Different suffixes in Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Maciamo

Veteran member
Admin
Messages
9,877
Reaction score
3,139
Points
113
Location
Lothier
Ethnic group
Italo-celto-germanic
If you already speak one Romance language, learning another one is going to be relatively easy. The grammar is basically the same and over 80% of the vocabulary is shared. The lexical similarity is even 89% between Spanish and Portuguese, and also 89% between Italian and French. But there are always tricky little differences that are likely to disconcert inter-Romance language speakers.

One of them is the suffix of nouns derived from adjectives. There are plenty of possible endings, just like in English (-ness, -ity-, -ancy, -ance, -ence, -ment-, -tion, -ship, -hood). But interestingly, even though Romance languages share the same suffixes, the way they are used do not always correspond across languages. Generally Italian and French tend to be more similiar with each other, while Spanish and Portuguese band together. Spanish has quite a few words with unique endings not shared with other Romance languages (heroicidad, descubrimiento, nombramiento, sensatez, suspicacia, validez, viveza).

There are at least two cases in which the French ending is the closest one to the original Latin: relaxation (Latin: relaxatio) and nervosi (Latin: nervositatem). For these two words, it is Italian, Spanish and Portuguese that changed the ending, although they all went for the same one.

A very interesting case is that of the words capable and capacious in English, which come from the Latin capabilis and capax. English is the only language that has kept these two words with very different meanings clearly distinct. In Romance language they merged into a single word. In French capable comes from capabilis and has kept that meaning. Capax simply vanished from the language. In Italian both capabilis and capax became capace (from capax => capacem), but acquired both meanings. In Spanish and Portuguese only the word capaz survived, and although it comes from capax it really means capabilis (able, capable)! A real mess!

Note that the Latin suffix -tia (as in duritia) and -tas (as in aviditas) and -tatem (as in validitatem) all became -té in French (and from there -ty in English), while the -tia evolved into -zza in Italian and -ez or -eza in Spanish and Portuguese, and -tas and tatem developed into -tà in Italian, -dade in Portuguese and normally -tad in Spanish, although the list below has several exceptions in Spanish (avidez, pobreza, sensatez, validez, viveza), where Spanish linguists did not attribute the logical suffix -tad (from -tas or -tatem) but went for the -ez(a) instead.

Endings in bold are those that differ from the original root.

Latin rootItalianFrenchSpanishPortugueseEnglish
audaxaudaceaudacieuxaudazaudaciosoaudacious
aviditasaviditàaviditéavidezavidezavidity
capabilis/capaxcapacecapablecapazcapazcapable/capacious
duritiadurezzaduretédurezadureza
(from French)eroismohéroïsmeheroicidadheroísmoheroism
firmitasfermezzafermetéfirmezafirmezafirmness
frigusfreddezzafroideurfrialdadfrieza
-imbarazzanteembarrassantembarazosoembaraçosoembarrassing
incertitudinemincertezzaincertitudeincertidumbreincertezauncertainty
-lentezzalenteurlentitudlentidão
mentio(nis)menzognamensongementiramentira
nervositatemnervosismonervositénerviosismonervosismonervousness
nitidusnitidezzanetteténítideznitidez
nominationomina, nominationnominationnombramientonomeaçãonomination
honorabilisonorevolehonorablehonrosohonrosohonorable
from pensopensieropenséepensamientopensamento
paupertāspovertàpauvretépobrezapobrezapoverty
rapiditatemrapiditàrapiditérapidezrapidezrapidity
relaxatiorilassamentorelaxationrelajamientorelaxamentorelaxation
-scopertadécouvertedescubrimientodescobertadiscovery
scriptorscrittoreécrivainescritorescritor
sensibilitassensibilitàsensibilitésensatezsanidadesensitivity
solitudosolitudinesolitudesoledadsolidãosolitude
suspiciosospetto, suspicionesuspicionsospecha, suspicaciasuspeitasuspicion
subtilitassottigliezzasubtilitésutilezasutilezasubtlety
validitatemvaliditàvaliditévalidezvalidadevalidity
vivacitasvivacitàvivacitévivezavivacidadevivacity

Overall Spanish is the most corrupted from the Latin root, with 16 words affected in the list, followed by Portuguese (10 words), Italian (6 words), then French (only one word).
 
Last edited:
Well as someone who can speak Spanish I have a much easier time understanding what an Italian is saying than a French or Portuguese they sound as if their tongues were stung by a bee 🤣
 
Well as someone who can speak Spanish I have a much easier time understanding what an Italian is saying than a French or Portuguese they sound as if their tongues were stung by a bee

That's because French and Portuguese have many sounds not found in Spanish, notably nasalised vowels. Italian has the same vowels as Spanish. What's more, both French and Portuguese tend to drop final consonants. That's why it is easier for Portuguese or French speakers to understand Spanish/Italian than the other way round. There is the same thing with Scandinavian languages. Danes can understand easily Norwegian and Swedish, but not the other way round, as Danish has far more vowels and also chews the end of words.
 
@Maciamo

the suffix -ation in French is an archaic loan to Latin, the natural Oïl evolution had given -aison and -oison (more northern France by origin, I think);
 
@Maciamo

the suffix -ation in French is an archaic loan to Latin, the natural Oïl evolution had given -aison and -oison (more northern France by origin, I think);

I wouldn't say archaic. There are just different rendering of the Latin -tio in modern French : -tion (information, direction, ration...), -aison (inclinaison, raison, terminaison), and -oison (poison). But the former is nonetheless the most common and by a long shot. The -oison ending is usually derived from the Latin -sio (e.g. clausio > cloison, tonsio > toison).
 
It's not archaic in modern French. But suffix loan of Latin forms; -ation was disappeared under this form in French, and borrowed later. It's not normal phonetically in French.
 

This thread has been viewed 3695 times.

Back
Top