An Escap-ee from French to English who will never return : A semantic and syntactic study of the -ee suffix in English

Detta är en L3-uppsats från Karlstads universitet/Institutionen för språk, litteratur och interkultur

Sammanfattning: The aim of this paper is to investigate the semantic and syntactic properties of the -­ee suffix in English. The -­ee suffix was borrowed from the French ‑­é suffix during the late Middle Ages, when French started to exert its linguistic influence on English. Previous research suggests that the -­ee suffix in English exhibits the semantic properties of sentience, episodicity and passivity. Syntactically, the function of the ­-ee suffix in English may suggest ergativity. Furthermore, it has been suggested that contextual anchoring is involved in the use of the -­ee suffix. I explored these characteristics of the ­-ee suffix by testing non‑­standardised ­-ee suffixed nouns with the mentioned semantic and syntactic properties. The process of differentiating non‑­standardised from standardised -­ee suffixed nouns was done with the help of a well­-established dictionary and the Internet. The results showed that sentience and episodicity applied to most -­ee suffixed nouns. In addition, passivity was an important feature in the -­ee nominalisation of transitive stem verbs. When the meaning of ­-ee suffixed nouns was complex, contextual anchoring served to facilitate the understanding of the meaning of the noun. Syntactically, the relationship between the ‑ee suffix and ergativity was weak. Thus, it can be concluded that the use of the ‑ee suffix is controlled by several semantic properties simultaneously, whereas the syntactic properties are relatively unimportant.

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