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Semantics and Word Formation

The Semantic Development of Five French Suffixes in Middle English


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 6 The Suf fix -age in Middle English 145


Chapter 6 The Suf fix -age in Middle English 6.1. History and Morphology 6.1.1. History Marchand (1969) states that the suf fix -age came into the language through loans from French and derived mainly from the Latin suf fix -aticum, form- ing both denominal and deverbal derivatives. Some borrowings also derive in French from the Latin noun class ending in -ago. Marchand points out that the suf fix gave rise to many medieval Latin (ML) words in -agium, such as scutagium, and that several of these were ‘for a long time quoted in Latin form only’ (1969: 234, 4.4.1). 6.1.2. Morphological types I have classified words in -age in my ME sample according to four main morphological types. In Type 1 the suf fix is a spelling of the Latin noun ending -ago, which appeared in ME in such forms as CARTILAGE. This noun has no AN or OF equivalent and seems to have been borrowed directly from Latin using -age as a spelling for -ago. The type has of course no simplex form in English. In Latin the nominal suf fix is -go, occurring on a variety of stems of which is only one. Type 2 is borrowed into English from French, where it derives from the Latin and ML noun in -aticum. It has no simplex form in English or French. Examples include VIAGE. 146 Chapter 6 Type 3, e.g. deverbal MARIAGE, is borrowed from French or formed in English on latinate nominal, adverbial and verbal bases. Examples...

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