Questions tagged [morphology]

Questions regarding morphemes (smallest semantically meaningful units in a language) such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context.

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95
votes
5answers
13k views

Why is it "geometric" but "theoretical"?

I just came across a course name: Geometric and Theoretical Optics. The mismatched endings bug me. Why do we have both -ical and -ic endings? Is there any difference in meaning between, say, ...
84
votes
20answers
30k views

Words with "bi-" prefix that no longer mean "two"

Are there words in English that include the prefix bi- whose current usage includes meanings other than 'two'? To clarify, I am specifically looking for the prefix of Latin origin meaning "two". If ...
71
votes
3answers
119k views

What’s the rule for adding “-er” vs. “-or” when forming an agent noun from a verb?

What’s the rule to decide whether you add -er or whether you add -or when creating an agent noun from a verb? Sometimes it’s -er: read > reader hate > hater hit > hitter But other times it’s -...
35
votes
4answers
78k views

Why do we say INcomplete but UNcompleted?

I'm a native speaker and it's just occurred to me that this is a strange irregularity: "The work is incomplete." < Fine "The work is uncompleted." < Less common but still ...
26
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5answers
10k views

Why do we use the object instead of the subject pronoun in constructions like "stupid me"?

I'm trying to find out how come we say lucky me and stupid us rather than lucky I and stupid we. My understanding is that this is not a recent invention, but a relic from the distant past where it was ...
22
votes
7answers
2k views

Has English adopted any common morphemes from languages that are not Greek, Latin, or French?

Has English adopted any common morphemes from any "exotic"-type languages? By that, I'm trying to exclude our most frequent borrowings; i.e. French, Latin, and Greek, from which nearly all our ...
22
votes
2answers
3k views

What’s going on with “drink > drench”? Is it like “passage > passenger”?

Edit: I am looking for a particular linguistic term for this process (which here uses terminal palatalization to indicate such) of turning passive verbs like drink into active verbs like drench. I ...
21
votes
2answers
79k views

No, not, and non [closed]

Is there a specific rule, or set of rules, that can be followed to know when to use each word? I have noticed that not is usually used with a verb, but I think that there sometimes are exceptions ...
20
votes
3answers
5k views

How did 'anyway' become 'anyways,' anyway?

All of the time I see people use these two words synonymously. For example: Why did he move there anyway? Versus: Why did he move there anyways? I always assumed that there was once just the ...
19
votes
3answers
17k views

Does a gerund always end with "-ing"? If so, why?

After asking what the difference is between a gerund and a participle, I began to wonder if all gerunds end with -ing, since I couldn't think of any that didn't. If they do, why?
19
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4answers
15k views

Is there a rule for which suffix to use when creating adjectives from nouns?

There are many suffixes that are used to create adjectives from nouns (-al, -ic, -ive, -y). Are there any rules used to create adjectives from nouns? In example, why is the adjective excessive, and ...
18
votes
3answers
67k views

Why is the plural form of "life" "lives", while the plural form of "still life" is "still lifes"?

Why does the plural form of "life" is "lives", while the plural form of "still life" is "still lifes"? From Wikipedia: A still life (plural still lifes) is a work of art depicting mostly ...
18
votes
2answers
4k views

What is /iə/ in English?

I am confusing with phonetic symbols between /iə/ and /ɪə/. I know that /ɪə/ is a diphthong vowel, combining between /ɪ/ and schwa /ə/. But what is /iə/? Is it /i:/+/ə/? How different are they ...
18
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4answers
30k views

Are the words "sillily", "uglily", "friendlily", "livelily", etc., valid English?

I have wondered about how to make the words silly, ugly, friendly, lively, etc. into adverbs, so I researched in the Internet. I found many different answers, so I tried checking Oxford Dictionaries. ...
17
votes
4answers
15k views

Isn't the word "uninstall" wrong?

I've never understood this. Why is the proper usage "uninstall"? You can't actually "unin" something at all and this isn't that case with most (all?) other use cases. Examples: You make someone sane, ...
17
votes
4answers
4k views

Are the verbs that are conjugated to end in "-n" in the past participle related?

There are many words that in English are conjugated in the past participle to end in "-n": grow goes to grown, sew goes to sewn, throw goes to thrown, etc.. I'm guessing it was probably the regular ...
17
votes
3answers
8k views

What is the story behind "a-" prefix / suffix?

For example, If this van's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin' Here We Come A-caroling (song title) Come on-a My House (song title) I have a few related questions: What is the "a-" or "-a" called? Is ...
16
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4answers
2k views

If I invent a word, what language is it?

I invented a word using medical terminology, Latin and maybe a bit of Greek. (I'm not honestly sure of the etymology of all the morphemes.) Considering that this word is primarily not of English ...
16
votes
4answers
71k views

How can I form a word like "quadruple" for any number I want?

I'm not sure what these are called, but how can I form a word like "quadruple" for any number I want? Like 5× as much is quintuple, what is 31× as much or 147× as much? I want to know how they are ...
16
votes
2answers
3k views

Why does "prayer" end with -er?

Why is the noun form of pray "prayer"? Typically, -er is tacked onto the end of verbs to denote a person or thing that does the verb. Hence, print(er), compute(r), write(r), watch(er), do(er)...
15
votes
3answers
4k views

"Sometimes", "oftentimes" — is there a -times word for "very rarely"?

If something happens sometimes, it happens occasionally. If something happens oftentimes, it happens often. Is there an equivalent word for something happening very rarely?
15
votes
1answer
16k views

Is there a maximum number of suffixes that can be added to an English word?

You can add various derivational and inflectional suffixes on to most English words to create new longer words (or forms of words). But is there a definite or theoretical maximum that can be added in ...
15
votes
5answers
20k views

Usage of -ist and -ian, when to use which?

This is a question bugging me for a long long time, especially for a non-native speaker like myself. We have physicist standing for the people doing physics research, as is linguist, chemist, etc. ...
14
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1answer
7k views

"-phile" word for someone who loves frogs

What would the best word be to describe a frog-lover that ends with the -phile root?
14
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3answers
1k views

Why are dictionary transcriptions contradictory for the phonetic representation of oranges?

I am a native U.K. speaker with a strong Midlands dialect, and I am very aware of other dialects and regional accents from around the world of English speakers, and I really enjoy this. I am a data ...
13
votes
3answers
45k views

Which nouns can be used as verbs?

Someone told me that the English language is special (compared to German, at least) in the way that every noun could be used as a verb. I think this phenomenon is called supine. Is this correct? ...
13
votes
2answers
3k views

Is it true that a word ending in -y is more likely to be an adjective than a noun?

Claim: a word ending in -y is most likely not a noun but an adjective. Don't have my tagged corpus handy to check. Anyone have the stats on Parts-Of-Speech of words ending in y and assuming they don'...
13
votes
1answer
603 views

Ordering of English sound changes in verbal morphology

As we all know, the Early Modern English 3sg verbal ending -eth has become -s in Modern English. This presumably happened in two steps: Elision of the unstressed e in the final syllable Changing ...
12
votes
5answers
86k views

What's wrong with "stupider"?

On online boards I've seen some people claim that "stupider" is ungrammatical. I can't see any reason why it would be, and it seems like it's commonly used. It's also in online dictionaries,...
12
votes
1answer
8k views

What form of verb is "thank" in "thank you"?

Is the word thank in Thank you! a verb? If not, what part of speech is it then? If it is a verb, is it in the imperative mood? I'm asking because I've seen someone write Do thank you! which sounds ...
12
votes
3answers
4k views

Is there a general rule for which types of nouns end in -archy vs. -cracy?

Why do we use democracy vs. demarchy and anarchy vs. anocracy?
11
votes
3answers
8k views

Can we call a person who loses things a "loser"?

Think > Thinker Draw > Drawer Can we call a person who loses thing a loser? Of course, I do not mean that they are not successful or failed but what should I call them?
11
votes
4answers
1k views

Verbed color names and "-en"

"whitened", "blackened", and "reddened"; but "yellowed", "grayed", and "blued". Is there some rule or is it just one of those things? "Greened" makes sense; no one is going to say "greenened". "...
10
votes
2answers
14k views

Rules for nominalizing a verb

To nominalize a verb, you sometimes use the gerund. to happen --> a happening Sometimes it's a different word. to arrive --> an arrival so we don't write to arrive --> an *arriving Is ...
9
votes
1answer
3k views

Why is "coon" a word?

The word formation process that yielded the word coon is called (fore-)clipping: raccoon > coon Other examples of fore-clipping include: bot (robot), chute (parachute), roach (cockroach), coon (...
9
votes
2answers
5k views

Strong /strɔːŋ/ → stronger /strɔːŋɡər/ - Why do we have to put an extra /g/ in front of /ər/? Is it a rule?

Ok, see this in the dictionary: Strong → /strɔːŋ/ Stronger → /strɔːŋɡər/ Why do we have to put an extra /g/ in front of /ər/? But sing → /sɪŋ/ & singer → /ˈsɪŋər/ do not adhere to that rule. But ...
9
votes
2answers
379 views

Why does the preterite of verbs such as "deal", "feel" and "dream" have a devoiced dental suffix?

I am trying to explain the morphology of some irregular weak verbs. I could explain "leave-left" as the result of assimilation with v being originally intervocalic f, but I can't see the reason for ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Preservation of the en- prefix form of Latin negative prefix in-, in enemy & enmity

The en- in enemy is a prefix meaning "not": the origin is Latin inimicus, from in- + amicus — a "not friend" or an "unfriend" (Online Etymology Dictionary—enemy). The Latin in- changed to en- when ...
8
votes
5answers
6k views

Does "neath" have any standalone meaning?

Beneath and underneath both indicate similar concepts, and since under- is a free morpheme in many contexts, is neath a bound morpheme or does it derive from a standalone root? I bring this up since ...
8
votes
2answers
8k views

What is the difference between the suffixes -ize and -ify?

The dictionary ascribes the same purpose to both these suffixes: to denote 'to make, or become'. However, for some neologisms, -ize seems much more appropriate than -ify does, and vice-versa. There ...
8
votes
2answers
15k views

Rules for forming demonyms

Are there specific rules / conventions at play when creating demonyms? Or are they merely formed organically over time - the most popular winning out? There are many suffixes to choose from, but I ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Where is the root morpheme in Modern English ambassador, embassy?

If there were no such a word as embassy, I would consider ambassad as a root and -or as an agent derivational suffix here. But embassy makes me puzzled. If we accept that segmentation shold be done ...
8
votes
1answer
683 views

"Commutivity" or "commutativity"

I see commutivity used in contexts where the meaning appears to be the same as commutativity. Here are an example from physics and another example. Is commutivity incorrect? Does it differ from ...
8
votes
3answers
6k views

"Inter-", "multi-", "cross-", "trans-" in relation to disciplines

In academia the words inter-discipline, multi-discipline, trans-discipline, or cross-discipline are used to describe a type of combination between different disciplines or the uniqueness of a field. ...
8
votes
3answers
880 views

The horribility of English language

Pretty much every adjective that ends in the suffix -able or -ible gives rise to a related noun: corruptible becomes corruptibility mutable becomes mutability respectable becomes respectability ...
8
votes
2answers
857 views

Morphological process for derivation of the word "ish" from suffix "-ish"?

"Ish" is a recently derived word (free root) conveying a sense of "so-so" or approximation. It is most commonly used as an adjective but occasionally as an adverb. I would not be at all surprised to ...
8
votes
1answer
1k views

What are the rules for the use of words that have a variant ending in -al? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why is it “geometric” but “theoretical”? “Electric” vs. “electrical” I think I'm clear on the difference between word pairs ...
7
votes
4answers
3k views

Is "Englishnization" an acceptable term?

There's a company named Rakuten in Japan, which introduced "Englishnization" a couple of years ago. They adopted an internal policy where all the employees are expected to speak English as an official ...
7
votes
3answers
797 views

Are there names for consonant-shifts when suffixes are added?

I saw a spelling mistake on an SO question: submittion. That got me wondering, is there a name for the shift of ‑mit‑ to ‑miss‑ in submission, permission, admission and so on? Are there other patterns ...
7
votes
3answers
7k views

Where is the root in these words: miniature, minimal, minimize?

Is it possible to identify one and the same root MIN in all these words: Miniature, minimal, minimize, minimum minor, minority, minus, minute ? From etymological point of view they all came from one ...

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