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The verb-derivative “machine” of Latin, by which scores, and even hundreds, of semantically and morphologically related words can be built from a simple (primary) Latin verb. While much of the derivative “machinery” involved, here, is not a living part of the current English word-formation system, it is highly relevant to the understanding of the Latinate vocabulary that is such an important and large part of our total lexicon (vocabulary). And, today’s English speakers and writers feel quite free to form quite new words by analogy to the Latin words already in use, even though they may not understand the actual structure of the imitated word. Base on this point, are the endings –tion or –sion or –tive or –sive, strictly speaking, the true formative suffixes?

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What do you mean by “the true formative suffixes”? Are you implying that there are false formative suffixes? Or that these are the only formative suffixes in existence? What, indeed, is a ‘formative suffix’? Or are you perhaps asking whether these suffixes are productive suffixes within English morphology itself, rather than being just borrowed piecemeal into the English language, but without really becoming productive here? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 8 '13 at 19:04

I think the most we can say is that they can be. If we take the word decoration, it’s a noun made from the free morpheme decorate, a verb, and the bound morpheme -tion.

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We have so many nouns marked with them because we borrowed so many words from Latin that had been formed that way. But they're Latin suffixes and they're not really productive in English. So it all depends on what you or somebody else considers "the true formative suffixes". Not to mention what "strictly speaking" means in this situation. – John Lawler Dec 8 '13 at 19:19
@JohnLawler Surely though that anything one could galumphate would be subject to galumphation, no? Looks as productive to me as the -ing in galumphing. What am I mi(m)ssing? – tchrist Dec 8 '13 at 20:50
Some of the final suffix chains still have some oil on them; -ate/-ation is one. You can't galumphate very easily, but if you can do that, galumphation comes easily. And of course the phonological version of Zwicky's Law applies: the more meaningless syllables you put into a word, the more important it sounds. So galumphization seems more likely, as well as galumphisatorial; and we haven't even mentioned prefixes. – John Lawler Dec 8 '13 at 22:22

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