Home Random Page




Depending on the purpose of research, various classifications of suffixes have been used and suggested. Suffixes have been classified according to their origin, parts of speech they served to form, their frequency, productivity and other characteristics.

Within the parts of speech suffixes have been classified semantically according to lexico-grammatical groups and semantic fields, and last but not least, according to the types of stems they are added to.

In conformity with our primarily synchronic approach it seems convenient to begin with the classification according to the part of speech in which the most frequent suffixes of present-day English occur. They will be listed together with words illustrating their possible semantic force.1

Noun-forming suffixes:

-age (bondage, breakage, mileage, vicarage); -ance/-ence2(assistance, reference); -ant/-ent(disinfectant, student); -dom(kingdom, freedom, officialdom); -åå (employee); -eer(profiteer); -er(writer, type-writer); -ess (actress, lioness); -hood(manhood); -ing (building, meaning, washing); -ion/-sion/-tion/-ation(rebellion, tension, creation, explanation); -ism/-icism(heroism, criticism); -ist(novelist, communist); -ment(government, nourishment); -ness(tenderness); -ship(friendship); -(i)ty(sonority).

Adjective-forming suffixes:

-able/-ible/-uble(unbearable, audible, soluble); -al(formal); -ic(poetic); -ical(ethical); -ant/-ent(repentant, dependent); -ary (revolutionary); -ate/-ete(accurate, complete); -ed/-d(wooded); -ful(delightful); -an/-ian(African, Australian); -ish(Irish, reddish, childish);-ive (active); -less(useless); -like (lifelike); -ly (manly); -ous/-ious(tremendous, curious); -some(tiresome); -y (cloudy, dressy).

Numeral-forming suffixes: -fold(twofold); -teen(fourteen); -th(seventh); -ty (sixty).

Verb-forming suffixes:

-ate(facilitate); -er(glimmer); -en(shorten); -fy/-ify(terrify, speechify, solidify); -ise/-ize (equalise); -ish(establish).

Adverb-forming suffixes: -ly(coldly); -ward/-wards(upward, northwards); -wise(likewise).

If we change our approach and become interested in the lexico-grammatical meaning the suffixes serve to signalise, we obtain within each part of speech more detailed lexico-grammatical classes or subclasses.

Taking up nouns we can subdivide them into proper and common nouns. Among common nouns we shall distinguish personal names, names of other animate beings, collective nouns, falling into several minor groups, material nouns, abstract nouns and names of things.

Abstract nouns are signalled by the following suffixes: -age, -ance/ -ence, -ancy/-ency, -dom, -hood, -ing, -ion/-tion/-ation, -ism, -ment, -ness, -ship, -th, -ty.1

Personal nouns that are emotionally neutral occur with the following suffixes: -an{grammarian), -ant/-ent(servant, student), -arian(vegetarian), -åå(examinee), -er(porter), -ician(musician), -ist(linguist), -ite(sybarite), -or(inspector), and a few others.

Feminine suffixes may be classed as a subgroup of personal noun suffixes. These are few and not frequent: -ess(actress), -ine(heroine), -rix(testatrix), -ette(cosmonette).

The above classification should be accepted with caution. It is true that in a polysemantic word at least one of the variants will show the class meaning signalled by the affix. There may be other variants, however, whose different meaning will be signalled by a difference in distribution, and these will belong to some other lexico-grammatical class. Cf. settlement, translation denoting a process and its result, or beauty which, when denoting qualities that give pleasure to the eye or to the mind, is an abstract noun, but occurs also as a personal noun denoting a beautiful woman. The word witness is more often used in its several personal meanings than (in accordance with its suffix) as an abstract noun meaning ‘evidence’ or ‘testimony’. The coincidence of two classes in the semantic structure of some words may be almost regular. Collectivity, for instance, may be signalled by such suffixes as -dom, -ery-, -hood, -ship. Itmust be borne in mind, however, that words with these suffixes are polysemantic and show a regular correlation of the abstract noun denoting state and a collective noun denoting a group of persons of whom this state is characteristic, ñf. knighthood.

Alongside with adding some lexico-grammatical meaning to the stem, certain suffixes charge it with emotional force. They may be derogatory: -ard(drunkard), -ling(underling); -ster(gangster), -ton(simpleton), These seem to be more numerous in English than the suffixes of endearment.

Emotionally coloured diminutive suffixes rendering also endearment differ from the derogatory suffixes in that they are used to name not only persons but things as well. This point may be illustrated by the suffix -y/-ie/-ey(auntie, cabbie (cabman), daddy), but also: hanky (handkerchief), nightie (night-gown). Other suffixes that express smallness are -kin/-kins(mannikin); -let(booklet); -ock(hillock); -ette(kitchenette).

The connotation (see p. 47ff) of some diminutive suffixes is not one of endearment but of some outlandish elegance and novelty, particularly in the case of the borrowed suffix -ette(kitchenette, launderette, lecturette, maisonette, etc.).

Derivational morphemes affixed before the stem are called prefixes. Prefixes modify the lexical meaning of the stem, but in so doing they seldom affect its basic lexico-grammatical component. Therefore both the simple word and its prefixed derivative mostly belong to the same part of speech. The prefix mis-, for instance, when added to verbs, conveys the meaning ‘wrongly’, ‘badly’, ‘unfavourably’; it does not suggest any other part of speech but the verb. Compare the following oppositions: behave : : misbehave, calculate : : miscalculate, inform : : misinform, lead : : mislead, pronounce : : mispronounce. The above oppositions are strictly proportional semantically, i.e. the same relationship between elements holds throughout the series. There may be other cases where the semantic relationship is slightly different but the general lexico-grammatical meaning remains, cf. giving : : misgiving ‘foreboding’ or ‘suspicion’; take : : mistake and trust : : mistrust.

The semantic effect of a prefix may be termed adverbial because it modifies the idea suggested by the stem for manner, time, place, degree and so on. A few examples will prove the point. It has been already shown that the prefix mis- is equivalent to the adverbs wrongly and badly, therefore by expressing evaluation it modifies the corresponding verbs for manner.1 The prefixes pre- and post- refer to time and order, e. g. historic :: pre-historic, pay :: prepay, view :: preview. The last word means ‘to view a film or a play before it is submitted to the general public’. Compare also: graduate :: postgraduate (about the course of study carried on after graduation), Impressionism :: Post-impressionism. The latter is so called because it came after Impressionism as a reaction against it. The prefixes in-, a-, ab-, super-, sub-, trans- modify the stem for place, e. g. income, abduct ‘to carry away’, subway, transatlantic. Several prefixes serve to modify the meaning of the stem for degree and size. The examples are out-, over- and under-. The prefix out- has already been described (see p. 95). Compare also the modification for degree in such verbs as overfeed and undernourish, subordinate.

The group of negative prefixes is so numerous that some scholars even find it convenient to classify prefixes into negative and non-negative ones. The negative ones are: de-, dis-, in-/im-/il-/ir-, ïîï-, èï-. Part of this group has been also more accurately classified as prefixes giving negative, reverse or opposite meaning.2

The prefix de- occurs in many neologisms, such as decentralise, decontaminate ‘remove contamination from the area or the clothes’, denazify, etc.

The general idea of negation is expressed by dis-; it may mean ‘not’, and be simply negative or ‘the reverse of, ‘asunder’, ‘away’, ‘apart’ and then it is called reversative. Cf. agree : : disagree ‘not to agree’ appear : : disappear (disappear is the reverse of appear), appoint : : dis-. appoint ‘to undo the appointment and thus frustrate the expectation’, disgorge ‘eject as from the throat’, dishouse ‘throw out, evict’. /n-/

im-/ir-/il have already been discussed, so there is no necessity to dwell upon them. Non- is often used in abstract verbal nouns such as noninterference, nonsense or non-resistance, and participles or former participles like non-commissioned (about an officer in the army below the rank of a commissioned officer), non-combatant (about any one who is connected with the army but is there for some purpose other than fighting, as, for instance, an army surgeon.)

Non- used to be restricted to simple unemphatic negation. Beginning with the sixties non- indicates not so much the opposite of something but rather that something is not real or worthy of the name. E. g. non-book — is a book published to be purchased rather than to be read, non-thing — something insignificant and meaningless.

The most frequent by far is the prefix un-; it should be noted that it may convey two different meanings, namely:

1) Simple negation, when attached to adjective stems or to participles: happy : : unhappy, kind : : unkind, even : : uneven. It is immaterial whether the stem is native or borrowed, as the suffix un- readily combines with both groups. For instance, uncommon, unimportant, etc. are hybrids.

2) The meaning is reversative when un- is used with verbal stems. In that case it shows action contrary to that of the simple word: bind : : unbind, do : : undo, mask : : unmask, pack : : unpack.

A very frequent prefix with a great combining power is re- denoting repetition of the action expressed by the stem. It may be prefixed to almost any verb or verbal noun: rearrange v, recast v ‘put into new shape’, reinstate v ‘to place again in a former position’, refitment n ‘repairs and renewal’, remarriage n, etc. There are, it must be remembered, some constraints. Thus, while reassembled or revisited are usual, rereceived or reseen do not occur at all.

The meaning of a prefix is not so completely fused with the meaning of the primary stem as is the case with suffixes, but retains a certain degree of semantic independence.

It will be noted that among the above examples verbs predominate. This is accounted for by the fact that prefixation in English is chiefly characteristic of verbs and words with deverbal stems.

The majority of prefixes affect only the lexical meaning of words but there are three important cases where prefixes serve to form words belonging to different parts of speech as compared with the original word.

These are in the first place the verb-forming prefixes be- and en-, which combine functional meaning with a certain variety of lexical meanings.1 Be- forms transitive verbs with adjective, verb and noun stems and changes intransitive verbs into transitive ones. Examples are: belittle v ‘to make little’, benumb v ‘to make numb’, befriend v ‘to treat

like a friend’, becloud v (bedew v, befoam v) ‘to cover with clouds (with dew or with foam)’, bemadam v ‘to call madam’, besiege v ‘to lay siege on’. Sometimes the lexical meanings are very different; compare, for instance, bejewel v ‘to deck with jewels’ and behead v which has the meaning of ‘to cut the head from’. There are on the whole about six semantic verb-forming varieties and one that makes adjectives from noun stems following the pattern be- + noun stem+ -ed, as in benighted, bespectacled, etc. The pattern is often connected with a contemptuous emotional colouring.

The prefix en-/em- is now used to form verbs from noun stems with the meaning ‘put (the object) into, or on, something’, as in embed, engulf, encamp, and also to form verbs with adjective and noun stems with the meaning ‘to bring into such condition or state’, as in enable v, enslave v, encash v. Sometimes the prefix en-/em- has an intensifying function, cf. enclasp.

The prefix a- is the characteristic feature of the words belonging to statives: aboard, afraid, asleep, awake, etc.

1 As a prefix forming the words of the category of state a- represents: (1) OE preposition on, as abed, aboard, afoot; (2) OE preposition of, from, as in anew, (3) OE prefixes ge- and y- as in aware.

This prefix has several homonymous morphemes which modify only the lexical meaning of the stem, cf. arise v, amoral a.

The prefixes pre-, post-, non-, anti-, and some other Romanic and Greek prefixes very productive in present-day English serve to form adjectives retaining at the same time a very clear-cut lexical meaning, e. g. anti-war, pre-war, post-war, non-party, etc.

From the point of view of etymology affixes are subdivided into two main classes: the native affixes and the borrowed affixes. By native affixes we shall mean those that existed in English in the Old English period or were formed from Old English words. The latter category needs some explanation. The changes a morpheme undergoes in the course of language history may be of very different kinds. A bound form, for instance, may be developed from a free one. This is precisely the case with such English suffixes as -dom, -hood, -lock, -ful, -less, -like, -ship, e. g. ModE -dom < OE dom ‘fate’, ‘power’, cf. ModE doom. The suffix -hood that we see in childhood, boyhood is derived from OE had ‘state’. The OE lac was also a suffix denoting state. The process may be summarised as follows: first lac formed the second element of compound words, then it became a suffix and lastly was so fused with the stem as to become a dead suffix in wedlock. The nouns freedom, wisdom, etc. were originally compound words.

The most important native suffixes are: -d, -dom, -ed, -en, -fold, -ful, -hood, -ing, -ish, -less, -let, -like, -lock, -ly, -ness, -oc, -red, -ship, -some, -teen, -th, -ward, -wise, -y.

The suffixes of foreign origin are classified according to their source into Latin (-able/-ible, -ant/-ent), French (-age, -ance/-ence, -ancy/-ency, -ard, -ate, -sy), Greek (-ist, -ism, -ite), etc.

The term borrowed affixes is not very exact as affixes are never borrowed as such, but only as parts of loan words. To enter the morphological system of the English language a borrowed affix has to satisfy certain conditions. The borrowing of the affixes is possible only if the number of words containing this affix is considerable, if its meaning and function are definite and clear enough, and also if its structural pattern corresponds to the structural patterns already existing in the language.

If these conditions are fulfilled, the foreign affix may even become productive and combine with native stems or borrowed stems within the system of English vocabulary like -able < Lat -abilis in such words as laughable or unforgettable and unforgivable. The English words balustrade, brigade, cascade are borrowed from French. On the analogy with these in the English language itself such words as blockade are coined.

It should be noted that many of the borrowed affixes are international and occur not only in English but in several other European languages as well.


The so-called stone wall problem concerns the status of the complexes like stone wall, cannon ball or rose garden. Noun premodifiers of other nouns often become so closely fused together with what they modify that it is difficult to say whether the result is a compound or a syntactical free phrase. Even if this difficulty is solved and we agree that these are phrases and not words, the status of the first element remains to be determined. Is it a noun used as an attribute or is it to be treated as an adjective?

The first point to be noted is that lexicographers differ in their treatment. Thus, “The Heritage Dictionary of the English Language” combines in one entry the noun stone and the adjective stone pertaining to or made of stone’ and gives as an example this very combination stone wall. In his dictionary A.S. Hornby, on the other hand, when beginning the entry — stone as an uncountable noun, adds that it is often used attributively and illustrates this statement with the same example — stone wall.

R. Quirk and his colleagues in their fundamental work on the grammar of contemporary English when describing premodification of nouns by nouns emphasise the fact that they become so closely associated as to be regarded as compounds. The meaning of noun premodification may correspond to an of-phrase as in the following the story of his life his life story, or correlate with some other prepositional phrase as in a war story a story about war, an arm chair a chair with arms, a dish cloth a cloth for dishes.

There is no consistency in spelling, so that in the A.S. Hornby’s Dictionary both arm-chair and dish-cloth are hyphenated.

R. Quirk finds orthographic criteria unreliable, as there are no hard and fast rules according to which one may choose solid, hyphenated or open spelling. Some examples of complexes with open spelling that he treats as compound words are: book review, crime report, office management, steel production, language teacher. They are placed in different structural groups according to the grammatical process they reflect. Thus, book review, crime report and haircut are all compound count nouns formed on the model object+deverbal noun:X reviews books the reviewing of books book review. We could reasonably take all the above examples as free syntactic phrases, because the substitution of some equonym for the first element would leave the meaning of the second intact. We could speak about nickel production or a geography teacher. The first elements may be modified by an adjective — an English language teacher especially because the meaning of the whole can be inferred from the meaning of the parts.

H. Marchand also mentions the fact that 'stone 'wall is a two-stressed combination, and the two-stressed pattern never shows the intimate permanent semantic relationship between the two components that is characteristic of compound words. This stress pattern stands explained if we interpret the premodifying element as an adjective or at least emphasise its attributive function. The same explanation may be used to account for the singularisation that takes place, i.e. the compound is an arm-chair not *an arms-chair. Singularisation is observed even with otherwise invariable plural forms. Thus, the game is called billiards but a table for it is a billiard table and it stands in a billiard-room. A similar example is a scissor sharpener that is a sharpener for scissors. One further theoretical point may be emphasised, this is the necessity of taking into account the context in which these complexes are used. If the complex is used attributively before a third noun, this attributive function joins them more intimately. For example: I telephoned: no air-hostess trainees had been kept late (J. Fowles).

It is especially important in case a compound of this type is an author’s neologism. E. g. : The train was full of soldiers. I once again felt the great current of war, the European death-wish (J. Fowles).

It should, perhaps, be added that an increasing number of linguists are now agreed — and the evidence at present available seems to suggest they are right — that the majority of English nouns are regularly used to form nominal phrases that are semantically derivable from their components but in most cases develop some unity of referential meaning. This set of nominal phrases exists alongside the set of nominal compounds. The boundaries between the two sets are by no means rigid, they are correlated and many compounds originated as free phrases.


In a simple code each sign has only one meaning, and each meaning is associated with only one sign. This one-to-one relationship is not realised in natural languages. When several related meanings are associated with the same group of sounds within one part of speech, the word is called polysemantic, when two or more unrelated meanings are associated with the same form — the words are homonyms, when two or more different forms are associated with the same or nearly the same denotative meanings — the words are synonyms.

Actually, if we describe the lexical system according to three distinctive features, each of which may be present or absent, we obtain 23 = 8 possible combinations. To represent these the usual tables with only horizontal and vertical subdivisions are inadequate, so we make use of a mapping technique developed for simplifying logical truth functions by E.W. Veitch that proved very helpful in our semantic studies.

In the table below a small section of the lexico-semantic system of the language connected with the noun sound (as in sound of laughter) is represented as a set of oppositions involving phonetical form, similar lexical meaning and grammatical part-of-speech meaning. Every pair of words is contrasted according to sameness or difference in three distinctive features at once.

A maximum similarity is represented by square 1 containing the lexico-semantic variants of the same word. All the adjoining squares differ in one feature only. Thus squares 1 and 2 differ in part of speech meaning only. Some dictionaries as, for instance “Thorndike Century Junior Dictionary” even place sound1 and sounds3 in one entry. On the other hand, we see that squares 2, 3 and 4 represent what we shall call different types of homonymy. Square 7 presents words completely dissimilar according to the distinctive features chosen. Square 5 is a combination of features characteristic not only of synonyms but of other types of semantic similarity that will be discussed later on. But first we shall concentrate on homonyms, i.e. words characterised by phonetic coincidence and semantic differentiation.

Two or more words identical in sound and spelling but different in meaning, distribution and (in many cases) origin are called homonyms. The term is derived from Greek homonymous (homos ‘the same' and onoma ‘name’) and thus expresses very well the sameness of name combined with the difference in meaning.

There is an obvious difference between the meanings of the symbol fast in such combinations as run fast ‘quickly’ and stand fast ‘firmly’. The difference is even more pronounced if we observe cases where fast is a noun or a verb as in the following proverbs: A clean fast is better than a dirty breakfast; Who feasts till he is sick, must fast till he is well. Fast as an isolated word, therefore, may be regarded as a variable that can assume several different values depending on the conditions of usage, or, in other words, distribution. All the possible values of each linguistic sign are listed in dictionaries. It is the duty of lexicographers to define the boundaries of each word, i.e. to differentiate homonyms and to unite variants deciding in each case whether the different meanings belong to the same polysemantic word or whether there are grounds to treat them as two or more separate words identical in form. In speech, however, as a rule only one of all the possible values is determined by the context, so that no ambiguity may normally arise. There is no danger, for instance, that the listener would wish to substitute the meaning

'quick’ into the sentence: It is absurd to have hard and fast rules about anything (Wilde), or think that fast rules here are ‘rules of diet’. Combinations when two or more meanings are possible are either deliberate puns, or result from carelessness. Both meanings of liver, i.e. ‘a living person’ and ‘the organ that secretes bile’ are, for instance, intentionally present in the following play upon words: “Is life worth living?” “It depends upon the liver.” Ñf.: “What do you do with the fruit?” “We eat what we can, and what we can’t eat we can.”

Very seldom can ambiguity of this kind interfere with understanding. The following example is unambiguous, although the words back and part have several homonyms, and maid and heart are polysemantic:

Maid of Athens, ere we part,

Give, oh give me back my heart (Byron).

Homonymy exists in many languages, but in English it is particularly frequent, especially among monosyllabic words. In the list of 2540 homonyms given in the “Oxford English Dictionary” 89% are monosyllabic words and only 9.1 % are words of two syllables. From the viewpoint of their morphological structure, they are mostly one-morpheme words.

Classification of Homonyms.The most widely accepted classification is that recognising homonyms proper, homophones and homographs. Homonyms proper are words identical in pronunciation and spelling, like fast and liver above. Other examples are: back n ‘part of the body’ : : back adv ‘away from the front’ : : back v ‘go back’; ball n ‘a round object used in games’ : : ball n ‘a gathering of people for dancing’; bark n ‘the noise made by a dog’ : : bark v ‘to utter sharp explosive cries’ : : bark n ‘the skin of a tree’ : : bark n ‘a sailing ship’; base n ‘bottom’ : : base v ‘build or place upon’ : : base a ‘mean’; bay n ‘part of the sea or lake filling wide-mouth opening of land’ : : bay n ‘recess in a house or a room’ : : bay v ‘bark’ : : bay n ‘the European laurel’. The important point is that homonyms are distinct words: not different meanings within one word.

Homophones are words of the same sound but of different spelling and meaning: air : : heir; arms : : alms; buy : : by; him : : hymn; knight : : night; not: : knot; or: : oar; piece : : peace; rain: : reign; scent: : cent; steel : : steal; storey : : story; write : : right and many others.

In the sentence The play-wright on my right thinks it right that some conventional rite should symbolise the right of every man to write as he pleases the sound complex [rait] is a noun, an adjective, an adverb and a verb, has four different spellings and six different meanings. The difference may be confined to the use of a capital letter as in bill and Bill, in the following example: “How much is my milk bill?11 “Excuse me, Madam, but my name is John.11 On the other hand, whole sentences may be homophonic: The sons raise meat : : The sun’s rays meet. To understand these one needs a wider context. If you hear the second in the course of a lecture in optics, you will understand it without thinking of the possibility of the first.

Homographs àrå words different in sound and in meaning but accidentally identical in spelling: bow [bou] : : bow [bau]; lead [li:d] : : lead [led]; row [rou] : : row [rau]; sewer [’souý] : : sewer [sjuý]; tear [tiý] : : tear [tea]; wind [wind] : : wind [waind] and many more.

It has been often argued that homographs constitute a phenomenon that should be kept apart from homonymy as the object of linguistics is sound language. This viewpoint can hardly be accepted. Because of the effects of education and culture written English is a generalised national form of expression. An average speaker does not separate the written and oral form. On the contrary he is more likely to analyse the words in terms of letters than in terms of phonemes with which he is less familiar. That is why a linguist must take into consideration both the spelling and the pronunciation of words when analysing cases of identity of form and diversity of content.

Various types of classification for homonyms proper have been suggested.

A comprehensive system may be worked out if we are guided by the theory of oppositions and in classifying the homonyms take into consideration the difference or sameness in their lexical and grammatical meaning, paradigm and basic form. For the sake of completeness we shall consider this problem in terms of the same mapping technique used for the elements of vocabulary system connected with the word sound.

As both form and meaning can be further subdivided, the combination of distinctive features by which two words are compared becomes more complicated — there are four features: the form may be phonetical and graphical, the meaning — lexical and grammatical, a word may also have a paradigm of grammatical forms different from the basic form.

The distinctive features shown in the table on p. 186 are lexical meaning (different denoted by A, or nearly the same denoted by A), grammatical meaning (different denoted by B, or same by B), paradigm (different denoted by C, or same denoted by C), and basic form (different D and same D).

The term “nearly same lexical meaning” must not be taken too literally. It means only that the corresponding members of the opposition have some important invariant semantic components in common. “Same grammatical meaning” implies that both members belong to the same part of speech.

Same paradigm comprises also cases when there is only one word form, i.e. when the words are unchangeable. Inconsistent combinations of features are crossed out in the table. It is, for instance, impossible for two words to be identical in all word forms and different in basic forms, or for two homonyms to show no difference either in lexical or grammatical meaning, because in this case they are not homonyms. That leaves twelve possible classes.

Date: 2015-01-02; view: 2298

<== previous page | next page ==>
doclecture.net - lectures - 2014-2019 year. Copyright infringement or personal data (0.007 sec.)