Student Word Study

Here is a wonderful example of a student word study.  This older student was interested in the word <carnivore>.  We hypothesized the word sum:

  • carn + i + vore –> carnivore

This word sum was supported by evidence of its relationship in meaning to the base <carn> denoting “flesh” and the base <vore> denoting “swallow.”  Although <vore> is often listed in dictionaries as a suffix, we know it cannot be a suffix because of its denotation and use as a solitary base in words such as:

  • vore + ace + i + ous –> voracious

As we were studying <carnivore> and related words, my student asked whether it could be related to <carnival>.  An interesting question indeed!

After hypothesizing the word sums:

  • *carn + i + val –> carnival
  • *carn + ive + al –> carnival

We looked at the etymology of the word.  Now, the etymology only gives us support for our word sums, but it is not a morphological reference.  That is, it cannot give us a valid current English word sum.  That part is left to our scientific reasoning.

We discovered that while <carnival> is indeed related to <carnivore>, we cannot say that it has a base of <carn> because we cannot analyze the rest of the word in a valid way.  Here’s what happened.  The word stems from the Latin bases for “flesh” and “raise” as in “raising flesh.”  This meaning comes from the idea of a great meat eating party on Fat Tuesday.  This word in Latin was “carnelevare”.  Over time, the word changed such that we no longer have a second meaningful base element in English.  So, we cannot analyze this into meaningful English morphemes.  Consequently, the base must be the word itself, and the word sum is:

  • carnival –> carnival

As we worked, we created this wonderful mind map:

Carnivore-Carnival Image

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