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Years ago read­ing J R R Tolkien’s Sil­mar­il­lion, I learned the de­light­ful suffixes ‑ence and ‑ither used in this three­fold set of paired words with these mean­ings:

  1. hence: from this nearby place
  2. hither: toward this nearby place
  3. thence: from that far place
  4. thither: toward that far place
  5. whence: from which place
  6. whither: toward which place

Recently, as a joke to use such words, I sent a friend an SMS message:

Later I’ll arrive at your place. I will go hence thither, and return thence hither. Haha.

Now in cre­at­ing this ques­tion, I’ve re­al­ized that there is at least one more suffix that com­bines this way, ‑ere:

  1. here
  2. there
  3. where

I had­n’t thought about it as a mem­ber of a set of three un­til to­day, be­cause it’s in ev­ery­day use. But ‑ence and ‑ither have all but van­ished from ca­sual ev­ery­day speech, and so when some­one uses these it makes a spo­ken or writ­ten sen­tence more in­ter­est­ing.

So we have the set of three prefixes h‑, th-, and wh‑ that all com­bine with an­other set of three suffixes ‑ere, ‑ence, and ‑ither to make nine dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of de­rived words we can use as loca­tive and di­rec­tional ‘ad­verbs’:

           ‑ere    ‑ence    ‑ither
       ┏━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━
   h‑  ┃   here    hence    hither
  th-  ┃  there   thence   thither
  wh‑  ┃  where   whence   whither

Or grouped the other direction:

          h‑      th-      wh‑
       ┏━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━
  ‑ere ┃  here    there    where
 ‑ence ┃  hence   thence   whence
‑ither ┃  hither  thither  whither

Do other such suffixes ex­ist that com­bine with that same three­fold prefix-set of [h‑, th-, wh‑] to make more “h‑/th‑/wh‑ words” like these?

Do other such prefixes ex­ist that com­bine with the same three­fold suffix-set of [‑ere, ‑ence, ‑ither] to make more “‑ere/‑ence/‑ither words” like these?

Is there some es­say or dis­cus­sion about these and re­lated el­e­ments some­where out there that ex­plains all this a lit­tle?


Ex­tra thought: con­sider ‑at as some sort of suffix, as in:

  1. what
  2. that
  3. While I’m not sure if there’s ever been a word start­ing with h‑ for ‘near­by’, ev­ery­one knows the id­iom this, that, the other, so I could sug­gest this in­stead of ✻hat which ap­pears not to ex­ist. Right?

Another ex­tra thought: also con­sider ‑en as some sort of suffix, as in:

  1. when
  2. then
  3. Why is ✻hen also miss­ing here like ✻hat is miss­ing from the set of three ‑at words just given above?
  • 1
    I believe this th- is from Proto-Indo-European *to-, a pronominal stem, and h- from a Proto-Indo-European pronominal stem so-. And I believe wh- is from a Proto-Indo-European interrogative stem somewhat like *k(h)ʷ-. Cf. he, her, they, then, when, who, which. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Apr 6 '14 at 4:54
  • 2
    There are/were hereto, hereunto, thereat. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 6 '14 at 7:41
  • @EdwinAshworth This is mind boggling!! – Tom Pace Apr 6 '14 at 7:50
  • Wherefore (art thou Romeo), therefore – Mynamite Apr 6 '14 at 10:41
  • Hereabout, thereabout, whereabouts. There's no end to them! – Mynamite Apr 6 '14 at 11:18
3

What an interesting phenomenon, thanks for asking the question. In trying to find similar instances, it occurred* to me that there's a relationship between the prefixes of the 5 W's; although not locative or directional, their is a narrative relationship: 'who, what, where, when, why'.

I originally thought of this in Spanish: who = quien, what = que, when = cuando, and (por) que (what for). The qu and c's are basically equivalent because of their k sound (in Italian the words are also mixed between qu, c and che, a hard k sound, and why is also 'what for'.) This may just be coincidence, since the words for where--donde in Spanish, dove in Italian--while obviously related to each other, have no Latin root (that I can find), and the Latin for where, quo, would create 5, rather than 4 q/c/ch/k's.

I'd be interested in any thoughts on the Spanish/Italian equivalents to the English counterparts, and their relationships to each other (not to mention the missing where--well, you'd need a 'where' to find out where the where is, wouldn't you?!

Thanks to all for the interesting posts.

*(I understand the double r in the past tense, but why the double c in occur?)

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  • 1
    Found the Latin origins of donde: (de) unde = (from) whence, and dove: (de) ubi = where! – user71804 Apr 12 '14 at 0:47
  • That is amazing work! I have read your answer and comment 2-3 times and gone looking now myself based on your thoughts. The do- in spanish and italian appears, at least to me, as a general localization tweak (must be some term for that) on the unde/ubi latin bases. I wonder if there are from (-ence) and toward (-ither) suggestive parts in latin, or other languages. – Tom Pace Apr 12 '14 at 1:29
2

"-wards" can be locative suffixes that turn a noun into an adverb: viz. homewards, onwards, upwards, downwards, inwards.

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1

"-wise" is another, as in clockwise, counterclockwise (or anticlockwise) and the less-common edgewise, lengthwise, leftwise, and rightwise. Wiktionary has a long list under "Derived terms."

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