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John Larrysson's Column : The grammar of Y at the end of a word (3 of 3) The exceptions and a summar

【明報專訊】In the last two articles I covered the -Y suffixes. Two are from Norman French and two are from Old English. The meanings include, the status of, the condition of, having the quality of, and the diminutive. A summary chart is included below. This time I want to cover the awkward, but interesting exceptions.

Often the original root word is no longer in use. With some words we have forgotten that there is a suffix e.g. happy. hap + Y (hap in Middle English meant lucky, from the Old Norse happ) The word happy eventually replaced the original English word of the same meaning, blithe.

Countries, such as Germany, Hungary and Italy are examples of the Latin -IA suffix becoming a -Y suffix in English. However the names Norway, Uruguay and Paraguay do not come from the Latin language. The name Norway comes from the Old Norse word Norvegr, meaning the way to the north.

While a common structure, not every -Y ending word is derived from a suffix.

A few -Y ending words come from other miscellaneous sources. The names of the UK islands of Jersey and Guernsey are derived from compound words that use the Old Norse ey meaning island. The word guy, meaning a man, is from the Italian name Guido. Many common short words ending with -Y are from very ancient sources and are not the result of a suffix. These include cry, fly and honey.

Usually words that end with a Y can be grouped by a similar meaning. However it is always good to keep in mind that not every Y ending is a suffix.

■Audio and full text : link.mingpao.com/15488.htm

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