03 September 2012

More on blends

In my previous post, I discussed blends in Malay such as cerpen ('short story') and tadika ('kindergarten'), and I raised the question why Malay tends to take the first part of each word while English prefers to use the start of one word and the end of another (e.g. smog = smoke+fog).

My UBD colleague Adrian Clynes suggests this is because the penultimate syllable is most prominent in Malay, especially when the words are spoken in isolation. (Whether there is lexical stress or not in Malay is debatable ‑ see the section on Stress in The Pronunciation of Malay.)

This suggestion seems to make sense, and it explains why TAman + DIdik + KAnak (with the most prominent syllable shown in upper case) gives rise to tadika. It does not work so well for ceRIta + PENdek giving rise toe cerpen; but it is basically true that most Malay root words are bisyllabic, so it is usual for the first syllable to be most prominent.

Another question is whether this extends to English blends that are used in this region. And, indeed, we find Mindef (Ministry of Defence) and TelBru (Telecom of Brunei).

What about in other varieties of English? Do we find any examples of the use of the first part of successive words in new words created in the UK or USA? I am not sure ‑ I can't think of any at the moment.