Noun-forming suffixes

Forero

Senior Member
The following German-English cognate suffixes all denote a state of being or degree in some sense:

-heit/-keit (-hood)
-tum (-dom)
-nis (-ness)
-schaft (-ship)

Sometimes they correspond in translation:

Mannheit ~ manhood
Bitternis ~ bitterness
Freundschaft ~ friendship

But in most cases, I think German tends to favor –heit/–keit and English tends to favour –ness.

Is there a rule or set of rules for choosing from among these suffixes in German or in English?
How do language historians/linguists account for this difference in frequency between German and English?
 
  • Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    This is possibly an interesting question, but I think you first need to explain a few things.
    You write:
    But in most cases, I think German tends to favor –heit/–keit and English tends to favour –ness.
    And then you ask how linguists would account for what you think are differences.
    How do language historians/linguists account for this difference in frequency between German and English?
    I think that you first need to elaborate on this and quantify the differences, before starting to jump to explanations or conclusions.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    You should differentiate between two different heit's:

    noun + suffix = noun (very rarely: 17)
    adjective + suffix = noun (very often: 762)

    Here are the statistics of the other suffixes:

    adjective + igkeit = noun (very often: 403)
    adjective + keit = noun (extremely often: 1872)

    Here are the rules for the three suffixes keit, heit and igkeit.
    _____

    As for your other suffixes:

    noun + tum = noun (often: 147)
    adjective + tum = noun (very rarely: 17)

    noun + schaft = noun (often: 196)
    adjective + schaft = noun (quite rarely: 50)
    verb + schaft = noun (only 4)

    adjective + nis = noun (very rarely: 22)
    verb + nis = noun (quite rarely: 57)

    I will keep my eyes open for English statistics and an explanation on the German suffixes. :)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I wish I had a dictionary I could read with a program so I could check the suffixes properly.

    I just did a search of the Ca(u)nterbury Tales to see how these suffixes were used in Middle English.

    I found lots of -ness words, but -ness was always spelled -nesse and the -nesse words seemed to be quite handy for rhyming with French words ending in -esse. Almost all were like modern -ness words. The exceptions were rakelnesse (hastiness?), sikernesse (= Sicherheit), and woodnesse (= Wütigkeit).

    There were 5 -dom words, all corresponding to modern -dom words.

    There were 4 -ship(e) words, all corresponding to modern -ship words.

    I found 11 words with the equivalent of the -hood suffix. I looked for -hod, -hood, -hode, -hed, -heed, and -hede and found some with variable endings depending on the rhyme:

    childhede = childhood
    manhod/manhede = manhood
    knyghthod/knyghthede = knighthood
    maydenhod/maydenhede = maidenhood
    wommanhede = womanhood
    wyfhod/wyfhede = wifehood
    godhede = Godhead (Godhood, but hede also meant head)
    liklihede = likelihood (liklynesse was also used)

    Just 3 of the 11 did not have modern equivalents in -hood or -head, but at least two of these have German equivalents in -keit or -heit:

    lustiheed (mirth) = Lustigkeit
    grenehede (inexperience, crudity) = Grünheit
    chapmanhode (business as opposed to pleasure) =? Kaufmannheit? -schaft?
     
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