02 March, 2012

LANE 333 - Noun Feminine Forms

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:
            SUFFIXES                                       STATUS
·                 -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:
  • baron—baroness
  • count—countess
  • lion—lioness
  • Jew—Jewess
  • heir—heiress
  • host—hostess
  • priest—priestess
  • giant—giantess
  • prince—princess
The masculine ending may be dropped before the feminine -ess is added as in:
  • adulterer adulteress
  • murderer—murderess
The feminine form may drop a vowel which appears in the masculine as in:
  • waiter—waitress
  • actor—actress
  • master—mistress
  • emperor—empress
  • tiger—tigress
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.