The Hoffmann suffix
From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Here's an example to illustrate various aspects of the behaviour of the
Hoffmann "suffix" (HS).
Since words involving the HS were compound-like, the thematic vowel
became *i at least in some cases (presumably representing an archaic
type of Hoffmann compounds). This produced derivatives in *-i-h3on-,
often with a collective meaning:
(a) *bHérHg^-o- 'birch'
(b) *bHerHg^i-h3ón- 'place overgrown with birches'
A term for 'birch wood' can easily come to mean 'birch' (collective -->
individual), as was the case with PGmc. *birk-jo:n- (> OE birce [pl.
bircean] > birch), which reflects (b). In Balto-Slavic, the Hoffmann
compound developed thematic derivatives in *-o-/*-ah2, still with the
same collective/place-name meaning:
Slavic *berza 'birch' : *berzina 'birch wood' < *bHerHg^i-h3n-ah2
Lith. berz^as 'birch' : berz^ynas 'birch wood' < *bHerHg^i-h3n-o-s
The lengthening effect of the laryngeal is visible here, as Slavic *i
and Lith. y both reflect *i:.
If we wanted to form an "individualising" derivative of the 'birch' word
(for example, in order to use it as somebody's nickname), the result
would be a different nasal stem, namely *bHérHg^on- (nom.sg. bérHg^o:n),
cf. Lat. na:sus --> Na:so: 'Mr. Big Nose'.