Category:-nce - -nts

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This category was originally intended to contain a list of words that fall into a pattern of (near-)homophones which can cause confusion with spelling. Consideration of the number of words involved and some of the implications of their variants and structures has caused the development of the category into an on-going piece of linguistic research.

For practical uses, and for quick reference on words that belong to this pattern, go to -nce - -nts (Table).

The first version is encapsulated in the current version of -nce - -nts - essentially a reminder to be careful of the spellings of different words ending (the plural of agent-nouns) in -nts, like 'attendants' and the more abstract nouns ending in -nce, like 'attendance'. The realization that some abstract nouns can be formed in -nce and others in 'ncy', while the same root may also give rise to a noun in -ation (as in Occupance - occupancy - occupant - occupation - occupy (and 'occupation' itself has two meanings) made it necessary to do more research. So far, no explanation - and no regular rule or pattern - has been found in the literature, so an attempt is being made here to carry out primary research by assembling the examples. There is a page of sketchy thoughts at -nce - -ncy - -nt(s) SKETCH.

Users of AWE are therefore warned that, while individual articles should be of reasonable help, the category category "-nce - -nts" is unfinished - shapeless and shifting - and is subject to change and development.

The category - in any of its forms - may be of more use to teachers than directly to their students.

"When the same word exists in both the -ence and the -ency forms, the tendency is (where the sense of the verbal etymon permits) to restrict the former to action or process (i.e. to connect its meaning rather with that of the vb. than with that of the adj.), while the latter is used to express quality; cf. coherence and coherency, persistence and persistency. In a few instances both forms of a word have equally the sense of quality or condition; in most of these cases the one or the other of the forms has become obsolete or archaic; where they are both in current use, the distinction usually is that -ency has a more distinct reference to the sense of the related adj. or n. in -ent, considered as the predicate of some particular subject; cf. for example, ‘sentience is an attribute of animals’ with ‘some maintain the sentiency of plants’", (OED, s.v. -ency.
"A modern Eng. differentiated form of the earlier -ANCE, expressing more distinctly the sense of quality, state, or condition, often belonging to L. ns. in -ntia, as in {emac}leg{amac}ntia ‘elegant-ness,’ pr{umac}d{emac}ntia ‘prudentness,’ as distinct from the sense of action or process, regularly expressed by the Fr. form -ance, as in aid-ance, assist-ance, guid-ance, admitt-ance. Partly used to form new words, partly to refashion earlier words in -ance, expressing quality. If the L. diligentia, eleg{amac}ntia, temper{amac}ntia, pr{umac}d{emac}ntia, were now for the first time adopted as Eng., they would be made diligency, elegancy, temperancy, prudency; they owe their existing forms in -nce, to the fact that they were adopted from Fr., long before -ncy came into use. But many words, once like these, have been refashioned, and now appear with -ncy; e.g. constancy, infancy, piquancy, vacancy; the modern tendency being to confine -nce to action, and to express quality or state by -ncy; cf. compliance, pliancy, annoyance, buoyancy" (OED, s.v. -ancy.