The suffix -ment forms nouns from verbs, e.g. entertainentertainment.

A similar suffix exists in French (and -mente in other Romance languages) that forms adverbs from adjectives, e.g. sûrsûrement, which comes from Latin mentus.

Is the English noun suffix related to (cognate with) French adverb suffix? If so, then how did it became v. → n. from adj. → adv.? If not, where does it come from?

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    When asking questions about etymology, you should always look up the word you’re asking about on Etymonline and include in the question what that tells you. If that sufficiently answers the question, you can delete it; if it doesn’t, add in what remains unclear so we have a ‘sharper’ question to answer. (In this case, note the difference between -ment added to verbs, as in English, and -ment(e) added to adjectives, as in Romance languages.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 '19 at 13:08
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Thanks! Didn't know that site before. – iBug Jan 26 '19 at 13:19
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    This is an interesting question. Please don’t delete it. If you find the answer yourself, consider posting it as an answer. In case you’re wondering, answering your own questions is not only permitted; Stack Exchange explicitly encourages it. – Lawrence Jan 26 '19 at 14:28
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    French uses -ment both to turn verbs into nouns and adjectives into adverbs. See Wiktionary. – Peter Shor Jan 26 '19 at 18:27
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    French has nouns établissement and divertissement. So a better question might be why English doesn't use -ment to create adverbs, but instead uses -ly. – Barmar Jan 28 '19 at 19:43

First, -ment formed nouns in both Old French and Middle English. For instance, consider the etymology for garment (as on Etymonline and crosschecked with the Oxford English Dictionary or OED).

c. 1400, "any article of clothing," reduced form of garnement (early 14c.), from Old French garnement "garment, attire, clothes" (12c.), from garnir "fit out, provide, adorn," from a Germanic source (compare garnish (v.)), from PIE root *wer- (4) "to cover."

Garnement in Old French (a noun) was formed from a verb + -ment. This kind of formation from Old French -ment and Latin -mentum has several examples, including the French-derived words habiliment, abridgement, accomplishment, and commencement, and the Latin-derived words fragment, aliment, and ornament. ("-ment, suffix," OED)

So both French and English allow for the formation of nouns from verbs with -ment. What's remarkable is that, from Old French to now, -ment could also form adverbs from adjectives, and this didn't carry over to English. The Oxford Guide to Etymology (2009) summarizes its origin from the Latin ablative phrase '(adjective) mente,' which in English terms served as an adverbial:

Affixes often result from grammaticalization of adverbs or prepositions. For instance, the adverb-forming suffix -ment in French (and likewise Spanish -mente, Italian -mente, etc.) originates in uses of Latin mens, ment- in the ablative case in collocations such as clara mente 'with a clear mind'. Such collocations showed semantic broadening, e.g. 'clear manner of being or behaving' rather than simply 'with a clear mind', and the pattern became extended to adjectival bases which had no connection with mental activity, ultimately giving rise to a very productive adverb-forming suffix.

Why did the adverb-forming -ment not carry over to English while the noun-forming -ment did? There's no sure answer, but my training as a medievalist makes a hypothesis tempting. There are a few possible suffixes for forming nouns from verbs in each language because the semantic possibilities are broad, so -ion (procession), -tion (solution), -er (bidder), and others all form nouns from verbs with different senses and limitations; -ment fills a place in the Middle English system for aristocratic items as well as functions of government. (See government.) That incorporation fits the history of England in that period, which had French-derived legal institutions and a French-speaking aristocracy. Shortly after that point, the suffix was naturalized into English and widely applied to words irrespective of origin. (An early example is onement, meaning roughly concord or agreement.)

However, one suffix tends to dominate adverb formation in each language: English has the Old English-derived -ly and French has the Old French-derived -ment. The suffixes are so widespread and actively used that there is little reason for the suffix to cross over.


From https://www.etymonline.com/word/-ment?ref=etymonline_crossreference:


common suffix of Latin origin forming nouns, originally from French and representing Latin -mentum, which was added to verb stems to make nouns indicating the result or product of the action of the verb or the means or instrument of the action. In Vulgar Latin and Old French it came to be used as a formative in nouns of action.

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