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Why should words ending in "man" be considered to have been formed by suffixation rather than by compounding? DCDuring TALK 02:47, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

I think the stand alone meanings for man are not the same as the meanings for -man. So regarding the test I like to use "can it stand alone outside of compounds/derived terms with the same meaning?" no it can't. Mglovesfun (talk) 09:17, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
Could you give a specific example? To me it seems that, in all apsects, including even the matter of loss of gender-specificity, "man" has all the meanings of "-man". As with the word "man" in an open compound, the precise relationship of "man" to the other element(s) in the compound is determined based in part on the specific semantics inherent in the other element(s) of the compound and in part on the context. DCDuring TALK 11:17, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
Keep. I'd consider it a suffix when it has a reduced vowel (as in fireman, policeman, bail bondsman, chairman, Scotsman, gunman). When it has a full vowel, I don't think it's a suffix — superman, for example, seems like prefixation, and milkman and fellowman (which we don't list) feel like regular compounds to me — though of course I'd be open to evidence/arguments otherwise. —RuakhTALK 12:59, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
So, when a compound (say flag man) is first formed and "man" is stressed (as it almost always is in the case of flag man, in my experience) then man is the morpheme. But later, if the stress is lost, the morpheme has transformed to -man. How we treat this gets to the question of whether we are attempting to present historical etymology rather than morphology. In previous cases we have favored a historical approach. DCDuring TALK 16:23, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
Re: the specific topic: I don't think there's a productive process that would cause "man" to become reduced. If it were to become reduced in "flagman", that would mean that "flag" + "man" had become reanalyzed as "flag" + "-man".   Re: the general question: I think I've always made my opinions clear on this point: there is no conflict between a diachronic and synchronic approach, because both are relevant. (The synchronic approach is usually necessary to explain the "why" of history.) The "we" you refer to has never included me, and I'm never going to be convinced by your perpetual appeals to it. —RuakhTALK 16:53, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
The pronunciation of such words can differ between speakers, so that's not really conclusive. I pronounce milkman with a schwa in the second syllable myself, and I could easily imagine superman being pronounced the same way. —CodeCat 21:05, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
If you pronounce milkman with a schwa, then I believe you're treating its -man as the suffix, rather than as the noun. Similarly for any speakers who pronounce superman with a schwa. Contrast, say, *housecət, or *landlɚd. —RuakhTALK 21:24, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
Delete. Otherwise we need -woman, -boy, -girl, -person, etc. There is nothing etymologically different, and any spelling difference is a result of phonological context, not of suffixation. A pronunciation change is not evidence of affixation, merely of phonological context. The regional pronunciation will vary. Also, all of the previously noted compounds have "man" as the main element with a preceding adjective or attributive noun, not the other way round. --EncycloPetey 21:35, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
Re: your last sentence: That's true of most English suffixes. The head of "realization", for example, is the noun suffix -ation. —RuakhTALK 22:22, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
By the way, I'll preemptively vote keep for [[-woman]] and [[-person]]. —RuakhTALK 22:24, 1 July 2011 (UTC)
The fact that -ation determines the part of speech is irrelevant, since -ation derives from a Latin suffix -ātiō. In Latin, the suffix almost always determined the part of speech, and any suffix derived from Latin is going to have that same property. The word man is not from Latin; it comes from the Germanic origins of English, where words are formed by compounding existing words. This is thus and argument against keeping -man as an entry, just as we would not create a "suffix" entry for every German noun used as the final part of a German compound word.
An additional key difference is that -ation is not an independent word or morpheme; it only occurs as part of another word. Latin suffixes may determine the part of speech, but they add no lexical component to the root. By contrast, man, woman, etc. are all independent words whose original meaning is still clear and present in the compounded words formed. If there were no independent word man, or if the supposed suffix -man had a radically different meaning from man, then I'd agree that we should keep it. However, neither of these conditions is true here. --EncycloPetey 22:49, 2 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Weak delete. Maybe I could be convinced, you could probably argue it either way. FWIW, the OED's recently-revised M section does not consider man to be a suffix. Ƿidsiþ 17:01, 5 July 2011 (UTC)
FWIW the French section (and also for -woman) should remain whatever; they are both formative suffixes in French, albeit for a small number of words (tennisman and rugbyman are two). Also there is no relevant French sense of man. I remain unconvinced that the same sense of 'man' in fireman can exist independently, so I'm still leaning towards a keep. --Mglovesfun (talk) 20:47, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I'd say it signifies we may have a missing sense of fire, and not of man, since there is also firefighter, firehouse, and firedog (animal sense). Either that, or possibly fireman developed from a model of the construction of firefighter. --EncycloPetey 04:33, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
    I doubt that it is a sense of fire rather than that there are alternative "case"/prepositional relationships possible between the head of a compound noun and its modifier. One kind of fireman tends a fire, another kind fights/extinguishes them. For firedog and firehouse perhaps it could be a "genitive" relationship: "of or pertaining to". The context probably determines which meaning is either pulled from the lexicon or constructed morphologically. DCDuring TALK 05:34, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Keep. What about bondsman? bd2412 T 20:55, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
    What about it? ="man in bonds"; no special meaning of "man" is required. --EncycloPetey 20:59, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Is there any morpheme which isn't classifiable as an affix under this logic? Someone can always assert that some people, sometimes pronounce the compound with the appropriate stress to justify the assertion. We have negligible ability to verify such assertions unless we rely on lemmings.
Aren't we just making duplicative work for us and implying that any omitted senses in our affix definitions are in some weak sense improper? For inflected forms, for prepositional phrases, for nouns used attributively we try to avoid duplication. Why is this different? DCDuring TALK 21:30, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Keep, since nobody (in my opinion) has rebutted my argument above, I'll assume it's good. Mglovesfun (talk) 08:41, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

kept, no consensus -- Liliana 17:27, 8 October 2011 (UTC)


I think there should be a pronunciation made for this suffix, noting the distinction between the full vs reduced vowel, the latter found in words like horseman, sportsman, huntsman, freeman, bondsman, fireman, policeman, etc. They seem to pertain more to professions and this is also the pronunciation found in English surnames that are based on these words. It's worth noting because people not familiar with the English language might not notice the distinction and assume the pronunciation is the same as the word 'man' itself. Word dewd544 (talk) 16:30, 28 November 2015 (UTC)