On Early and Late Modern English non-native suffix -oon

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This paper is about identifying a nuance of social meaning which, I demonstrate, was conveyed in the Early and Late Modern period by the suffix -oon. The history of non-native suffix -oon is presented by means of assembling non-native suffix -oon vocabulary in date order and sorting according to etymology (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). N = 112 non-native -oon words. Three-quarters are found to be of Romance origin and one quarter of non-European origin, entering English via colonialisation. Standard non-native -oon words are identified by appeal to Trudgill’s stabilisation definition, together with an entry in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. It turns out that Standard non-native -oon words (which are few) tended to stabilise early and be of Romance etymology. A period of enregisterment c.1750-1850 is identified by means of scrutiny of non-native -oon usage in sixty novels, leading to the conclusion that four or more non-native -oons in a literary work signalled vulgarity. A link is made between the one-quarter non-European -oons brought to English via colonial trade, and the use of such -oons by non-noble merchants, traders and their customers splashing out on luxury foreign commodities. Thus, it is found that a suffix borrowed from Romance languages in the Middle English period received fresh input during the Early Modern period via non-European borrowings, resulting in sociolinguistic enregisterment in the Late Modern period.

Suffix, -oon, Vocabulary, Romance etymology, Non-European etymology, Early Modern English, Late Modern English
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International Journal of English Studies
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