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I thought that -ality was used to turn an adjective into a noun : bestial to beastiality, final to finality.

But I see that some people add it onto the end of nouns : criminal to criminality, position to positionality.

What do you think?

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    "Criminal" is also an adjective – herisson Oct 5 '17 at 0:27
  • Do you mean like adding "ity" to the military rank of General to produce generality?? – Gary's Student Nov 11 '17 at 1:31
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    Take a closer look at your own examples. You’re not adding -ality to bestial to form bestiality – it would be *bestialality then. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 31 '18 at 15:40
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There are three parts to the answer:

PART I
We are not adding '-ality', but '-ity'.
Bestial + -ity = Bestiality
Criminal + -ity = Criminality
Final + -ity = Finality
Positional + -ity = Positionality
Functional + -ity = Functionality

PART II
In each of these examples, we are adding -ity to an adjective and turning it into a noun. Criminal can be noun as well as an adjective. For example, "criminal offence", so can be positional, e.g. 'positional reference'.

So your original hypothesis is correct (with slight adjustment to the suffix). We add -ity to the adjectives ending into -al to form a noun.

PART III
As to your question about the change in meaning. The change is that now you are talking about the phoenomenon of the quality. Finality is a state or phenomenon of the quality 'being final'.

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I believe that you would call -ity a nominalising suffix or noun suffix, which is one that converts other words into nouns.

There are many other such suffixes, for example -ing, -ism, and -ness.

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To take one of the first examples, "criminality" is the behavior characteristic of a criminal. "Bestiality" is the behavior characteristic of a beast. "Finality" is characteristic (probably not a "behavior") of something that is final.

In general, the "-ality" suffix is used to extract, from some "thing", the characteristic nature of that "thing".

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Think of the shortest word with the -ality suffix--i.e., reality. Perhaps this imparts a more basic understanding of the suffix's role at the end of words.

Think also about the following: physicality; sociality; spirituality. Each of these terms refers to a distinct domain of reality (the physical; social; and spirit, respectively). In one of my published works, I extend this line of thought in proposing new words: "chemicality"; "biologicality"; "psychologicality"; "culturality"; "religiality"; and "economicality". These should actually be, in order: chemality, bioality, psychality (already a word, though...sort of), cultality, religality, and econality.

The answers above all seem correct as they go, but just wanted to offer an alternative yet complementary viewpoint.

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    There is no word "re" that combines with "-ality" to form "reality". It is "real" that combines with "-ity". It's the same with "spirit" > "spiritual" > "spirituality", etc. Likewise there is no word "chemic", it is "chemical", etc. – CJ Dennis Apr 2 '20 at 3:15
  • Welcome to English Language and Usage. Please take the tour and when you have a moment, read-up in the help center about how we work. – Bitter dreggs. Apr 2 '20 at 3:18
  • I didn't assert that "re" was a word. Nor did I attempt to distinguish between "-ality" and "-ity". You can argue with peer-reviewed, published work, but as a matter of technicality (technity?), the approach I described is legitimate. – Suraj Sood Apr 2 '20 at 4:59

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