Determining Word Meaning Using Structural Analysis
Determining Word Meanings
When a reader comes across an unfamiliar word, it’s important that they know techniques to understand the word’s definition. One way to determine the word’s definition is by looking at the prefix and suffix of the word. Although there are many words in the English language, many of those words share a common prefix or suffix.
By understanding the meaning of that prefix or suffix, the reader can then determine the likely meaning of the word. One way to determine the word meaning is structural analysis. That’s by looking at the prefix, the root, and the suffix of a word. Take the word “unacceptable” for example. Here, you have the root word: accept. That can be a word in itself. Then you have the prefix un- and the suffix -able. The prefix is always going to come before the root word and the suffix is always going it come after the root word.
Notice I said that the root word is the word that can stand alone. I understand that -able can also stand alone and is a word, but, in this case, it’s a suffix. If you saw un- or -able written by themselves, you would see it written like this. That’s because the dash represents the word. Here, since un- is a prefix, the word comes after the prefix. Here, with -able, the word becomes comes before -able, because -able is the suffix.
Say you didn’t understand what “unacceptable” meant. You could look at -able and know that it means “able”. Now you know that “acceptable” must mean “able to accept”. Un- means “not so” from words like “unprofessional”. “Unprofessional” means “not professional”; it means “the opposite of”. You know that un- means “not acceptable”. It’s something that’s not able to be accepted. By using the prefix and a suffix of the word and knowing the meanings of those, the reader ” can determine the meaning of the word “unacceptable.
Some words, like “backward”, don’t have both the prefix and a suffix. They just have a suffix. “Back” is the root word and -ward is the suffix. Say you didn’t know what “backward” meant, but you knew what the root word meant. You knew what “back” meant. You remember the word “toward”, which also has the same suffix. You know that it means “going somewhere”, so you could get an idea that this suffix has something to do with direction. Since you see the root word “back”, you know it means “going back to”. That’s another example of how to use the prefix or the suffix to determine the meaning of the word.
Some words just have a prefix. This word, for example, has a prefix and a suffix but no root word. Here, bio- is a prefix and -ology is a suffix. They share that “O”. You can look at this and think, “Okay, I don’t know what this means, but I know I’ve seen the word “bio” before in the word “biography”. Well, that’s a book about someone’s life, so bio- must mean life. What does -ology mean? Well, I’ve heard of “archaeology”. That must mean the study of something, because you’re studying something. -Ology means ‘the study of’.
By knowing the prefix and the suffix and what they mean, you can conclude that this word most likely means “the study of life”. It’s important to understand common prefixes and suffixes so that you can determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
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Last updated: 05/02/2018
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