Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

I recently received a very productive question from a participant after the first session in one of my 5-session courses. By the end of each session I model an activity participants can try between sessions with whatever student population they work with. And the call at the end of each session is for everyone to go for a quest for their questions! 

This is a major advantage of having a week between sessions. People have time to try things -- and most importantly -- identify questions they cannot resolve. This is the job of the scientists; to identify the edge of their understanding. 

Teachers and tutors are much more likely to have a go with this new work when they know they can ask questions within a week. It's like having a rope when rock climbing. We are happy to reach for things that might make us fall -- if there is a safety rope to catch us!

Here is the text of the question I received..

Is 'n' in grown.... considered a suffix? 

I usually tell my kids it implied that something has already happened/past tense but we often run into as in words like ingrown nail, blown glass... so it's an adjective not a verb.

This question tells us that she has already noticed a good number of key orthographic concepts. But one thing that I think helps enormously is to be absolutely specific when we pose scientific questions. The more evidence and detail we give in our question, the more we learn even before we get a response. 

So my first response was to compose a revised version of her question.

My goal in constructing this new question was not to add anything that I didn’t perceive in her original question, but just to be as explicit in describing the hypotheses and evidence she had considered. 

Revised Version

I am wondering whether there is evidence for an <-n> suffix.

I usually tell my kids it implied that something has already happened/past tense but we often run into as in phrases like "ingrown nail,” or  "blown glass”.

The <-n> seems like it could be a suffix based on word sums with these two words:

in + grown + n —> ingrown

blow + n —> blown

So the hypothesis of an <-n> suffix in those words passes the “structure test” of the word sum in more than one family. 

But in those phrases, the words are adjectives not a verbs. I’m not sure if this passes the ‘meaning test’. If <-n> is a suffix in those words, we would need this suffix to be able to act both as verb-forming suffix and an adjective-forming suffix. Can the same suffix play more than one grammatical in different sentences?

Instead of responding to this question yet, I thought I’d just post this revised question to see what others think both about how you would come to a decision on this question - and perhaps to note and describe if this revised wording provoked ideas that might have been missed in the original question. 

I hope to share my own thinking on this question soon — but before I do, I thought I’d share the revision and see what others have to share.

Cheers,

Pete

PS: I also just responded to a great discussion on Real Spellers about the spelling of the word 'proper' adn why it is not spelled *<propper>. I recommend exploring that string (here) for more illustrations of posing scientific questions that are as productive as possible. 

PS: Go to www.wordworkskingston.com if you want to see if I have any courses coming up. As of writing, the next 5 session course will be Friday evenings at 5:30 EST Oct 15, 22, 29, Nov 5, 12. 

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Not to attempt an answer yet, but just to provide a word bank for others:

hewn
mown
sewn
sown
drawn
flown
shown
known
reknown
strewn
thrown

I tried to think of words that had a consonant other than < w > before the < n >, but the closest I could come up with were swear - sworn, bear-born, and wear-worn.

Hope this helps someone.

Matt
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Another thought. I don't think I agree that in a phrase such as "blown glass" or "ingrown toenail," "the words are adjectives not verbs." I believe that they are both -- participles, or words formed from a verb that are being used as adjectives, such as:

burnt toast (toast that has been burned)
broken window (window that has been broken)
lost child (child that is lost)
buried treasure

etc.

In each case, and many more like them, the participle is the past tense form of the verb (bury/i+ed—>buried) being used as an adjective. So I don't think there's a meaning problem here.

For what it is worth, my Mactionary lists -n as a suffix:

-n
suffix
variant spelling of -en.

-en
suffix
1 forming past participles of strong verbs as a regular inflection: spoken.
2 forming past participles of strong verbs as an adjective: mistaken | torn.
ORIGIN
Old English, of Germanic origin.

Matt
There are no comments posted here yet