Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

As I was helping my 8th grader study her science terms, one word grabbed my attention . <Sublimation> is a process resulting in a substance gaining energy. This caused me to wonder about <sub>, which I knew was a prefix meaning under, below or beneath. My curiosity prompted me to start an investigation to find out how <sub> contributes to the meaning of this word. Attached is a matrix and the information I uncovered from various sources. Please feel free to offer feedback. I am by no means comfortable with this word investigation process.

Sublimation Investigation

Comments (4)

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Sure, Pete! Thanks for your helpful feedback!

Ginger Beaton
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Wow Ginger! This is really excellent work, and you have introduced me to to all sorts of new understanding of words like <sublime> and <sublimation> that I did not know about before! The link to a bound base <lime> for 'threshold' is wonderful. And your evidence followed through Etymonline is strong and well explained.

In regards to your question about the force of <sub-> on <sublimation> you can learn from Etymonline:
"under, beneath; behind; from under; resulting from further division," from Latin preposition sub "under, below, beneath, at the foot of," also "close to, up to, towards;" of time, "within, during;" figuratively "subject to, in the power of;" also "a little, somewhat" (as in sub-horridus "somewhat rough").

Does that make sense to you as an influence on your word? It does to me.

"from Latin sublimis "uplifted, high, borne aloft, lofty, exalted, eminent, distinguished," possibly originally "sloping up to the lintel," from sub "up to" +limen "lintel, threshold, sill" (see limit (n.)"

I love that this also helps me think of <limit> as complex with the structure <lime/ + it>!

If you are game, would you consider adding/altering a couple of things to your pdf? I would love to link to your post as part of my "investigations" project. Click here:

When you give the structure of <sublimation> you wrote


I am guessing this is an analytic word sum (one that analyzes a complex word into its constituent morphemes. But in that case you would still need your arrow going from left to right.

Here is an analytic word sum for your word:

sublimation --> sub + lime/ + ate/ + ion

Here is a synthetic word sum (from constituent morphemes to surface representation of your word).

sub + lime/ + ate/ + ion --> sublimation

Either would do. But note that I leave a space between any elements and linguistic symbols. It is so much easier to process the elements this way. Also note that I have used the forward slash to signal vowel suffixes replacing final, non-syllabic <e>s. That is essential in a word sum.

The only other part of your document that would help me is the word sums that you used to construct your matrix. They are not necessary. A matrix can stand on its own. But I would be interested to know exactly what words you were analyzing to create this matrix.

For someone who is not confident with this process, you have done a remarkable job. Further, you have taught me new understandings about key words. For that I am very thankful!

Peter Bowers
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Hi Pete,
Thank you for the encouraging words! Attached to my original post is a revised PDF. I made the corrections you suggested and included the word sums with formatting. Please let me know if there is anything else that needs fixing!

Ginger Beaton
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Great stuff Ginger! Your word sums and other information looks great to me. Can I point to it from that "Investigations" page?

Peter Bowers
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