Re: Functionality (#699979)

Subject: Re: Functionality (#699979)
From: Bill Burns <wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 10:37:57 -0600

23-MAY-1996 00:08:22.56

>>My position stands. I don't know about this. I know it's in Webster's
>10th. Still, it seems like something that evolved into the language, but I
>feel that it only muddies the language, and that we should still try to use
>function, functions, or capability. Functionality--Webster's or not--is

Linguistically, this stance has no foundation. The suffix *-ity* can be added
to many words to create terms that simply haven't existed. It simply changes an
adjective into a noun that pertains to a quality relating to the term's root.
*Specific* becomes *specificity*. *Tenacious* loses its *-ious* to become
*tenacity*, or it retains its adjectival suffix and adds *-ness* to become a
noun that means the same thing. The language has syntactic rules for dictating
how suffixes may be used. Whether or not this term appears in a popular
dictionary is beside the point if it follows these rules.

The question IMO is whether we should use such affixed terms to communicate our
meaning in a compact way or if we should use additional phrases and subordinate
structures to flesh out our meaning. The more compact the language and the more
embedded clauses we use, the more verbal competence a reader needs to understand
what an utterance means. *Functionality* is a root with two suffixes, meaning
that it has shifted from one syntactic category to another and back again.
Could that throw some readers? Possibly.

I use a few approaches when I write to lessen the chance that I increase the
readability levels. First, I avoid using terms of French or Latin derivation
when a simple Anglo-Saxon derivative is available. Second, I use embedded
clauses sparingly. Third, when I use a technical term that a reader may not
understand, I define it in context or use it in a way that most users can define
it in context on their own. And fourth, I look at the number of syllables. A
word with a lot of affixes may complicate communication. Based on these points,
I determine how to get the cumulative effect I desire.

Bill Burns
Assembly Training and Documentation Supervisor

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