I. Noun Feminine Forms
- English has about 50 pairs of words with separate forms for the masculine and the feminine, e.g., bull/cow, uncle/aunt, but this is a matter of lexicography not morphology.
- English has a small group of nouns with feminine derivational suffixes.
- Most of these feminizing suffixes are of foreign origin except the feminizing suffix (-ster) as in spinner/spinster.
- They have been added to a masculine form or to a base morpheme.
- Examples are illustrated as follows:
SUFFIX MASCULINE FEMININE
1. -e fiancé fiancée
2. -enne comedian comedienne
3. -ess patron patroness
4. -etta Henry Henrietta
5. -ette usher usherette
6. -euse masseur masseuse
7. -ina George Georgina
8. -ine hero heroine
9. -ster spinner spinster
10. -stress seamster seamstress
11. -ix aviator aviatrix
The Status of Feminine Derivational Suffixes:
· -ess The most common and productive
· -stress Completely dead
· -enne & -euse in words borrowed from French
· -e French & is merely orthographic
· -ster No longer a feminizing suffix
Sometimes the -ess has been added to a word already feminine by the ending -ster; as seam-str-ess, song-str-ess. The ending -ster had then lost its force as a feminine suffix; it has none now in the words huckster, gamester, trickster, punster.
The widely used:
The feminine suffix –ess is the most common and productive one. The ending -ess is added to many words without changing the ending of the masculine as in:
The masculine ending may be dropped before the feminine -ess is added as in:
- adulterer — adulteress
The feminine form may drop a vowel which appears in the masculine as in:
Some words ending in -ess are no longer used. Examples are: authoress and poetess. Author and poet are now used for both men and women. The words steward and stewardess are being replaced by other terms like flight attendant and that can be a man or a woman.
We frequently use such words as author, editor, chairman, to represent either gender.
Stageberg, Norman C. and Dallin D. Oaks (2000). An Introductory English Grammar , Heinle, Boston:USA.