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Old 06-26-2016, 05:16 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Directional adjectives vs. adverbs

The four directional adjectives (northern, southern, eastern and western) all end with an "n", yet their four adverbs (northerly, southerly, easterly and westerly) omit the "n". How did that come to be?

And then there are northward, southward, eastward and westward, to which we can add upward and downward. Why are there no upern, uperly, downern or downerly?
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Old 06-27-2016, 12:59 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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The -wards are also directional adverbs, but for movement rather than position. Think of them as a merging of "(to)ward" and the "direction (to)": something that moves "toward up" moves "upward".

The positional adverbs do not "omit the n"; that would imply they are derived from the adjectives. The adjectives and both sets of adverbs are derived directly from the directions themselves, but using different endings:
-ern for the adjectives,
-ly for positional adverbs,
-ward or -wards for movement adverbs.

Up and down didn't grab the endings; you can even use them bare as movement adverbs. Why? That's where I get to the point of having to answer "because" (perhaps someone with better knowledge of the evolution of English will have a better answer). They're exceptions. Why are they exceptions? Because. Exceptions tend to be because: if we can come up with an explanation other than "because" then we have a new rule and it's not an exception any more.

Last edited by Nava; 06-27-2016 at 01:01 AM.
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Old 06-27-2016, 01:08 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Actually, I think I found another rule:

up and down didn't grab those endings, but neither did left, right, front and back. The cardinal and relative directions are two different sets, with different rules.
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Old 06-27-2016, 01:52 AM
septimus septimus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by http://www.etymonline.com/
westerly (adv.)
late 15c., "in a westerly direction; facing toward the west," from Middle English wester (adj.) "western" (mid-14c.), from Old English westra, variant of westerne (see western) + -ly (2). As an adjective, "coming from the west," 1570s. Contradictory sense of "going to the west" attested by 1630s.
In other words, wester was a variation of western. I think the former was chosen for the -ly form because the result is easier to articulate. (Is this a form of lenition?)

Unlike wester, norther may never have been a word, but northerly developed in imitation of westerly, easterly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
The positional adverbs do not "omit the n"; that would imply they are derived from the adjectives. The adjectives and both sets of adverbs are derived directly from the directions themselves, but using different endings:
-ern for the adjectives,
-ly for positional adverbs,
Nitpick: It's "westerly" not "westly."
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Old 06-27-2016, 08:31 AM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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Northerly, etc., are not adverbs; they are also adjectives with somewhat different meanings. When you say, "northerly direction", you are not using an adverb. Would you say, "He started out northerly"? In older English, just as in modern German, there was little or no distinction between adjectives and adverbs. The -ly suffix started out as an adjective forming ending (technically a cliticized version of like) and has only gradually come to mark adverbs with many exceptions, including the ones under consideration here. Northwards is the adverb and is clearly derived from the noun.
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Old 06-27-2016, 04:20 PM
Hail Ants Hail Ants is offline
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Wow, this is weird. Before reading this I thought the -ly adverb words did have the 'n' in them. Northernly, westernly sounded perfectly fine to me, though my spellcheck catches them (and they do look wrong when written).
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