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:

fefcecfg

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!

Pete

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet