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There are several words in the English which have been created as a "merging" of multiple existing words.

e.g. Insofar- Merged from words "in, so, far".

How do such words come about?

It surely can't simply be a matter of a mistake growing in usage so much that it is eventually accepted as valid, because there are so many examples for which this has not happened.

e.g. "alot"- This is not a valid word, although it is commonly written.

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I love alots! –  Joachim Sauer Nov 22 '11 at 13:08
    
"Allowed"?! One of the great things about English is the relative scarcity of language police. Don't ask permission, you probably won't have to ask for forgiveness either. If it works, do it. Chances are excellent that you'll be understood, and you may even start a trend. –  mickeyf Nov 22 '11 at 14:47
    
Related (but not duplicate) question: insofar or in so far. –  Peter Shor Nov 22 '11 at 21:32
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possible duplicate of Why did "insofar" become a word, not "insofaras"? –  jwpat7 Dec 7 '11 at 22:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The compounding is one of the ways new words are formed, nothing mystical here. If you look at various English compounds and how they are formed you will notice that these are different compared to your example.

If you compare "a lot" and "alot" you will find that this is not a matter of compounding, here the compounding of the meaning is not pronounced, but this is a change of grammar that would go against rules that govern phrases such as "a little" and "a few".

Finally, I am not sure but I think that such change does not occur also because it would change the emphasis - "alot" vs "a lot".

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I think the emphasis may already have changed in speech, and this is why we are seeing so many people spelling it "alot". –  Peter Shor Nov 22 '11 at 21:54
    
@PeterShor, I really don't know how common is to hear ə ˈlɒt vs ?əlˈɒt, but it seems obvious that insofar did not have to change the pronunciation at all. –  Unreason Nov 28 '11 at 12:49

This usually happens when an expression survives its origin, i.e. the expression still has a meaning to most peope, but that way of forming an expression has more or less come out of use, so few people know how the expression came to be.

When the spaces between the words in an expression like in so far no longer serves a purpose, they tend to go away.

The form alot is however not likely to be accepted as correct, as it's formed from a mistake rather than changing dynamically into a new form.

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