Noun: Morphemic structure

March 6th, 201210:20 am


Noun: Morphemic structure

English nouns may be mono- as well as polysyllabic. The number of monosyllabic nouns in which the root, the stem and the word proper over­lap, is quite considerable. Nevertheless, noun-forming derivational means are rather numerous. Grammatically, it is important, since suffixes, besides their semantic function, also serve as part-of-speech indicators.

The suffixational structure is found mainly in two large groups: in per­sonal nouns and in abstract nouns. On the whole, nouns may be derived by means of the following suffixes: -age, -ance/ence, -ant/ent, -dom, -ee, -eer, -er, -ess, -hood, -ing, -ion/sion/tion/ation, -ism/icism, -ist, -ment, -ness, -ship, -(i)ty. However, only some of them may be called productive in mod­ern English. For instance, personal nouns tend to be derived by means of the suffixes -er, -ist, -ess, -ee (e.g. interpreter, economist, poetess, trainee), whereas abstract nouns are, as a rule, coined by adding the suffixes -ness, -ion (-ation, -ition), -ity, -ism, -ance and -ment (e.g. kindness, appreciation, prohibition, solidarity, opportunism, allowance, movement).

It is also noteworthy that colloquial English abounds with conversion, e.i. words of other parts of speech that acquire syntactic and morphological properties of nouns in speech. As a rule, this transposition remains occa­sional and does not become a regular occurrence:

She’s thought of renovating him and about the before and after, but not about seeing him walk off with the girl in the crosswalk. [Goldsmith]

Women like a bit of a to-do in their lives, don’t they? [Caiman]

In the examples above the prepositions and the infinitive are used with the noun indicators – the definite and the indefinite articles respectively. These occasional cases of conversion may be regarded as arguments cor­roborating the theory of parts of speech as discourse-cognitive classes.

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