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A Corpus Study of the English Suffixes -ness and -acy: Productivity, Genre, and Implications for L2 Learning

Naismith, Ben and Kanwit, Matthew (2021) A Corpus Study of the English Suffixes -ness and -acy: Productivity, Genre, and Implications for L2 Learning. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 24 (1). pp. 115-137. ISSN 1481-868X

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Despite substantial scholarship relating to word structure (Anderson, 2018), for English affixes the relationship between productivity, genre, and second language (L2) learning remains unclear. Analysis of the existing literature reveals that deadjectival noun suffixes (i.e., nouns derived from adjectives such as appropriacy or goodness) have been underexamined. To address this gap, we examine two rival suffixes, -acy and -ness, through the lens of Construction Morphology (Booij, 2010), considering numerous factors which might condition their varying usage. Critically, corpus data in the Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus (Davies, 2008-) reveal the importance of considering these affixes’ productivity in relation to genre, since -acy is especially frequent in academic texts, principally within certain social sciences. The implications for learners and teachers of English as a second language are discussed, particularly higher-level learners building communicative competence in academic contexts, along with a preliminary learner corpus comparison of the two variants.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Naismith, Benbnaismith@pitt.eduBEN250000-0001-8347-3142
Kanwit, Matthewmkanwit@pitt.edu0000-0002-7389-1903
Date: 2021
Journal or Publication Title: Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics
Volume: 24
Number: 1
Page Range: pp. 115-137
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.37213/cjal.2021.28995
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1481-868X
Official URL:
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2021 16:10
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2021 16:10


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