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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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CHAPTER 3 The Suf fix -ment in Middle English 31

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Chapter 3 The Suf fix -ment in Middle English 3.1. History and Morphology The suf fix -ment is described by Marchand as chief ly forming deverbal nouns from Romance roots, and coming into the language through loans from continental Old French and Anglo-French (Marchand 1969: 331, 4.65.1). It derives ultimately from Latin formations in which V + -mentum = N (Pattison 1975: 52). In my sample I have distinguished three morphological types for nouns in -ment. Type 1, e.g. TESTAMENT, is borrowed from the Latin deverbal noun and incorporates a vowel from the Latin verb stem, which generally does not correspond to a simplex form in English. It is therefore opaque in ME. Categorial exceptions among Latin borrowings are denominal Latin formations such as MACHINAMENT. Type 2, e.g. ENCHANTEMENT, is either borrowed from French or formed on a ME verb base, the suf fix being added to the verb stem and linked to it by a vowel. There are denominal exceptions such as TABLEMENT. This type tends to attach to verbs with prefixes, especially en- (Marchand 1969: 332, 4.65.3). Nominalisations on bases following a(d)- and co(n/m)- have been especially frequent in my sample. Type 3, e.g. EGGEMENT, is formed on a native verb base. Denominal exceptions include LEGEMENT. 32 Chapter 3 3.2. Integration 3.2.1. Productivity This suf fix was considered by both Marchand and Jespersen to have become productive at quite an early date. Marchand states that ‘By 1300, -ment was obviously a derivative suf fix’ (Marchand...

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