-men(tum) and -monium suffixes

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by Scholiast, Apr 21, 2012.

  1. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Greetings all

    Can anyone please offer, or point me to, an explanation of the affix -monium in words such as caerimonium, matrimonium, testimonium &c.?

    With other regular affixes there appears to be a consistent function (e.g. -tudo regularly forms an abstract noun from an adjective, -ric- added to a supine stem makes a female agent), but I cannot yet see what links, say alimonium with sanctimonium. Any offers?
  2. Agró

    Agró Senior Member

    Alta Navarra
    (from wiki):
    The modern English word "marriage" derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250–1300 C.E. This in turn is derived from Old French marier (to marry) and ultimately Latin marītāre meaning to provide with a husband or wife and marītāri meaning to get married. (The adjective marīt-us -a, -um meaning matrimonial or nuptial could also be used in the masculine form as a noun for "husband" and in the feminine form for "wife."[11] The related English word "matrimony" derives from the Old French word matremoine which appears around 1300 C.E. and ultimately derives from Latin mātrimōnium which combines the two concepts mater meaning "mother" and the suffix -monium signifying "action, state, or condition." "[12]
  3. CapnPrep Senior Member

    The suffixes -mōnia and -mōnium are related to -men (flumen, nomen, etc.) and its extended form -mentum, and also to Greek -μα. See e.g. A&G §239, which confirms what you say about -monium not consistently selecting a single class of root/stem. But this is true of many suffixes in Latin.
  4. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Many thanks to both Agro and CapnPrep. Of course I should have thought of consulting A&G.
  5. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Greetings all

    I wonder whether someone more philologically expert than I can help?

    What, if any, is the distinction in sense or flavour between the abstract noun formations in -mentum (documentum, ornamentum, testamentum &c.) and -monium (caerimonium, matrimonium, testimonium &c.)?

    I have consulted Allen and Greenough (www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0001art=1:section=30&highlight=mentum, esp. §239) but am none the wiser.

    This arises because I am increasingly convinced that in English, the word "testament" is being improperly used where "testimony" is intended and right, for example in a leader column in the Times two days ago:

    "------'s guilty plea to all 14 of the indecent charges made against him is testament to the work of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service..."

    And I am wondering whether, on the basis either of Latin etymology or of English usage, I am justified in my irritation.

  6. radagasty Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    Australia, Cantonese
    To appeal to Latin in adjudicating English usage would be to fall into the etymological fallacy. This notwithstanding, the difference in sense between testamentum and testimonium is clear: the former is used particularly of of wills (as in 'last will and testament) and the publication thereof (or in the sense of 'covenant' as in vetus testamentum) whereas the latter is used in a more general sense to refer to witness, testimony or evidence. However, I am not sure how much bearing the above has on English usage.

    > "------'s guilty plea to all 14 of the indecent charges made against him is testament to the work of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service..."

    With all due respect to your instinct as a native speaker, I would have said the opposite, that testament is the correct word here. To me, testament is evidence or proof in a more general sense, whilst testimony refers specifically to the evidence given by a witness. In the sentence you cite, the guilty plea is not evidence given by the accused, but rather, the fact that he pleaded guilty to the charges is testament to the good work of the police.
  7. relativamente Senior Member

    catalan and spanish
    The abstract words ending in monium (from munus significat officium) reffer to the legal status of some person or action, like matrimonium, the rights and obligations of the mater familias, testimonium the ones of a witness before a judge. This words derive all from a noun
    The ending in -men is much more common, many belonging to the third declension. They are derived from a verb and are all neuter gender; from rego regimen from ligo ligamen and many more
    Testament I think must have derived from French testament. In French not much to do with temoignage.
    But in modern English the word testament is synonime to testimony and has also as a second meaning "will".This according to Oxford Advanced Learners's dictionary
  8. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Dear correpondents

    Thanks to both radagasty and relativamente for their timeous responses.

    Without wishing to sound condescending, I know already the philological points that these distinguished folk have made; and (radagasty) I am also acutely aware that no sound inferences may be necessarily drawn from Latin etymology about current English usage, or the propriety thereof.

    With all respect to both, neither has actually answered my original question: I am not asking about the lexical sense of testamentum (which in classical Latin is confined anyway to the sense of "last will and testament", at least according to L&S), and testimonium. I am asking for an explanation (if it exists) for the general pattern of sense in -mentum abstracts as opposed to those which end in -monium.

  9. relativamente Senior Member

    catalan and spanish
    I do not know the explanation. But it is certain that the ending mentum was used very frequently in Latin and even is still alive in romance languages (ment in French, miento in Spanish, even ment in English through French) still new words being formed. Whereas monium is restricted to just a few words. I don't thing they have much in common
  10. onoda New Member

    The noun formations using -mentum is called Nomina Instrumenti.Nomina Instrumenti means "it indicates the medium or the instrument through which it performs the action".

    the indecent charges made against him is "the instrument through which is testified" the work of the police

    The noun formations using -monium is called Nomina Rei Actae.Nomina Rei Actae means "it indicates the result of an action".

    I hope i translated correctly.
  11. radagasty Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    Australia, Cantonese
    LOL... I suppose I was more intent on addressing the point that your question was not fit for the purpose you wanted it's answer for. At any rate, this is not the forum to discuss questions of English usage in extenso, but, IMHO, your irritation (cf. Post #1) is not justified.

    Addressing to the question more immediately at hand, -mentum, as onoda points out, forms the 'nomina instrumenti', by and large indicating means, medium or instrument. Note, though, that it can also indicate result, e.g., fragmentum, although this is relatively rarer. This derivational suffix is very productive through the historical span of the Latin language, taking over from the pre-classical and classical -men in later periods.

    On the other hand, -monium is relatively unproductive as a derivational suffix, and I can really only think of a few common words, like matrimonium, alimonium, mercimonium, vadimonium, patrimonium, which, like testimonium, have something of a legal flavour. I am not convinced that 'nomina res actae', which onoma suggested, is a good characterisation of these words, though.

    Of these words, alimonium is the only one (I think) that has a (common) parallel in -mentum, viz. alimentum, the latter being more common in classical Latin and the former in the mediaeval language. Here, I am not sure that I can identify a clear distinction in meaning between the two: they can both refer generally to food (concrete) or nourishment (abstract), or more particularly, to recompense for the cost that parents incur in raising a child. My feeling is that the form in -monium is particularly used in the sense of 'support', whence English alimony.

    Returning to English usage, then, the etymological fallacy notwithstanding, if we accept (broadly speaking) onoma's characterisation of the -mentum vs. -monium pair as derivational suffixes indicating instrument and result respectively, then testament would indeed be the correct word in the sentence you quote, since it refers to the instrument which testifies to the good work of the police and the prosecutors.

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