All, I am just curious why 'monotonous' is spelled as mo·​not·​o·​nous and not as mono.tonus following the Greek origin of the word as mono + tone. Mono and tone could be spelled alone and actually they constitute the word monotonous. Thanks

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    English hyphenation is a complex matter. It’s presumably so you know that the second and fourth o’s are pronounced /ɒ/ and /ə, /not /əʊ/. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 26 '20 at 10:01
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    @JanusBahsJacquet. Somehow I do not think the question is about hyphenation. – fdb Jul 26 '20 at 11:01
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    @fdb I didn’t even notice the difference between -ous and -us before – I don’t see what the interpuncts would indicate if not that this is about hyphenation… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 26 '20 at 11:04
  • Are you asking why the word is pronounced with stress on the second syllable rather than the first and third? – TKR Jul 26 '20 at 17:52
  • I think you might be confusing spelling and pronunciation. If you're asking about why it ends in -ous and not -us, @fdb has a good answer. You might be asking why we spell it with one word instead of two, or why it's stressed in a particular way. I'm not qualified to answer either of those questions, so if that is your question, I'd suggest you ask a new one. – Vincent Bechmann Jul 26 '20 at 22:20

I think you are asking why this word is spelt with -ous rather than with -us. In English, -ous is the usual offshoot of Latin -us in words borrowed via Old French; the development is -us > -eux > -ous. Later, this spelling is adopted also for words taken directly from Latin or Greek. We have glorious, copious, generous and lots more.

  • thanks, what about the other way around, I mean spelling mono instead of mo.not.. – Kernel Jul 26 '20 at 11:46
  • @Kernel The stressed vowel in monotonous (the so-called "short O") is a checked vowel, i.e. one that is never found without a consonant after it, unlike the third vowel in monotone. As for why it's pronounced that way, look up trisyllabic laxing. – Nardog Jul 26 '20 at 13:59
  • Latin -us developed to Old French -s usually; Latin unstressed u in a final syllable was lost. So Old French had -s as a masculine nominative singular ending. In modern French, Old French's nominative forms in -s have mostly been lost (with a few exceptions like fils < filius); modern French noun forms are mostly derived from the Old French oblique forms based on Latin accusatives, with endings like -um. French -eux is instead from Latin -osus/-osum; that is why the feminine version of the ending is -euse (from -osa). – brass tacks Jul 26 '20 at 17:39
  • @brasstacks. I am talking about loan words, of course, not inherited words. – fdb Jul 26 '20 at 17:42
  • French doesn't loan Latin -us as -eux either; it loans it as -us, or sometimes adapts it to -e. Latin monotonus corresponds to French monotone; I don't think monotoneux is even a commonly used form in French. There are words that had -ous added as a suffix in English despite generally not having -eux in French or -osus in Latin. But this is at least in part a morphological adaptation; it's not just a phonetic/orthographic alteration of Latin -us. – brass tacks Jul 26 '20 at 17:45

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