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11.4: §79. Turning Diminutive Nouns into Verbs

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  • By way of a postscript to this chapter, notice how Latin could make denominative verbs out of the “little” nouns that we met in Chapter 7 (§52, §53, §54, §56). Once forma (“shape”) had been diminished to formula (“little shape”), there could be a verb formul-are, formulatus—whence English formulate and formulation. Similarly, circulus (< circus) produced circul-are, circul-atus, English circulate and circulation. From unda (“wave”) came the diminutive undula (“little wave”); to undulate is “to make little waves”—a synonym of fluctuate. Examine this progression: calx, calc-is (“stone”) > calc-ulus (“little stone”) > verb calcul-are, calcul-atus > noun calculat-io > E calculation. If we are to analyse calculation, we should identify and explain each of the elements in calc-ul-at-io. Here is an analysis of capitulation: < L. capitulatio: capit (caput, “head”) + ul (diminutive suffix) + at(perfect participle of denominative verb capitulare) + –io (noun suffix).

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