I have this burgeoning principle of "let all words be in a base form such that the base form means the abstraction behind a noun, verb, and adjective". Then you realize a word into one of those 3 with a suffix. I actually have a 4th kind of word, essentially a particle. So in my word list spreadsheet I am starting to map out how a base word can be realized into multiple forms, such as this:

enter image description here

The "manner" column is an adjective/adverb/determiner/pronoun sort of thing, and the "fusion" column is a preposition/particle sort of thing. Only have like 50 particles so far, but 4k base words (4k rows in the spreadsheet).

Notice how several of the words fill out 2 or 3 of the middle 4 columns. This is because, at least in English, there is a relevant concept in that word form. Like "certainty" is the noun, and "certain" is the adjective.

However, I am not sure this is the best idea, wanted to run it by you to see the pros and cons, and measure it against natural languages at a high level, specifically one aspect of it, described below.

The pro is that we have short words with only a single syllable appended as the suffix for each of the 4 word forms. The con is the following... Not all nouns/objects are the same type of thing. Not all adjectives/manners are the same type of thing. Not all actions/verbs are the same type of thing. Let me explain.

  • Certainty is like the "state of x", the state of being certain. It is relative to the adjective.
  • Propagation is either the "propagate event" itself, the "propagate result", or the "propagate process". It is not the "propagation state". Also, it is relative to the action, not the adjective like certainty.
  • Multiplication is either the "multiply process", or the "multiply result". Relative to the multiply action. So it is kind of similar to "propagate".
  • Frailty is a derivative of the adjective frail, and is like the "state of x".
  • Substance is the base noun, and substantial is derived from that. Substantial is like "substance containing".
  • Explanation is like "the explain result". Explanatory is "capable of being explained" or something like that.
  • I have others such as "ambush" (the action, and the noun, being the "event of ambushing").

Here is some more:

enter image description here

  • A "dig" is an action, and the place that was dug (in English). This is like the "dig result".
  • Leniency is dependent on the adjective lenient, and is like the "nature of being lenient" or something. The action seems like it could be "to be lenient", but then it is the action of being lenient.
  • Convergence could be a noun for converge, and convergent the adjective. But convergence is like the "function or nature of converging". And convergent is like "converge-able".

So needless to say, the structure of the actions/verbs, objects/nouns, and manners/adjectives/etc. are not the same across words. However, there are some standard ways we can perceive things related to the underlying concept, and so it at some level makes sense to have things like 3 words in around the concept of "converge", filling 3 of the 4 roles. In other cases, there is only 1 role filled, in others, 2. Maybe it's possible to fill all 4 roles, I'm not sure yet.

But in any case, essentially, this is filling the roles with arbitrary meanings, there is no pattern to it. That means essentially you have to memorize each case (so for converge, each of the 3 uses must have the meaning memorized, because "convergence" is the "nature of x", not the "x result" or "x event", etc.). There are at least 5 noun structures I've outlined here, but I have at least 30 cases marked out. So a noun might be any one of the 30 possibilities. Likewise, an action might be "being x" or "making x" or "doing x", so there's a few possible action categories as well. Same with adjectives.

So it seems that there is no way around this, other than to not use this pattern. That is, forget about having the 4 forms of words with their short suffix, and assigning them seemingly random/arbitrary meanings related to a central concept. Instead, just be straight and say "converge nature" or "converge result" or "converge event", when talking nouns, and same for verbs/adjectives. I think with this approach you would no longer need suffixes because every word is only ever a noun or verb or adjective, not more than one. But at the same time, I think that latter approach might be more verbose, and you would have things revolve around one of the 4 categories, and then the other related words would have to have at least an extra word (since this is an analytic style), since it would be building off of the reference word (whether its a noun, verb, adjective, etc.).

So I am wondering, and hence the question. Is it okay to have this arbitrary assignment of meanings to the 4 slots? English does this, for sure. But is it a bad thing? A learner must already memorize all 4k words, but now there is potentially 4x more words (1 in each slot) that they would have to memorize. Instead of just memorizing "x event" or "y nature", which feels more low-level and reusable, and so less to memorize.

Basically, is it bad to have this sort of arbitrary assignment of meanings to these categories? Or is it possibly a good or natural thing? I am not so sure. What are the pros and cons, and how does it compare to natural languages?

Here are a list of some more nouns, and their adjective or verb derivation:

  • chat (the chat object)
  • count (the count result)
  • security (secure system/framework)
  • diagnosis (diagnose result)
  • invocation (invoke event)
  • turn (turn event)
  • sneak (sneak event)
  • opposition (oppose force)
  • repentance (repent process)
  • ignorance (ignore state)
  • membership (member state)
  • jiggle (jiggle action)
  • clarity (clear feature state)
  • frivolity (frivolous essence)
  • innocence (innocent nature)
  • diligence (diligent essence)
  • gallop (gallop event)
  • marvel (marvelled thing)
  • revocation (revoke result)
  • undulation (undulate event)
  • slit (slit result)
  • commit (commit object)

1 Answer 1


Yours is an impressive insight! Nouns do lump together random/evolved combinations of "noun structures" and I had never really thought about it until reading here: neither in English-speaking life, nor in learning other languages, nor in conlanging.

I take that as significant. Like I have heard statistics about hairs and things in peanut butter which I wouldn't choose to eat, say: and since I have been eating them, apparently they're not so bad. No harm, no foul. Similarly, most days I must see 1,000 objects in colors I can distinguish by color: they're "brown." If we have not needed to disambiguate these noun structures all the time, then apparently we do not need to disambiguate these noun structures all the time. In the same lumping spirit, I will continue mixing metaphors: you've unearthed a big ugly dragon with a "live and let live" attitude.

If you're doing an Ithkuil kind of conlang and need to leave nothing unsaid, then I might recommend a variety of noun suffixes instead of just one?

If you're not, then you get to choose which details you want to talk about and which can remain ambiguous. Instead of equipping each noun to disambiguate noun structures by itself, when you DO need to make such a distinction, let multiple words lend a hand like you did here in English. If you find you're making the same distinction all the time, you'll already have the noun structure insights to choose how to distinguish words on a case by case basis.

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