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    #1

    to blackEN......EN??

    Hi,

    can anybody explain the grammar of black becoming blacken? e.g. 'I said it to blacken his name'. The specific grammatical terms and an explanation of the underlying meaning would be much appreciated as I can't find it anywhere on the internet.

    Many thanks

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    #2

    Re: to blackEN......EN??

    Actually on reflection that wasn't a good example!! There are better examples but I can't think of any. Examples where you can see the relationship between the original word and the with -n, -en suffixed

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    #3

    Re: to blackEN......EN??

    Quote Originally Posted by MrRubik View Post
    Hi,

    can anybody explain the grammar of black becoming blacken? e.g. 'I said it to blacken his name'. The specific grammatical terms and an explanation of the underlying meaning would be much appreciated as I can't find it anywhere on the internet.

    Many thanks
    This is an example of verb suffixation, the most frequent examples of which, -ate, en, (i)fy, -ise/-ize form transitive verbs, usually causative in meaning.

    -en is added to adjectives. Many verbs formed in this way can be used not only transitively, with a causative meaning, but also intransitively:

    The men blackened their faces before setting off on the mission.
    His face blackened when he heard the news.

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    #4

    Re: to blackEN......EN??

    Thanks for your reply. So to clarify (<--- is this an example of a causative? <clarify> Can you refer to the word itself as a causative?) the suffixes -n and -en are causative suffixes that used as verbs mean to become the adjective (in this case) at the root of the verb? Sorry haven't looked into causative until 2mins ago on Wikipedia!

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    #5

    Re: to blackEN......EN??

    Quote Originally Posted by MrRubik View Post
    Actually on reflection that wasn't a good example!! There are better examples but I can't think of any. Examples where you can see the relationship between the original word and the with -n, -en suffixed
    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********


    Mr. Rubik,


    I found this in the 1985 edition of the acclaimed A Comprehensive

    Grammar of the English Grammar:

    Only a few verb-forming suffixes occur with any great

    frequency in English.

    ***

    -EN combines with adjectives as in

    deafen
    sadden
    tauten
    quicken
    ripen
    widen
    harden

    As well as being causative, "to make ...," many of these can

    also be used intransitively, "to become": The news saddened him /

    His face saddened.


    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********

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    #6

    Re: to blackEN......EN??

    Thanks very much for your reply, very helpful

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    #7

    Re: to blackEN......EN??

    The suffix -en, or in the oldest recorded stages of the language -an, once marked the infinitive of all verbs. It also marked the past participle of strong verbs, as it still does occasionally. The past participle, however, also had a prefix y-, in the earliest stages ge-, which survives in a few relic words beginning with a- like adrift, agog, awoken.

    By about 1500, the suffix had been dropped in just about all cases.

    The few exceptions were mostly verbs of colouring (to whiten, to blacken, to redden), and the verb (a)waken. And a few others as in the lists above.

    The -en in these verbs stopped being an infinitive suffix and was absorbed into the stem. Thus I whiten, I have whitened, not "*I white", "*I have whited". The original form of the past participle does survive in the biblical phrase "a whited sepulchre", but it is an obvious archaism.

    The exception is "waken". Here the Middle English forms were something like"to waken", "I wake", "I woke", "I have awaken" (actually "ywaken", I suppose, pronounced almost like "awoken".)

    But in this verb all the permutations with a- and -en have survived:

    To wake, waken, awake, awaken.
    I wake, awake.
    I woke, awoke, wakened, awakened.
    I have woken, awoken, wakened, awakened.

    PS. I will leave the entry as I wrote it originally, but I was wrong regarding the past participle and the etymology of awake. The prefix a- is "on" really, not the vanyshed y-/ge- of the pasts participle. And here are links for etymologies of awake, awaken (near the bottom of the page) and wake, waken (also near bottom). It's rather more complex than I wrote, but it seems the confusion between to (a)waken and to (a)wake happened in part exactly because the -en suffix had marked the infinitive, as I wrote, and dropped out during the 15th century.
    Last edited by abaka; 13-Nov-2010 at 00:15. Reason: Clarification.

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