Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

An interesting question came up recently in discussions with friends and we thought it interest members of this forum. What is the best way to represent the morphological family of the word < deposit > from L. ponere, positum “to put, place”? It was a question that had multiple valid alternatives that we and our students might explore.  To read more, download the attached pdf HERE, or read below.

Two of the words in the family have final < it >: < posit > and < deposit >. Most have final < ite >. The latter words include < composite, opposite, apposite > along with the possibly surprising < supposite, contraposite, proposite, incomposite >. In fact, from the 1600s to the 1800s, the spelling < deposite > is also attested.

First, is it justifiable to analyze < it > and < ite > as suffixes in these words? Here is supporting evidence from two other families:

From the Latin verb video vidēre, vidi, vis(um) we have the English base < vise > “see”

vise/ + it >
vise/ + ible >
super + vise >

from the Latin verb credo, credere,credidi, cred(it)(um), we have the English base < crede > “believe”

crede/ + it >
crede/ + ible >
crede/ + ence >

from the Latin verb pono, ponere, posui, pos(it)(um, we have the base < pose > “put, place”

pose/ + it >
pose/+ able >
op + pose >

Suppose then that we consider this word sum for < deposit > 

de + pose/ + it → deposit >

There could not be an < ite > suffix in < deposits > since the < e > would be visible in the final result and it is not:

de + pose/ + it + s → deposits >

I am inclined to handle all the inflectional suffixes the same way:

deposit + ed → deposited >
deposit + ing → depositing >

The question then would be how to represent the words < deposition > and < position > - the forms with derivational suffixes. Should they be analyzed like < composition > and < opposition > with an < ite > suffix? Does it matter that < deposition > is attested in English earlier than < deposit >? If we create a matrix to depict these potential constructions in English today, does that matrix need to represent their various

paths into English from their shared Latin root? Would we represent < deposition >, as
de + pose/ + it + ion > or < de + pose/ + ite/ + ion >, considering that the final spelling would be the same for both?

A few alternatives:

  1. Put < it > and < ite > in separate cells on one matrix for < pose >, showing the inflectional suffixes following < it > and the derivational ones following < ite >.
  2. Using the base < pose >, create a matrix for < deposit > and < posit >, including the inflected forms < deposit, deposits, deposited, depositing > and < posit, posits, posited, positing > but put all the derivational constructions such as < deposition > and < positive > on a separate matrix.
  3. Combine < -it > and < -ite > in a single cell either as < it~ite > or as < ite > or < it(e) > or < it/ite >.
  4. Perhaps you or your students might want to leave < posit > and < posite > unanalyzed. What would your matrix/matrices look like?
  5. ???

Here is an example of a matrix that explores the first alternative above, representing some of the available family members: 

de com


"put, place"



it ed
ite ion
dis ive ism
pre sup ory es

I hope that others will try these and other ways of representing this problem as well as challenging the presuppositions above.

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

This is such a timely matrix and conversation. We were discussing the possibility of <it> and <ite> in relation to <preposition> with Michel today in Latin for Orthographers. Very interesting discussion.

Pearl Poon
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Posing another option for matrices re the English word <deposit> from Latin ponere "to place."

Brenda S. Mackaness
There are no comments posted here yet