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15.4: Another Suffix with < ss >

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Another Suffix with <ss>

1. You've seen that in many words the sound [s] is spelled <ss> in the suffixes -less and -ness. Another suffix that ends <ss> is -ess, which adds the meaning “female, feminine” to nouns host “male” + ess = hostess “female”

Today we are less anxious to distinguish between males and females in our words than people were in the past. Some people find words ending in -ess to be offensive, and many of the -ess words are falling out of use. But we still do use a number of words that contain -ess and thus the <ss> spelling of [s].

Analyze each of the following nouns into stem noun and suffix. Show any changes that took place when the suffix and stem combined

Noun = Stem Noun + Suffix
hostess = host + ess
lioness = lion + ess
goddess = god+d + ess
princess = princ\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*} + ess
countess = count + ess
poetess = poet + ess

2. Now try some the other away around. Add the suffix -ess to the stem nouns to form new nouns, showing any changes

Stem Noun + Suffix = Noun
priest + ess = priestess
giant + ess = giantess
steward + ess = stewardess
shepherd + ess = shepherdess
prince + ess = princess
god +d + ess = goddess

3. Sometimes, when -ess is added to a male noun that ends in the suffixes -er or -or, an unusual deletion occurs waiter + ess = wait\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ess = waitress; actor + ess = act\begin{align*}\cancel{o}\end{align*}r + ess = actress. In these cases when the -ess is added, we delete the <e> or <o> in front of the final <r>. Analyze the following words to show that change

Noun = Stem Noun + Suffix
waitress = wait\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ess
actress = act\begin{align*}\cancel{o}\end{align*}r + ess
tigress = tig\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ess
huntress = hunt\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ess
enchantress = enchant\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ess
eldress = eld\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ess
tempteress = tempt\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ess
misteress = mist\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ess

4. In the male nouns ending in -er or -or that you have worked with so far, the -ess was added to the male noun. Sometimes, however, the -ess is added to the same stem to which the -er or -or is added to form the male noun, as with the stem sorcer in the table below. Write out the male and female nouns in the two right hand columns and be ready to talk about any changes that too place

Stem Male Noun Stem plus -er or -or Female Noun Stem plus -ess
sorcer sorcerer sorceress
murder murderer murderess
govern governor governess
adventure adventurer adventuress
launder launderer laundress

Teaching Notes.

Item 3. This deletion of penultimate <e> or <o> is motivated by the tendency for weak syllables to disappear in words, first in their pronunciation and then in their spelling. It is similar to a more generalized deletion of penultimate <e> that occurs in words like hindrance (hind\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + ance), disastrous (disast\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r +ous), laundry (laund\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r +y), central (cent\begin{align*}\cancel{e}\end{align*}r + al), and the like.

Item 4. Laundress may cause some problems. Be sure the students see that in involves another case of penultimate <e> deletion.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Jul 07, 2015
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