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English Makes Sense!

We are working on a study on "conservation," as in "conservation of energy" and "conservation of mass," as part of a science unit in physics. Please note, this is the same word "conservation" in ecology, but the meaning is slightly nuanced for the domain of physics. Energy and mass can neither be created or destroyed - thus are conserved.

My research has found three possible bases for the word conservation. Which one do you think is the best choice?

Option 1: <ser> 

meaning: to protect  (etymonline)

?possible? word sum: con + ser + v + a + t + ion -->  conservation

Option 2: <servar> / <servat>

meaning: protect, store, keep, guard, preserve, save (

?possible? word sum: con + servat + ion --> conservation

Option 3: <conservat> 

meaning: preservation, conservation, keeping (intact) (

?possible? word sum: conservat + ion --> conservation

Quite a few questions remain open within this investigation. I'm not sure which of the three possible answers to use for the base: ser, servat, conservat? Would <servat> be a twin base, but the other two options are bound bases? I'm uncertain how to "spell out" the word in a word sum, I think all of the "?possible?" word sums above are wrong!

I would love thoughts from others on this investigation. Thank you ahead of time!



Comments (3)

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Thank you so much Gail! Much insight gained!

My new word sum is con + serve + ate + ion --> conservation

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Looks good, Trisha!

Gail Venable
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Trisha, I think you really had all you needed in that first concise entry from Etymonline, which tells us that the word is derived from an assimilated form of the Latin preposition con and verb servare. If you remove the infinitive suffix from servare you are left with serv, to which English adds a single final non-syllabic <e> to form words like and <conserve> and <preserve>. As for the suffixes, you may be surprised to know that there is a word <conservate>, to which we can add the suffix <-ion> to form <conservation>. The suffixal construction <-ation> that we see at or near the end of English words can be analyzed as <ate + ion>, whether or not there is an extant English word ending in <-ate>, because pairs like <create/creation>, <collate/collation> and <radiate/radiation> are ubiquitous in English.

For anyone who wants to become proficient at analyzing English derivations from Latin roots, Latin for Orthographers I and II with Real Spelling will be a revelation. Click the Spellinars link in the links section on the realspellers home page for more information.

Gail Venable
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