In his [Sir Stephen Sedley]'s view:

The notion that the prime function of human rights and indeed the Rule of law is to protect the weak against the strong is not mere sentimentality.

Source: p 43, The English Legal System 2012-2013, Gary Slapper

  1. What's the big picture behind similarities and differences? I ask not only about sentimentality here. I can't access this resource, so I resorted to Etymonline:

-ism: suffix forming nouns of action, state, condition, doctrine

.-ity: suffix forming abstract nouns from adjectives, meaning "condition or quality of being __,

2. When are these suffixes redundant, and does the noun itself suffice?

For example, definition 2 of sentiment = definition of sentimentality. How and why?

  • I am not the person to have that depth of knowledge that it requires to answer this question. But one thing I have noticed in those two links that you have provided. While "sentiment" is "intense emotion", "sentimentality" is exaggerated and self-indulgent. Though I know this is not a complete answer. It's just a simple comment. I don't have anything to add. – Man_From_India Dec 18 '14 at 16:44

As I commented, I don't have an answer for your question #2. But I can help you with your question #1. The resources you were trying to access and can't seems to redirect to Fowler's Modern English Usage page. Even I don't have access to that page, but I have an image of that page from that book. Here is that page. Please have a look -

enter image description here

Download this image from here


-ism describes a body of thought, philosophy, ideology, doctrine - a way of thinking/collection of knowledge.

Doctrines/philosophies are overarching things that guide and justify behavior. So there is this tendency to attach -ism to something that guides/justifies behavior, especially if it's perceived as bad, opporessive, and this extends to things that aren't ideologies/doctrines per se but just as controlling/justifying of behavior.

His absenteeism is getting bad.

Sexism is something we strive to avoid in this workplace.

Alcoholism is a disease.

-ity is just one way to turn an adjective into a noun, to talk about a quality as a thing of itself. It's very commonly used to "noun-ify" adjectives that end in -able.

He is respectable -> Respectability is something I want in a person.

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