Before answering the question, we must know what area of study the internet slang terms belong to first. Linguist David Crystal (2001: 19) coined Netspeak, a term encompassing the entirety of Internet language studies. Netspeak is suggested to be a new and potential (at the time) sub-variation of English, just like Birmingham English or Scientific English. Henceforth, we will use Netspeak to refer to internet slang terms.
There are only so many ways to make new words, Netspeak is no exception. While many of these newfound words and phrases show a complete disregard for conventional school of linguistic thought (or common sense for that matter), as long as they are written as parts of the English language, they cannot really escape the basics of word formation – root plus stem(s). Liu and Liu (2014) listed the most common categories of Netspeak: affixes, compounds, blends, inventions, acronyms, conversions (a change in the part of speech), and meaning shifts. Notice how these are also the common formation processes of legitimate, dictionary-worthy words too, just with the end products being way wackier and more radical in their nature, so to speak.
To properly analyze the ever-changing culture of Netspeak, we are going to need current data. Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com) is perhaps a good start. Unlike ordinary dictionaries, the website specializes in slang terms and culture-specific items (in this case, Internet culture). Registered users are allowed to define any words or phrases, with an user-based voting system maintaining the quality of the definitions. With daily entries and millions of definitions, Urban Dictionary serves as a pretty good glimpse into the current landscape of Netspeak.
By analyzing the data, we discovered the following method of producing new internet slang terms, which included but not limited to blending, meaning shift and forming by affixes. Here are some of the examples.
Blending: Hexting: Hex(v) + texting(v), Himbo: He(N) + bimbo (N)
They are all combinations of two separate words, with all of them undergoing some form of clipping.
Meaning shift: Armchair general does not literally mean a general in an armchair, but someone who is a know-it-all. A more recent example is Boatlick, in which boat means a boatful, and lick describes the action of acquiring a large sum of money in a short spent of time. Note that lick can also be used as a noun, usually paired with ‘hit’, as in ‘I hit that boatlick bigtime’. An example of conversion too, which conveniently there are none except for this one lone example.
Forming by affixes:
Whataboutism, Maidenless, and Putinism. All three utilized suffixes, with no samples using prefixes, infixes or circumfixes. In Whataboutism and Putinism, the derivational suffix -ism is added to the stems. In Maidenless, the derivational suffix -less is used instead.