Hey all,

My freind Craig was analyzing the word <comparison> -- a word that I thought would be straight forward and we stumbled onto an interesting question. 

His analysis was this:

com + pare/ + ise/ + ion --> comparision

Certainly this analysis uses attested morphemes, so the analysis is structurally possible, so Craig's analysis seems to pass the structure test.  Now for the meaning test. 

Does the base <pare> share a root (and therefore an underlying denotation) with its proposed derivation <comparision>? Off to Etymonline to see what guidance I can find for my meaning test...

comparison (n.) Look up comparison at Dictionary.com
mid-14c., from Old French comparaison (12c.), from Latin comparationem (nominative comparatio), noun of action from past participle stem of comparare "make equal with, liken, bring together for a contest," literally "to couple together, to form in pairs," from com- "with" (see com-) + parare "prepare" (see pare).
pare (v.) Look up pare at Dictionary.com
"to trim by cutting close," c.1300, from Old French parer "arrange, prepare; trim, adorn," and directly from Latin parare "make ready, furnish, provide, arrange, order," related to parere "produce, bring forth, give birth to...

Well that seems fairly conclusive. The reference for <comparison> tells me to go to <pare> and when I do, I find the same root, the Latin, parare.

(Quick asside: By the way, I'd like to toss out a question to our Latin and English experts out there. I have noticed over and over that when I find a Latin root that ends in the letters <are> that those letters grow into a final, single, silent <e> in the English base. I think the true is for final <ere> in Latin roots. First, am I correct in percieving these letter sequences as Latin suffixes? Second, is there something to this common pattern I sense about these hypothesized Latin suffixes turning turning into final, single, silent <e>s in English bases? If so can I use it as a test for identifying final, single, silent <e>s in words a base when I can only find examples of that base with vowel suffixes that would replace the <e>?)

Back to my analysis: Certainly this word is built on the stem <compare>, so I took a look there too...

compare (v.) Look up compare at Dictionary.com
late 14c., from Old French comparer (12c., Modern French comparer), from Late Latin comparare "to liken, to compare" (seecomparison). Related: Comparedcomparing. To compare notes is from 1708. Phrase without compare (attested from 1620s, but similar phrasing dates to 1530s) seems to be altered by folk etymology from compeer "rival."

Here I wanted to highlight an issue about reading an Etymological reference. I note that I am not actually explicitly given the Latin root 'parare'. Instead this reference only goes back to what I assume is the complex Latin word comparare which the previous entry shows me has the structure in Latin 'com + parare" with this information...

to form in pairs," from com- "with" (see com-) + parare "prepare" (see pare).

I'm interested in the fact that the denotation I get for the complex Latin root 'comparare' is "to liken, to compare". But when I go deeper to the simple Latin root 'parare' I get the denotation "make ready, furnish, provide, arrange, order,". I'm not clear on how "make ready, furnish, provide, arrange, order" is related ot the idea of "liken". 

Hmm. Clearly I should look at some more references on this one. However, from my investigation so far, I am quite confident that continued searching will allow me to conclude with good confidence that the base of <comparison> is <pare> as Craig worked out. 

However, I am still left with a morphological structure question. Does this word use an <-ise> plus an <-on> suffix, or might this in fact be a suffix <-ison> and how can I sort this out?

I looked up the <-ion> suffix in my Mactionary and found this:

-onsuffixPhysicsBiochemistry, & Chemistryforming nouns:denoting subatomic particles or quanta: neutron | photon.denoting molecular units: codon.denoting substances: interferon.ORIGIN Sense 1 originally in electronfrom ion, influenced (as in sense 2) by Greek ōn beingsense 3 is on the pattern of words such as cottonor from German -on .

If this is a full description of the role of the <-on> suffix, I have a hard time accepting this analysis of <ison> into two suffixes including <-ion>. 

So I decided to check if my Mactionary cites <-ison> as a suffix, and what kind of evidence it provides. Here is what I find:

-isonsuffix(forming nouns) equivalent to -ation (as in comparison, jettison).ORIGIN from Old French -aison, -eisonetc., from Latin -atio(n)- .

Ha! Now this is interesting. I am confident that this dictionary is wrong about <-ation> as a suffix. I've long worked out examples showing that this really is a combination of two suffixes <-ate> and <-ion>. But that is not necessarily evidence that it is wrong about <-ison>.

I asked my friend Gail for some thoughts on this and she shared information from the OED that she suspected gave evidence for an <-ison> suffix:


Perhaps the "orison" is a helpful signal, but I've not reached the edge of what I can conclude. 

But here's where I am until this fine Real Spellers crew is able to offer further guidance...

Craig's analysis of the <ison> into <-ise/ + on> after the stem <compare> passes the structure test -- both <-ise> and <-on> are attested suffixes. I am not convinced that this analysis of this part of the word passes the meaning test. I see not connection in the denotation of <-on> with what we have in the word <comparision>. So until I find evidence that I can go deeper, I'm going to have to leave my working hypothesis at this structure:

com + pare/ + ison --> comparision

If this analysis holds, it's exciting for me as it would mean the encountering of a new suffix. I'm amazed that its taken me this long to encounter this question. So thanks to Craig on that one!


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