Many English-based jargons include newly created nouns, verbs and adjectives; and re-appropriate existing English nouns, verbs, and adjectives to new ends.

I can't come up with an example of a newly minted preposition, and only one example of a conjunction: "iff" meaning "if and only if."

As jargons diverge from their parent language, do they tend to accrete new terms from some parts of speech but not others? Which parts of speech? Why?

(I'm less interested in loan-words in jargons like Latin in law & science.)

I ask because I design computer programming languages and am hoping that understanding how people adapt general purpose human languages to specialized domains might provide some insight into how programming languages might be made easier to adapt to specific problem domains.

  • In German there is hoch in the mathematical sense of to the power of. Wiktionary claims it is an adverb but seems subjective. Dec 14, 2018 at 22:08
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    I would argue some of the punctuation in programming has a meaning, and when speaking we say it - "star", "pipe" and "slash", which is also used popularly - en.wiktionary.org/wiki/slash#Conjunction. Dec 14, 2018 at 22:09
  • There are also prefixes, like insta-, and of course those from chemistry and so on like iso-. Dec 14, 2018 at 22:15
  • automagically is an adverb. Dec 14, 2018 at 22:17
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    "iff" has been around since at least the late 60s - the calculus textbook I used in the mid-90s was published then, and used "iff" throughout :)
    – warren
    Oct 28, 2023 at 12:30

2 Answers 2


Not in only in jargons, but in most languages in general there are more nouns, verbs and adjectives than conjunctions and prepositions. The former are called open word classes and the latter closed class.

Open word classes readily admit new members, but closed word classes don't give in so easily - although closed is a bit of an exaggeration, over time they do, but slowly. See the relevant Wikipedia entry for more details.

So jargons hardly ever invent new conjunctions, prepositions or determiners. I would expect first of all lots of new nouns, and adjectives and verbs in second place. Jargons are by definition very technical and technical texts are often written in a very nominal style.

  • Do closed classes tend to stay the same size over time? For example, when English lost the Where/Whence/T'where distinction, did that make room for more prepositions? If people can learn a limited number of closed class words which provide cues for parsing the rest of the sentence, then maybe the number of special forms in a PL predicts the pace of its adoption. Sep 26, 2013 at 22:46
  • There is no fixed limit on the number of members a closed class can have (at least not in practice), they can go on loosing or gaining members for a while. The limited number of prepositions in English is probably not due to limited cognitive capacities, Polish for example has lots more. I'm guessing it might rather be due to a limited number of sense distinctions prepositions need to convey (the "surplus" Polish ones tend to be composite prepositions like from-behind), or what the optimal number of primitives is to convey these distinctions.
    – robert
    Sep 26, 2013 at 22:55
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    Languages vary as to which classes are closed. In Indonesian, for instance, personal pronouns are an open class. Any noun that refers to a person may be used as a personal pronoun, referential, vocative, or deictic.
    – jlawler
    Sep 27, 2013 at 1:15
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    Just to add to @jlawler, verbs and adjectives are closed classes in some languages, so in these languages new terms would probably not be added to those classes. Sep 28, 2013 at 1:29

Look for papers on multi-word term recognition or automatic term recognition, etc. In English, the most common patterns are [Noun*][Noun] and [Adjective*][Noun]. For a recent-ish survey of the field see A Comparative Evaluation of Term Recognition Algorithms . See the paper An Improved Automatic Term RecognitionMethod for Spanish for examples of POS patterns that the authors used, for detecting multi-word terms in Spanish.

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