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Subject: -ic & -ous suffixes
Question: Both the -ic and -ous suffixes indicate adjectives. But I'm wondering what determines the suffix used? So for example, we have exothermic and endothermic, and we have exogenous and endogenous. Does the -ic come from the German -ich, the french -ique, or both? And whence -ous? And finally, and what initially started me questioning this, is there any rhyme or reason behind which ending a root ended up with? Thanks, Alec MacLean
Reply: Both are essentially Latinate suffixes (with -ic being related to French -ique), and if you read about morphology, particularly the theory of Lexical Phonology and its modern descendants, you'll see that a lot has been written on Latinate suffixes. Essentially, the issue is that Latinate suffixes have a long history in English coming in through direct borrowings, French loans and recent neoligisms (new words coined from Latin Roots). So although some suffixes may be productive, meaning new words can be created, the rules/meanings are not always clearly defined in the grammar. There is a distinction in chemistry between the use of -ic and -ous in some compound names (e.g. nitric acid is different from nitrous acid), but I am not aware of any other distinctions other than "what sounds right" (if there is a pattern, it would be very complex).
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
Date: 25-Apr-2011
Other Replies:
  1. Re: -ic & -ous suffixes    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (25-Apr-2011)
  2. Re: -ic & -ous suffixes    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (26-Apr-2011)
  3. Re: -ic & -ous suffixes    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (24-Apr-2011)
  4. Re: -ic & -ous suffixes    Susan Fischer     (24-Apr-2011)

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