I am having a difficult time drawing the chart for the word "dissatisfaction". "Action" is not a suffix, so if you would combine satisf(y) + action to get "satisfaction", you would have two roots. This seems unlikely to me, is it possible?

Or am I just overthinking this, and the root is just "satisfaction" with "dis-" as a prefix?

  • In view of liquefy liquefaction, there might be a morpheme boundary before the f. Then it's satis+fy. (But morphologically, one would then expect "satisfication", like personification.)
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 16 '19 at 3:47
  • 1
    What kind of chart are you trying to draw?
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 8 '19 at 3:25

If you want to analyze "satisfaction" as a non-simple form, the etymology-based way of doing it would be satisfy + the nominalizing suffix -(t)ion, with a contextual change of satisfy to an allomorph "satisfac-" in this context. (I wrote -(t)ion because it's not entirely clear whether the "t" should be interpreted as part of the suffix; it also shows up in words with other endings like satisfactory.)

The Latin source of satisfy had a C in the stem; sound changes caused this to be lost in French (the proximate source of the word satisfy), but it shows up in the related noun. The noun "action" is unrelated. We see a similar phenomenon of English verbs and related -tion nouns having different "stems" with e.g. destroy, destruction or conceive, conception.

If you don't like using etymology as a criterion for the present-day morphological structure of English words, you could just analyze "satisfaction" as a "portmanteau morph" for the morpheme satisfy + whatever nominalizing morpheme is present in abstract nouns that end in -tion. The concept of a "portmanteau morph" is that you don't have to identify which part of the form corresponds to which morpheme (unit of meaning); rather, you just say that the combination of the two morphemes corresponds to some unitary form (in this case, "satisfaction").

I'm not sure whether dis- should be analyzed as attaching to the verb (forming dissatisfy, which is then nominalized) or the noun satisfaction in this context.

  • Historically, in English, on the one hand, we have the noun dissatisfaction, that comes from the noun satisfaction, and, on the other hand, the verb satisfy - and its derivative dissatisfy (based on the OED data).
    – Alex B.
    May 11 '19 at 17:35

Etymologically, the word dissatisfaction is formed by these Latin elements:

  • dis-, a prefix often indicating "undoing" or "lack of";
  • satis, meaning "enough", "sufficiently";
  • fac-, the root of the verb facio meaning "to do" or "to make";
  • -tion(em), a nominalizing suffix.

Now, satis + facio formed a verb satisfacio that you could gloss as "to make sufficient", or simply "to satisfy"; when you add the nominalizing suffix, that becomes satisfaction(em), "the state of being satisfied". When you add the negative prefix, that turns into "the state of being unsatisfied", so, "dissatisfaction".


Dissatisfaction may be analyzed as:

dis + satis + fact + ion

The fact comes from the supine, or 4th part of the Latin verb facio, factum. When the Latin suffix is removed, we get the English base fact, which is also present in PDE in the words, factor, benefaction, factory and artifact and of course in the free base, fact. Bases in PDE frequently come from the second and fourth principal parts of the Latin verb form.

There is no *<-tion> suffix! (There isn't an *<-sion> suffix either!)

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