Who You Gonna Call? Mythbusters!

After a delightful discussion today regarding our treasured Skype visit with Michel on Friday, our small group of orthographers decided that we are indeed mythbusters!  Early last week we busted the myth that <tion> is a suffix, and now we have busted the myth that <ial> is a suffix!  It feels great to bust through our old misunderstandings and see words clearly for what they are.

Last Friday, Michel explained about connecting vowels.  We didn’t have as much trouble identifying the connecting vowels in tutorial, aerial, and memorial, as we did with the words racial, facial, and residential.  The difference is what happens when the connecting vowel <i> follows the <c> or the <t> in those words.  The letters <c> and <t> represent different phonemes in those cases than they do in the base words race, face, and resident.  What we learned is that a connecting vowel doesn’t always syllablic.

In our search to figure out if <ial> was a suffix or not, we looked at word searcher for words we knew that ended with an <ial>.  Then we tried to find evidence by finding the base of each word.  Along the way we were mislead by an entry in Etymonline (residential + -ial) and a similar one in an online dictionary.  But after looking at the Toolkit and talking with Michel, we understand about connecting vowels.  At the workshop Pete Bowers led, he reminded us over and over that we can’t just rely on one resource because, after all, human beings made each and every resource, and as human beings are all subject to error!  Here is the list of words we researched and our evidence that they, in fact, have an <al> suffix.

We were wondering whether <ial> was a suffix.  After two days of research, these are some of our hypotheses.

We hypothesize that in the following words <i> is a connecting vowel and <al> is the suffix:
–> <aer> + <i> + <al>
tutorial –>
<tutor> + <i> + <al>
–> <memor> + <i> + <al
residential –>
<reside> + <ent> + <i> + <al>
–>  <differ> + <ent> + <i> + <al>
–>  <race> + <i> + <al>
–> <face> + <i> + <al>
–>  <office> + <i> + <al
–> <finance> + <i> + <al>

We hypothesize that in the following words, the <y> is changed to an <i> and an <al> suffix is added:
–> <bury/i> + <al>
–> <try/i> + <al>
–> <artery/i> + <al>

We hypothesize that in the following words, there is an <al> suffix:
–> <imperi> + <al>
–> <soci> + <al>
–> <seri> + <al>

This led to a revised version of our matrix:


Today we spent our time looking at several matrices and noticing how pronunciation in a base sometimes shifts when a suffix is added to that base.  We looked at tempest and tempestuous, real and reality, and heal and health.  Looking at matrices also gave us opportunity to talk about “checking the joins” and what that means.

One thought on “Who You Gonna Call? Mythbusters!

  1. The orthographic denotation of ‘learning’ is “finding a track”, and that of ‘investigate’ is “following footprints”. Real scholarship is a sort of never-ending story of going onwards and upwards towards understanding. Pedagoguery is denotationally servile instruction-following (check its etymology!) to a predetermined destination, but scholarship is the search for explanations and productive principles.

    And such scholarship is what this merry band of Mary Beth’s estival scholars are sharing with us, and there isn’t even the suspicion of a whiff of pedagoguery in the air.

    Skot’s eagle-eyed observation that leaving the base element of the matrix as ‘spec’ would normally result in the doubling of the ‘c’ still needs to be sorted out. Here’s what the word sum, as the matrix stands, must give.

    spec + ule/ + ate → *specculate

    The first part of the suffixing process is ‘spec + ule →’ :

    – there is a final consonant letter immediately before the suffix;
    – there is only one vowel letter immediately before that single consonant letter;
    – in the finished word the stress is on the syllable immediately before that suffix;
    so the operation produces *’speccule’.

    The problem is clearly with the orthographic representation of the base element; it can’t be ‘spec’ for the reason we have seen; it needs an orthography that is coherent with its family as seen in the matrix.

    So how about trying ‘spece’ as the orthographic representation of this bound base element?


    I’m intrigued to know the whereabouts of the information that ‘c’ doesn’t always double before a suffix. There is, though, Tool Box 2 Kit 4 Theme I that explains why double ‘c’ is very rarely found in an English spelling (though juxtaposed ‘c’s are often found on either side of a morpheme boundary).

    What a wonderful way you have found to spend a summer vace/ + ate/ + ion!

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