second – the usage of established language elements for the production of new objects and phenomena (flatlander, newcomer).

The factual material allows us to emphasize the variety of ways of lexical neologisms derivations, however, we fixed upon the most active links of the word-formation processes in modern derivation, namely, suffixing, prefixing and the addition of the words.

It is noteworthy that these quasi-names have derivational potential. Thus, the names of people, subjects of fictional planets are formed from the author's neologisms with the suffix – er :

We rode an escalladder into the nose.

I’m not flatlander. The mind-wrenching sight of naked space fillsme with mild, but waning interest. I want to know notning’s sneaking up behind me”.

According to many lexicologists, this derivational model is the most productive in the creation of new words in modern English. This model allows an author to create words, denoting different kinds of agents or actants, performing unusual actions in the world of artistic reality.

Stereotypical materials modeling world or non-existent space of objective reference are functional and structural parts of the unreal world. Pointing to their presence or absence, in a modified form, the usage of such words allows to depict the fantastic and unusual nature of the imaging world more graphically and vividly. For example:

I can also tell them that your world is moonless. That should be good for a foot-note somewhere.

The most productive prefixes of author’s neologisms in science fiction are prepositional unit hyper- , super- , non- , anti- , sub- .

The prefixes hyper-, super- have a value of production intensity, high degree of what is called a generating basis: hypervideo, hyperspace, hypercraft, hyperdrive; superbly, superstucture, supermental.

New nouns and adjectives with a total value of opposites, negation can be also met in the science-fiction texts. They are formed with prefixes: anti-, non-: antihuman, antigravity, anti-intellectual, anti-Christ, nonhuman, nonhabitable. Thus, the effect of the fantastic events taking place achieve by the nomenclature of parts of the external description of one of the actors of the story “A Sound of Thunder”:

There’s an anti-everything man for you, a militarist, anti-Christ, antihuman, anti-intellectual. People called us up, you know, joking but not joking.

Taking into consideration all that was mentioned above, we can note that the author’s new formations or neologisms, functioning in the discourse of science-fiction works, are the reflection of the author's main intentions, which are peculiar for a virtual picture of the world. These words are the most important constant for the perception of the text content by a reader, who is a direct recipient of the information. It a text neologisms of science fiction can take another additional (connotative) functions besides their direct function, that are capable of carrying some extra (connotative) meanings, allowing the reader to imagine an unreal quazi world depicted by an author.


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1 PhD, Izmail State University for Humanities, Ukraine, Address: Riepina St, 12, Izmail, Odessa Oblast, Ucraina, 68601, Tel.: +380 4841 51388, Corresponding author:


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