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Agentive -er

From Teflpedia

Agentive -er is a noun suffix found in English which (generally speaking) nominalises a verb into an agent noun that illustrates that the noun is an agent towards the verb. It is occasionally spelt -or or -ar or -yer.

Meaning[edit | edit source]

These act as agent nouns. For example, one who teaches is a "teacher,” one who writes in a writer. One who acts is an “actor.” One who burgles is a burglar.

Sometimes this is attached to roots which are not used by themselves; examples include “author" (who does not *auth), and doctor (who does not *doct), and tailor (who doesn’t *tail). Also, a scholar doesn’t *schol, and a vicar doesn’t *vic.

It is has an antonymous suffix, this being patient -ee; compare employer v. employee.

Form[edit | edit source]

This morpheme is sometimes spelt ⟨-er⟩, sometimes spelt ⟨-or⟩ and occasionally spelt ⟨-ar⟩, and in ⟨martyr⟩ spelt ⟨-yr⟩. There are some spelling rules.[1]

Generally speaking, -or comes from Latin. There are some exceptions: ⟨sailor⟩ not *⟨sailer⟩. Adviser is usually ⟨-er⟩ but can be ⟨-or⟩ (advisor) in American English.

Derivations based on verbs ending W can be spelt ⟨-yer⟩, notably lawyer (but also bowyer, and sawyer, which can both be surnames Bowyer, Sawyer).

There are a handful of French loanwords that have a masculine form ending in ⟨-eur⟩ and a feminine form ending in ⟨-euse⟩, the most common of which is masseur (m) and masseuse (f).

Also, there is a feminine suffix -trix that is occasionally used as an alternative, e.g. aviatrix rather than aviator.

Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

The final single syllable is a weak syllable and so vowel reduction reduces it to a schwa sound. In non-rhotic accents the final /r/ is typically not pronounced unless it comes before a vowel sound.

References[edit | edit source]