-n- adjectival suffix in Latin

Eduard Selleslagh edsel at glo.be
Wed Aug 4 00:14:06 UTC 1999

At 20:59 22/07/99 +0200, you wrote:

>I was wondering about the origins of the Latin adjectival
>suffix -n-us, -n-a, -n-um appearing in words like _mater-nus_ "maternal;
>motherly; belonging/pertaining to the mother", _pater-nus_ "paternal;
>fatherly; belonging/pertaining to the father", _feli-nus_ "feline;
>belonging/pertaining to the cat; belonging/pertaining to  the family/genus
>of the cats/felidae" and the like.  Can it be traced back to IE? Does the
>morpheme exist in other IE or non-IE languages? Any idea abt its etymology
>and/or development?

>Thanks in advance for your answers.

>Paolo Agostini

[Ed Selleslagh]

I'm equally intrigued by this. This -n- or -en also pops up in a variety of
non-IE languages, most notably in Etruscan ( -na, which may be the origin,
or the enhancing factor in Latin) where it indicates origin or ascendance,
in Uralic and in Basque (Vasconic?) where it denotes the genitive. (In
Basque, -en-a means: 'that, him, her of...')  It also occurs in the oldest
form of genitive in living Germanic ( Ger. der Mensch, des Menschen; Du. de
mens, des mensen), but that has been attributed to old -n stems - a theory
that looks a bit odd to me.
In all those languages it represents some form of 'genitive notion'.
Intriguing, to say the least.


Eduard Selleslagh
B-9120		Haasdonk (Beveren)
Phone & Fax: +32-3-775.69.69	E-Mail: edsel at glo.be

More information about the Indo-european mailing list