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What is the origin of the suffix -ing used to form gerunds and present participles?
Why is the suffix the same in both cases?

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Wow. I never noticed the same form was used for two different grammatical purposes. –  Anurag Kalia Mar 26 '13 at 19:56

3 Answers 3

up vote 52 down vote accepted

The two -ing's are actually not the same etymologically. One developed from Proto-Germanic *-ungō, which has survived in contemporary German (packagingVerpackung). The other -ing developed from Old English -ende, from Proto-Germanic *-andz — again, compare contemporary German (singingsingend) — and goes back to the Proto-Indo-European *-nt- (cf. Greek -ον or Latin -ans).

For further details, see Etymonline or Wiktionary.

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Wow, great answer. As the sources say, the second -ing (participle) goes all the way back to Proto-Indo-European *-nt- (Sanskrit -ant, Greek -on, Latin -ans). The first -ing (gerund) seems to be unique to the Germanic family. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 23 '11 at 11:10
For which reason, the stigmatised "talkin'" may be more consonant with the history of the language than the standard "talking" - but only as a participle ("We were talkin'"). As a gerund ("Huntin', shootin' and fishin'") it has no historical basis. –  Colin Fine Feb 23 '11 at 17:59
So it should be "Talking is fun. So I am talkin." –  Arlen Beiler Nov 10 '12 at 12:42
The real Greek and Latin suffixes are actually -ντ- and -nt-. The nominatives you mention do not reflect the stems of the suffixes (most nominatives don't reflect stems). // A question that is arises is, what is the Proto-Indo-European root of *-ungō, and is it related to Latin -(i)on-? –  Cerberus May 3 '13 at 17:49
But one of the things that happens to final velar nasals is that they revert to dentals in English. After all, there weren't any phonemic velar nasals in the language until /ŋɡ/ became /ŋ/ in some cases but not in others, leaving contrasts like finger/singer, sing/sin, thing/thin, and longer (noun; 'one who longs') vs longer (adj; 'more long'). –  John Lawler May 3 '13 at 18:23

15)."-ing suffix, as in earming, lytling, (originally patronymic)." Source: A Concise Anglo-Saxon dictionary by John R. Clark Hall, Oxford, 1916, page 176. On the internet

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I don't see how that's relevant to the question. Is that the -ing from participles or gerunds? –  Matt Эллен Jan 14 at 20:44
@matt- The question asks what is the origin of the suffix "ing". The sources speak for themselves to link the suffix to a noun originally and evolving out from there in varied applications. –  Duane T. Bentz Jan 15 at 20:25
It asked for the origin of -ing for gerunds and present participles. You answer doesn't seem to talk about either. –  Matt Эллен Jan 15 at 20:35

The suffix "ing" has its origin from the ancient English known as the Ingles or the Yinglings. They lived prior to having a written language until ecclesiastics and poets began to write their language after their conversion to Christianity. The earliest record known of them comes from the ancient Old Norse poem written by Skald poets known as "Ynglingatal/Yinglingatal". Some suffixes and verbs were previously nouns in ancient times.
Ex. given:

(1)."Yngles, is(se, etc. obs. ff English, Inglis)" Source:OED 2nd Ed. Wave-Zyst- 1989;

(2). "yn- for words formerly spelled yn-, see in-," Source: Webster's New Intern. Dict. of the English Lang. 1947;

(3). "thing", noun, a judicial court from A.S. thingan- to negotiate. "th" is a contraction of "the". "th" is sometimes written "the" before a vowel. (the-Ing; cf. A.S. moot)

(4). "an"- a suffix having the general sense of belonging or pertaining to, primarily forming adjectives of which many are also used as substantives, some chiefly so; as in European, Berkeleian, Anglican, human, sylvan, etc. (belonging to the - Ing) Source: Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, G&C Meriam Co., Springfield, Mass. 1947

(5).An-ane "...an, a & one, are the same word and always have the same sense, yet by custom, an and a are used exclusively as a definitive adjective, and one is used in numbering. Where our ancestors wrote an, twa, thry, we now use one, two, three. So an and a are never used except with a noun; but one like other adjectives is sometimes used without its noun, and as a substitute for it..." Source: An American Dictionary of the English Language By Noah Webster. New York: Published by S. Converse 1828 Vol. 1 (Note) It is reasonable then to translate "thingan" to read (the-Ing-one) or (one of-the-Ing)

(6)"...We do not know when or where the Ting institution originated nor whether it was adopted by all Germanic peoples, no contemporary continental source ever mentioning it. In the Norse world we know it only from the late Viking Age onwards. It had no political power but was an assembly with legal functions only, a court of justice..." Source: Beowulf, Ynglingatal and the Ynglinga Saga; Fiction or History? by Gad Rausing page 170 on the internet;

(7). Ingvaeones(Yngvi); also spelled as Ingaevones(Ing-a-von-es)-: A Germanic people living along the North Sea as mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus in his works entitled, "Germania" of the 1st Century A.D.;

(8)."Frey, Freyr, noun, [ON. Freyr], Norse religion. God of fertility and the crops, of peace and prosperity. Associated with the Aesir, he is of the stock of the Vanir, the son of Njorth. His cult, extending over the whole north, had its main seat at Uppsala, Sweden. It resembles that of the Ingaevonic Nerthus, with whom Frey's appellative Yngvi establishes a relationship. Of the same origin is (the Ing) of Anglo-Saxon sources..." Source: Webster's New International Dictionary, 1947

(9)."ling, suffix,appended to substantives, adjectives, verb-stems, and rarely adverbs, to form substantives is a common Teutonic formative (Old English, Old Saxon, Old High German-ling, Old Norse-ling-r, Gothic-ligg-s in gadiliggs). It doubtless arose from the addition of the suffix ingo-z-ing to noun stems formed with the suffix- ilo(El, Le) but in all historical Teutonic languages it has the character of a simple suffix. 1. In Old English, ling added to substantives, forms substantives with the general sense, 'a person or thing belonging to or concerned with..." Source: Oxford Eng. Dict. Vol.8, 1989, Clarendon Press Oxford;

(10).Etymological opinion: Subject-(viking) "...As a loan-word viking occurs in A.S. poetry(vicing or wicing) e.g. in Widsith, Byrnoth, Exodus...The reason for using "Viking" in a more generic sense than is warranted by the actual employment of the word in Old Norse literature rests on the fact that we have no other word by which to designate the early Scandinavian pirates of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century..." viking= vice/Latin-vitium + "king[A common Teut. word, O.E.(cyning), O.Fris. kin, ken, koning..." or vice/vitium-kin-ing= (evil kin of the Ing?) Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition, Copyright 1911, Vol.28,pp.62-63; OED 1989 Vol.VIII, p.445 & Vol. XIX (vice)p.597 & (Viking-commentary) p.628

(11). The suffix "le" is compared to the Hebrew prefix (le) meaning of or to;

(12). Comparitive analysis- Hebrew: "heen/heeg or its verb in the future tense- yanheeg"(yng), defined as 1. introduced 2. led; conducted. Source: Webster's New World Hebrew Dict. by Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1992

(13). "A.787- This year King Bertric took to wife Eadburga, King Offa's daughter; and in his days first came three ships of Northmen out of Haeretha-land. . . These were the first ships of Danishmen which sought the land of the English Nation." Source: Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, AMS Press Inc., New York, N.Y. l971, page 341.

   Etymology of Haeretha-land: Haer= Har/Hor; etha= th/the; land=land; = Harth-land.

Compare to: Hordaland, Norway= Hor/th/land= High-the-land and Hardangerfjord, Norway= Har/th/nger= High-the-Ing-of. (Note-both placenames are in mountainous areas).

Compare to: "har" from Hebrew meaning; mountain, mount, hill.

Sources:1). Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1981 by Merriam-Webster Inc. (e.g. high-har; ing & th).

2). Webster's New World Hebrew Dictionary 1992, by Prentice Hall, New York, N.Y. page 121 (har).

3). Oxford English Dictionary 1989, Vol. VII page 270 (hoar-#3)

4). www.Nordicnames.de/wiki/HAR page 3 of 4

5). www.adath-shalom.ca/hebrew_words_history.htm (4.2)

6). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_names_of_Odin

(14).Etymology of Odin, alias Yggr, Proto-Germanic name; "Wodanaz". Of word elements: Wo, Woe (alas) akin to the Danish, "vee" + dan + az. Compare to Hebrew: ve, va, vee & oo meaning (and) + Dan= judge + az= strong therefore, thus Wodanaz in Hebrew means "and judge strong therefore". Compare to Hebrew "Ashkenaz", "a descendant of Japheth (Gen. X.3), a people descended from him, also, in medieval use, Germany". SOURCES: 1). The New Century Dictionary of the English Language, D. Appleton-Century Co., New York-London 1948 (Ashkenaz)

2). The New International Dictionary of the English Language, Merriam-Webster Publishers, 1947 (e.g. Woe, wo; Dan; As[az]

3). The New World Dictionary of Hebrew, Prentiss Hall, 1992 (e.g. 'az/ah; khazak/ah; Dan, deen; ve,va,vee,oo- p.28, 53, 55, 444).

4). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin

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Its a good idea to put in a link to your source. :) –  camelbrush Mar 21 '13 at 21:00
@camelbrush Why do you imagine that all sources are linkable? That’s silly. I have a thousand books in my library that you cannot link to. –  tchrist Mar 21 '13 at 21:30
Ynglingatal is not an ancient English script. It’s an Old Norse poem, and apparently one of dubious origin. –  MετάEd Mar 21 '13 at 23:24
You really have to format that wall of text. It’s illegible. –  tchrist Apr 5 '13 at 19:22
tchrist- Your recommendation is noted and I will do that later as my attempt to separate the e.g.s individually failed today.Duane Bentz –  Duane T. Bentz Apr 5 '13 at 21:31

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