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What is exactly the difference between nouning an adjective different ways? Some only have one form, but others have both. Examples:

  • hilarious: hilarity vs. hilariousness
  • virtuous: virtuosity vs. virtuousness
  • clandestine: clandestinity vs. clandestineness

As an aside, what causes some to only have one form, like cheap --> cheapness, and what causes others to have two? And some have none, it seems. For example, accomplished --> * accomplishedness.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Suffixes -ness and -ity are roughly synonymous, but they have different etymologies.

There are two roughly synonymous suffixes, -ness and -ity, which are typically used for forming abstract nouns from adjectives, as in example below.

  • generous + -ness = generousness

  • generous + -ity = generosity

The first suffix, -ness, is etymologically native, while -ity entered the language as a result of contact with French during the Middle English period.

(..)

In addition, the meaning of words in -ity is often not entirely compositional, i.e., not deductible from the meanings of the base and the suffix. Thus, it is both phonologically and semantically more opaque than -ness (cf. Riddle 1985: 443–444; Aronoff and Anshen 1998: 246).

This was extracted from the article PRODUCTIVITY OF THE SUFFIXES -NESS AND -ITY IN 17TH-CENTURY ENGLISH LETTERS: A SOCIOLINGUISTIC APPROACH.

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true about the 2nd part. "hilarity" often means like general funniness/a funny situation (hilarity ensues), but "hilariousness" would mean more closely the hilarious quality of something. –  Claudiu Oct 15 '10 at 19:53
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This article explains the -ness suffix rather well, and links to several other suffixes, several of which are often used to make an adjective into a noun.

As for accomplished, it is the past tense of the verb accomplish.

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It's a good idea to (whenever possible) include at least a little information here in the answer itself, rather than leaving just a link. (Especially when the link is to a user-editable websites like Wiktionary, whose content may change at any time.) (BTW, on many wiki sites you can click on "Permanent link" in the left column to link to the version of the page you read: in this case, it's this one.) –  ShreevatsaR Oct 15 '10 at 6:50
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All that said, I don't think the link you gave contains a good answer to this question. :-) –  ShreevatsaR Oct 15 '10 at 6:51
    
Accomplished is both the past participle of the verb accomplish and an adjective: dictionary.reference.com/browse/accomplished. You can attach -ness to many adjectives even if they are formed from past participles of verbs, e.g. tiredness: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tiredness –  Kosmonaut Oct 15 '10 at 13:56
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