Preface: Etymonline does not answer this question. I (but please tell me if I should not) quote the definitions for the English verbs (Loan words from Latin then Old French) because they did not shift semantically and so equal the Latin definitions.

[5. 'compōnō ' on Wiktionary :]  [...]   From com- + pōnō ‎(“put”).  [...]

  1. I arrange, compile, compose, make up.
  2. I construct, build.
  3. I organize, order.
  4. I settle.

[6. 'cōnstituō' on Wiktionary :]  [...]   From con- ‎(“with”) + statuō ‎(“set up; establish”).  [...]

  1. I set up, establish, confirm
  2. (with infinitive) I decide, resolve.

Abbreviate 'Inanimate Subject(s)' to IS, and any 'direct object' as DO. Consider this syntax:

1. IS composes \\ constitutes DO.

Replace the verbs in question by definitions 5.1 and 6.1 above:

2. IS makes up / constructs \\ sets up DO.

2 makes no sense; IS itself (assumed inanimate) cannot cause directly, but IS can cause indirectly through chance and randomness (ie: the Big Bang effect). So if 2's verbs are interpreted causatively as in 3 below, then 3 appears to justify com- as a causative prefix;
but is any of the above correct?

3. IS CAUSES TO BE made up / constructed \\ set up DO.

  • I see a few leaps of faith in this question. First, although there may be little semantic shift in these verbs, language idiom is different between English and Latin: IS composes DO is English, but may un-Latin, as in the Latin language IS assume much less agency. Second of all, the argument between (2) and (3) is doubtful at the least: if we assume that IS cannot compose, due to its inanimacy, then we should also take it cannot cause. I believe you could better elaborate especially the later argument, viz the principal difference between composing and causing. – kkm Feb 26 '16 at 3:34
  • @kkm Thanks. Allow me to remove any reference to English then. – NNOX Apps Feb 26 '16 at 4:21
  • I see a bigger problem with the second argument though. You say that “IS (assumed inanimate) cannot act or [a]ffect anything itself,” and then conclude that therefore IS causes something (I think you meant affect, because the verb effect is synonymous with cause, and the statement contradicts itself). It requires a better elaboration, methinks. Why IS cannot act, cannot affect but can cause? – kkm Feb 27 '16 at 21:26
  • @kkm Thanks. Sorry for neglecting your second argument in your paragraph above; I would have responded otherwise. I did mean 'effect', but you are correct that I should have written 'affect', and have just edited my post. Is it better now? Though IS lacks consciousness for causation. I wrote 'effect' originally because I meant IS to cause and effect events randomly (ie: the Big Bang effect). – NNOX Apps Feb 28 '16 at 23:41
  • Thanks. Sorry for neglecting your second argument in your paragraph above; I would have responded otherwise. I did mean 'effect', but you are correct that I contradicted myself because IS's cannot act or effect iff IS cannot cause. I should have distinguished the two modes of causation (conscious, direct vs indirect). Better now? – NNOX Apps Feb 28 '16 at 23:47

A causative affix is transformative: it changes a (usually intransitive) verb's predicate frame such that the thematic role once performed by the subject is now performed by the object, and the new subject is an agent or cause. Examples:

Caesar fugit: "Caesar flees".

The thematic role "person who flees" is performed by the subject Caesar.

Pompeius Caesarem fugat: "Pompey causes Caesar to flee".

The presumed causative suffix -a- turns fugĕre "flee" into fugare "cause to flee"; the thematic role "person who flees" is now performed by the object Caesarem, and the new subject, Pompeius, is a new agent, causing the process of fleeing.

Miles stat pro porta: "the soldier stands before the gate".

The thematic role "thing that stands" is performed by the subject, miles.

Caesar militem pro porta statuit: "Caear places the soldier before the gate".

The verb statuo is derived from the supine stem of sto (status); sometimes the suffix that forms the supine stem can be used to make derived verbs causative. Stare "stand" is turned into sta-tu-êre "cause to stand, place". The thematic role "thing that stands" is now performed by the object, militem, and a new agent is introduced to cause the standing, Caesar.

So statuĕre is already causative by itself. The same applies, in a way, to ponĕre, which already means something similar to statuĕre.

So I don't see any added 'causativeness' coming from con-. It can indicate completion, though. I think this has come up before, in some other question on English.SE?

  • I'm embarrassed to say that I can't quite make sense of your first paragraph. Would you mind giving an example (preferably either an English word or a common Latin word) to illustrate? – Joel Derfner Feb 29 '16 at 11:42
  • @JoelDerfner: How's this? – Cerberus Feb 29 '16 at 16:37

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