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Semantics and Word Formation

The Semantic Development of Five French Suffixes in Middle English

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Cynthia Lloyd

This book is about the integration into English of the five nominal suffixes -ment, -ance, -ation, -age and -al, which entered Middle English via borrowings from French, and which now form abstract nouns by attaching themselves to various base categories, as in cord/cordage or adjust/adjustment. The possibility is considered that each suffix might individually affect the general semantic profile of nouns which it forms. A sample of first attributions from the Middle English Dictionary is analysed for each suffix, in order to examine biases in suffixes towards certain semantic areas. It is argued that such biases exist both in real-world semantics, such as the choice of bases with moral or practical meanings, and in distinct aspects of the shared core meaning of action or collectivity expressed by the derived deverbal or denominal nouns. The results for the ME database are then compared with the use of words in the same suffixes across a selection of works from Shakespeare. In this way it can be shown how such tendencies may persist or change over time.

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List of Tables vii

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List of Tables Table 1. Distribution of semantic categories of nouns in -ment, 1150–1500 39 Table 2. Distribution of semantic categories of nouns in -ance, 1150–1500 84 Table 3. Distribution of semantic categories of nouns in -ation, 1150–1500 119 Table 4. Distribution of semantic categories of nouns in -age, 1150–1500 149 Table 5. Distribution of semantic categories of nouns in -al, 1150–1500 173 Table 6. Possible ME coinages in five suf fixes across three ME periods 195 Table 7. Totals of unanalysable and analysable nouns in five suf fixes, 1150–1500 196 Table 8. Percentages of analysability and possible word formation in five ME suf fixes 197 Table 9. Semantics of five suf fixes in first attributions across 962 unanalysable and analysable nouns, 1150–1500 202 Table 10. Semantic tendencies of five suf fixes, 1150–1500 203 Table 11. Semantics of -ment in the MED and ten Shakespeare plays 217 Table 12. Semantics of -ance in the MED and ten Shakespeare plays 229 Table 13. Semantics of -ation in the MED and ten Shakespeare plays 238 Table 14. Semantics of -age in the MED and ten Shakespeare plays 245 Table 15. Semantics of -al in the MED and ten Shakespeare plays 249 Table 16. Total semantics of five suf fixes across ten Shakespeare plays 251 viii List of Tables Table 17. -ment: alternatives to earlier or simultaneous forms in other suf fixes 267 Table 18. -ment: possible ME coinages 268 Table 19. -ance/-ence: alternatives to...

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