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English suffixes

Stress-assignment properties, productivity, selection and combinatorial processes


Ives Trevian

English morphophonology has aroused considerable interest in the wake of Chomsky and Halle’s ground-breaking The Sound Pattern of English (1968). Various theoretical models have subsequently emerged, seeking to account for the stress-placement and combinatorial properties of affixes. However, despite the abundance and versatility of research in this field, many questions have remained unanswered and theoretical frameworks have often led their proponents to erroneous assumptions or flawed systems. Drawing upon a 140,000-word corpus culled from a high-performance search engine, this book aims to provide a comprehensive and novel account of the stress-assignment properties, selection processes, productivity and combinatorial restrictions of native and non-native suffixes in Present-Day English. In a resolutely interscholastic approach, the author has confronted his findings with the tenets of Generative Phonology, Cyclic Phonology, Lexical Phonology, The Latinate Constraint, Base-Driven Lexical Stratification, Complexity-Based Ordering and Optimality Theory.
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12. -able


12. -able

12.1 General features

Introduced into English via Old French, the -able suffix (from L -abilis) has yielded a considerable number of adjectives endowed with the senses “capable of, deserving of, likely to or tending to”. Adjectives in -able are chiefly formed from transtitive verbs. Most formations of this kind are invested with a passive sense (ie capable, worthy of being…), associated semantically (by popular etymology) to the adjective able, originally related to another Latin root (habilis). Dictionaries do not suggest clear-cut distribution rules between -able and its variant -ible.

There is a huge numerical discrepancy between adjectives in -able (1125 items after deduction of 675 adjectives with a separable prefix: dis-, in- (and allomorphs il-, im-, ir-), inter-, mis-, non-, over-, re-, un-, etc.: dishonorable, incontrollable, irremediable, intercommunicable, miscontruable, nonpersihable, reexaminable, unperceivable, etc.) and adjectives in -ible (< bilis), which come down to 100 items (out of 152), further to application of the same elimination process (ie deduction of illegible, incomprehensible, interconvertible, noncollapsible, in/undigestible, etc.).

12.2 -able or -ible?

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