It seems to me somehow odd to have Usurpation without having a corresponding Usurpate. I know about back-formation, but in that case both words are present. Am I missing something? Are there more examples of the same situation? Is there a specific term for this?

The case mentioned above may be checked in AHD (-ation/-ate), Collins (-ation/-ate), M-W (-ation/-ate), and Oxford Dictionaries (-ation/-ate).

  • The OED marks the verb usurpate obsolete. And yes, there are many such examples. For instance, inflammation, but not inflammate. I don't think this question is a good fit for ELL; it appears it's about etymology, more than learning English, and it might as well have been posted on ELU.
    – user71740
    Feb 11 '18 at 14:23
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    You do have the verb usurp, from which usurpation derives.
    – Gustavson
    Feb 11 '18 at 14:27
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    @Gustavson Webster (a little more comprehendible than the OED) says "Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin usurpation-, usurpatio act of using, from usurpatus (past participle of usurpare to use) + -ion-, -io -ion", so who knows. But I don't think that's what they're asking about.
    – user71740
    Feb 11 '18 at 14:34
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    It seems to me like it's just an example of a word where they threw in a few extra letters to make it flow. Given that the root verb is 'usurp', the simplest noun conjugation would be 'usurption.' Unfortunately, when spoken, there's an awkward stop between the p and the t.
    – Jakob Lovern
    Feb 12 '18 at 21:11

There are many verbs that don't end in -ate that have corresponding nouns in -ation: converse, conversation; retard, retardation; expect, expectation; inform, information; observe, observation; consult, consultation; exult, exultation; derive, derivation; excite, excitation; provoke, provocation; administer, administration.

The source of the English ending -ation is the Latin ending -ātiō, -ātiōnis. This was used to form nouns related to verbs of the first conjugation, which have a fourth principle part ending in -āt- (containing the first-conjugation theme vowel A).

English verbs taken from Latin are often based on the fourth principle part (giving us -ate verbs from Latin first-conjugation verbs), but not always. It depends on things like how old the verb is and whether it came through French. Latin-derived verbs that do not end in -ate usually have a stressed final syllable that either contains a long vowel or ends in a consonant cluster (but there are other less common forms for these verbs, like administer in the list above).

There are even a few -ation nouns that were formed in English by analogy to the ones taken from Latin. The Oxford English Dictionary entry for -ation mentions the examples starvation and flirtation.

  • Thank @sumelic. Would you please see the edited version of the question?
    – Kaveh
    Feb 24 '18 at 20:10

This is called morphological blocking in linguistics. Basically, if there are two or more possible ways to form a word with a particular meaning (for example, by adding derivational affixes), then only one of these words will actually be used. And as a corollary, if two such words do exist, then there are likely to be different shades of meaning between then ("no absolute synonyms").

You will find plenty of examples in English due to its having incorporated French Latinate words and morphology on top of the native words and morphology.

If you google the right jargon you'll find examples discussed in scholarly literature.

  • What do you mean by the right jargon? I did a quick search of morphological blocking but failed to find some examples.
    – Kaveh
    Feb 24 '18 at 6:56
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    @Kaveh don't do a quick search.
    – user31341
    Feb 24 '18 at 18:30

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