Hey experts on etymolygy!

I'm very excited about an investigation that a Grade 3 teacher new to Real Spelling has started on the word experience. I've looked at this word before, but I need to refine my understanding about how to use etymology to draw solid conclusions about the structure of current English bases. I was about to email a couple of friends, and realized that instead I should post my question here so that others can gain from it. I see that Matt has asked a question about the word foreign that I hope others will help with those questions. I think that my question, and the responses to it will help with both Matt and my question. We'll see...

So let me present my questions and what I've done so far.

My working hypothesis of the structure of this word is represented by this word sum:

ex + peri + ence --> experience

I can prove the <ex-> prefix and the <-ence> suffix. 

I have looked at this word before and know the underlying denotation of the base makes sense. I get this entry from Etymonline:


from L. experientia "knowledge gained by repeated trials," from experientem (nom. experiens), prp. ofexperiri "to try, test," from ex- "out of" (see ex-) + peritus "experienced, tested,"

So the underlying denotation of "to try, test" certainly fits with experience, and other words that can be shown to be of the same morphological and etymological family:

ex + peri + ment --> experiment

ex + peri + ence --> experience

Other words that could be constructed into a matrix with this structure and meaning can be found from this list from a search on <peri

Search Results for "experi"
(16 matches)

I checked words that seem to be related in meaning but which could not fit into a word sum or matrix with this family of words with the written base <peri> For example the word expert that can be analyzed as <ex + pert> cannot fit in this orthographic morphological family because it does not share the same spelling of <peri>. A quick look in Etymonline confirmed is an etymological relative of these words (they share the same root) but not of the same morphological family. I think Gina has commented on a discussion she had with a student in which they described this relationshiop like an "extended family". So we can think of the words experience and experiment as being in the same "immediate family" and expert as "a cousin" to these words. 

My question concerns the base. I want to investigate whether the final <i> of this hypothesized base could be a connector vowel letter. If that were the case, I would get to a deeper analysis of these words, and thus be able to expand the member of the morphological family. If I could prove that, I still couldn't force expert into this morphological family as the <t> couldn't function as a suffix here. 

I tried to search on the word searcher with this search [^]per[^i] to look for words with the sequence <per> but not inital to avoid as many words as possible with a <per-> prefix and to avoid words that have this sequence of words with an <i> immediately following the <per>. But I still end up with 464 words with this common letter sequence. 

What is clear is that I need to be better able to use etymological knowledge to prove morphological structure. My hypothesis from the information in Etymonline is that as each of the roots they cite include an <i> after the <per> that I should assume that the <i> is part of the base as well. 

Is that a safe assumption in general?

If I had this same etymological evidence, but I found a word with the same root, but a coherent word sum without the <i>, I would feel like must accept the morphological evidence over that etymological evidence. Is that a safe conclusion?

Until I get further evidence from my etymological expert friends, of course, I don't have any evidence that I can analyze deeper than <peri>. That means I will present this as the base. Never go deeper than you know!

I wonder if any of you experienced etymologicalists can draw links between this question and Matt's on foreign. 

Thanks for your expertise!





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