Author Topic: Derivatives in -ist  (Read 380 times)

Offline vox

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Derivatives in -ist
« on: August 20, 2018, 03:41:08 AM »
Hi,
I have questions about these derivatives’ category in English.
1. Can all of them be both nouns and adjectives ?
2. Is it considered as a conversion A>N or N>A by morphologists ?
3. Are there adjectival doublets in -ist and -istic that are perfectly synonymous ?
Thank you.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Derivatives in -ist
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2018, 04:45:13 AM »
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1. Can all of them be both nouns and adjectives ?
My intuition is that the adjectival sense is more basic, and nouns are more natural if they've been established in conventional usage. But just thinking about this at the moment I can't come up with any examples that don't seem to function as nouns, so I'm not sure. It's also possible some nouns exist but other synonymous adjectives block the formation/usage of the correlated adjective, but again I can't think of examples.*

[*To me, 'communist' [adj.] feels like an adjectival counterpart to the identical noun, rather than the other way around, for example. That's the inverse of the situation I described for -ist in general. Not sure why. Maybe just frequency, and because something like "communist country" is ambiguous between a noun-noun compound and adj-noun phrase.]

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2. Is it considered as a conversion A>N or N>A by morphologists ?
I can't answer in general, but this would depend on your analysis. Is the derivation from X>A (social>socialist) and also in parallel X>N (social>socialist)? Or is the derivation first from the root, then to the adjective, and then as a third step to the noun? If it's a secondary derivation, then yes this would presumably be considered conversion.

Note that "X" above could be an adjective (social-ist) or a noun (sex-ist) or just a bare root (commun-ist?). Many derivational affixes are restricted to combining with a certain word class, so maybe there are actually several -ist affixes that combine slightly differently with different word classes, and therefore might give slightly different results for your questions, although keep in mind that analogy could still hold their usage together in some ways (e.g., I don't imagine much of a functional difference between "communist" and "socialist" regardless of their slightly different origins morphologically).

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3. Are there adjectival doublets in -ist and -istic that are perfectly synonymous ?
Perfect synonymy rarely exists given connotations, frequency of use, associations with particular speakers, etc. But these are pretty close. Still, one seems to be the default form for most examples I can think of. No pair of exact synonymy comes to mind, but it wouldn't surprise me if there are some in free variation (though again, possibly with some minor individual connotation differences or preferences, etc.).

This reminds me of the -ic/-ical pair, which for whatever reason seems easier to discuss at the moment. This applies especially to some linguistics terminology, so it's easy to come up with examples:
morphological / *?morphologic
syntactic / ?syntactical

I don't know that I've ever seen "morphologic" in real use, but "syntactical" comes up fairly often (I suspect most often from non-native speakers, but also some native speakers). Obviously in typical syntactic research there is no intended distinction between the two forms. So they are I guess 'perfectly synonymous'. However, to my ears 'syntactical' sounds off, and even though it has a clear and identical meaning, I much prefer 'syntactic'. That's entirely arbitrary, though, because 'morphological' also sounds better. Again, this could just be a question of frequency of use. Some other pairs are more flexible, I think.

Extending this a bit, something else that is interesting is how adverbs are formed from these adjectives: it's typically the long form that is used:
*syntacticly / syntactically
[However, pronunciation of those would be identical, so maybe that's only a spelling issue.]

*communistly / communistically
*socialistly / socialistically
(But: sexistly, racistly)

Yet I see a subtle distinction in meaning: the ending -istic (along with -istically) has an "aboutness" sense that isn't found with just -ist. And that also applies to -ical ("aboutness"), vs. -ic (more general).

"Syntactical" sounds to me like it should mean something like "of or relating to meta-analysis of syntax", or something like that. "This is a syntactical paper". "Syntactic" just means "related to syntax", etc. It's almost like "-ical" has a hint of being a double derivation. Maybe that's just an iconic property of being a longer form (and that matches my intuition about why "syntactical" sounds wrong-- it's just longer, and not needed, because the shorter form sounds fine-- blocking).

There may also be a few cases where nouns and adjectives are contrastive:
impressionist: noun meaning 'impressionism artist; or just one who makes impressions'; or adjective meaning 'related to impressionism; or just based on impressions'
impressionistic: (only) adjective meaning 'based on impressions'

Also perhaps related are the differences in meaning between 'sexist' and 'socialist' -- two very different kinds of ideas there!


--
Edit: while browsing for unrelated reasons, I just came across a potentially relevant paper about -ic/-ical, by Gries here: http://clu.uni.no/icame/ij25/index.html
« Last Edit: August 20, 2018, 07:33:51 AM by Daniel »
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Offline vox

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Re: Derivatives in -ist
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2018, 05:00:08 PM »
Thank you Daniel !