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Who knows offhand, that in German ARD stands for Arbeitsgemeinschaft der offentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland or BAfoG for Bundesausbildungs-forderungsgesetz? Word shortening is a very productive category of word formation and characteristic for professional jargon and both common and specific usage of speech in the 20th  and 21st centuries. Reasons for the quantitative growth of the results of word shortening are first enlargement of words (e. g. compounds) with longer terms and their inefficient functions in the process of communicating. On a second step, these extended terms can be condensed into a new and shortened forms that carry the same meaning as the original forms and benefit some communicative advantages. Furthermore an increase of lexemes with an origin beside the modern German language (e. g. LASER, FAQ) can also be observed.

Short terms, acronyms and initialisms including features of language economy and intransparent morphological structure enable efficient communication and a creative use of language. They can also be used to express familiarity, special purposes and hints at implied social bonds among the people employing them. Because of the difficulties of outgroup members with decoding the semantic content or meaning of shortened forms, they also indicate group affiliation. Depending on the speaker‘s awareness and knowledge of speech, results of shortening processes can sometimes lose their link to the original and be gradually independent and unchangeable with their longer originals. Redundancies and repetitions of morphemes and constituents are common and popular implications.

With some kind of semantic excess or deficit the results of word shortening differ from their former longer terms. This article and its empirical analysis describes current developments of initialisms focusing on frequency in authentic texts and semantic differences between shortened and long terms. Based on a survey, this article shows how initialisms undergo a change of meaning when used in different contexts and modalities and describes causes and consequences.

About the authors

L. Kutt

Julius Maximilians-University

Author for correspondence.


Copyright (c) 2018 Kutt L.

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