Word-final /i/ for modifiers/genitives

Uncreative Name

Member
English - United States
When looking at the Ancient Egyptian language (Proto-Coptic?), I noticed that they used -j to indicate the genitive case for nouns (at least, that's what I understand; I don't speak any of the Coptic languages, so I'm not completely sure how they function).

I know that Japanese uses -い at the end of most adjectives; even when writing in Kanji, it is important that the い is suffixed on, in kana. (This is not the same as the genitive marker, -の [no].)

Latin's second- and fifth-class declensions uses -ī [iː] for the singular genitive (though the other classes typically use suffixes ending in -s, so this one might be irrelevant).

In casual speech in English, we often suffix -y [i(ː)] onto a noun to make it an adjective (it isn't exactly a marker for genitive case, but it's kind of genitive-y).

(English also uses -ly [li(ː)] to turn adjectives into adverbs, but most Germanic languages include the likely cognate -[lik] or -[liç], so it's easy to assume that English -ly had a final consonant at some point, which was reduced to a null.)

Most of these languages aren't even remotely related, so these suffixes can't possibly have been retained from some ancient proto-language. I know this is likely just a coincidence, but I find it a bit odd that all these languages happen to use the same sound. Is there something about a word-final /i/ sound that makes it inherently a marker for modifiers/genitives, or did all of these languages just so happen to pick the same sound?
 
  • Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    I don’t know the answer to your question, but I can add a language to your list. Arabic also has this for some nouns, for example Misr مصر is the proper noun for Egypt in Arabic, while misri مصري is the adjective used to describe something or someone as Egyptian.

    That’s quite an interesting phenomenon.
     

    wyrzyk

    New Member
    Polski, Svenska
    Japanese -い comes from earlier -き, so 長い used to be 長き (you can still see this -k- in the negative 長かった and the adverb 長く).

    English -ly is related to “like”, and English -y is related to German -ig, Latin -icus…
     

    Uncreative Name

    Member
    English - United States
    Japanese -い comes from earlier -き, so 長い used to be 長き (you can still see this -k- in the negative 長かった and the adverb 長く).
    We can probably take Japanese off the list, then.
    English -ly is related to “like”, and English -y is related to German -ig, Latin -icus…
    I agknowledged this in the original post; Old English, for whatever reason, had a tendency to weaken velar stops, often times nullifying it entirely.

    I suppose most of these are coincidences (as mentioned in the first post), but it was interesting to me that all of these languages just happened to evolve such similar suffixes.
     

    Ihsiin

    Senior Member
    English
    (English also uses -ly [li(ː)] to turn adjectives into adverbs, but most Germanic languages include the likely cognate -[lik] or -[liç], so it's easy to assume that English -ly had a final consonant at some point, which was reduced to a null.)

    No need to assume this, the suffix in Old English was -lice. Some modern regional dialects still use ‘like’ as an adverbial suffix.
     

    Uncreative Name

    Member
    English - United States
    No need to assume this, the suffix in Old English was -lice. Some modern regional dialects still use ‘like’ as an adverbial suffix.
    I've heard "-like" used to turn nouns into adjectives, but I don't think I've heard it for adverbs before. Maybe it's just a dialect thing I'm unfamiliar with.
     
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