From the Stanford Daily (the student newspaper) on 3/1/21: “‘The work is not done’: Students react to AAAS departmentalization recommendation” by John Okhiulu, Kemi Oyewole and Darion Wallace:

On Feb. 22, the Framework Task Force recommended Stanford’s African and African-American Studies program be departmentalized. Following a half-century of student activism, Black undergraduate and graduate students share their reactions to the news.

This is departmentalize ‘make departmental, give departmental status to, make into a department’ — which ought to be a perfectly ordinary causative use of this verb, but struck me as a use I hadn’t experienced before. And possibly I hadn’t, to judge from the evidence of an assortment of dictionaries, none of which reports this use.

From NOAD:

verb departmentalize: [with object] (usually be departmentalized) divide (an organization or its work) into departments.

NOAD has no entry for departmentize, which is the derived verb I would have expected for this sense; here it follows OED2, which also lacks this verb.

Meanwhile, OED2 also has only the ‘divide into departments’ sense of departmentalize, and it has but one cite for this verb in the active:

departmentalize v. to divide into departments. 1924 W. B. Selbie Psycholog. Relig. 40 That tendency to departmentalize human nature from which modern psychology has at length shaken itself free.

On the other hand, OED2 has an assortment of this verb in the passive: 5 cites (1900 – 1936) for departmentalized [e.g. 1930 N.Y. Times 10 Aug. v. 2/2 Everything should be organized and departmentalized.].  Plus an assortment of departmentalization examples, also understood passively: 5 cites (1846 – 1962) [e.g. 1962 Listener 5 July 19/2 Professor Haydn was arguing against departmentalization of history, the separate analysis of religious, political, and economic ‘factors’.].

However, under departmental, OED2 has the subentry:

3. Of a store: consisting of or comprising several departments.

If this has generalized to ‘consisting of or comprising several departments’, then departmentalize could be seen as ‘make departmental’ in this sense, i.e.. ’cause to consist of or comprise several departments’ — departmentalize in active, rather than passive, uses, like departmentize. The derived verb departmentize isn’t in the Oxford dictionaries, or in AHD5, but Merriam-Webster online has it, with the cite:

department stores have taught all other types of retailers the value of departmentizing the business — J. B. Swinney

So departmentize is just barely attested in this sense, while departmentalize — which “ought to” have the sense in the Stanford Daily piece — generally fills this role.

The fact is that the uses of the derivational suffx –ize border on the baffling, with regard to the bases it attaches to and the senses it conveys. These are generally causative, paraphrasable with constructions with the verb make, but the details are incredibly complex.

From my 9/30/11 posting “The velocitized toad”:

Orin Hargraves in a Language Lounge column on Visual Thesaurus, 8/1/11: “The –Ize Has It”:

-Ize‘s greatest claim to fame is its intimate semantic connection with one of English’s busiest verbs: make. Though the two share nothing in etymology, the effect of tacking -ize onto a noun or adjective is to convert said word into a verb that means “make ______.” Thus, final + ize =  finalize (“make final”); vapor + ize = vaporize (“make vapor,”  or more idiomatically, “turn into a gas”). Most dictionaries recognize half a dozen additional uses of -ize in verb formation, but the others are mainly figurative extensions of this useful semantic function.

My posting continues with –ize examples from a large collection of mine showing the great complexity of the details.

Not in that corpus of examples is a use of my own a little while back, when I announced that I had been Pfizerized, conveying that I had been immunized against Covid-19 by injection with the vaccine from the Pfizer company. Not one of your straightforward causative uses of –ize (though you can extract a causative in the semantics: ’caused to receive immunity to the Covid-19 virus by injection with the vaccine from the Pfizer company’).

5 Responses to “departmentalized”

  1. Robert Southwick Richmond Says:

    You got Pfizerized? I got Modernized!

  2. J. B. Levin Says:

    I find my language-instinct-ear caused me a lot of trouble with this one. I was being held up by the “de-” prefix, which I understand is not separable in this case, but I know that it is often used when coining new words. My gut reaction was that students were upset that a program was being departmentalized and wanted it to remain partmentalized. Realizing that I had no idea what that could mean was my clue that I had completely misread it. I guess I got up too early this morning.

  3. Stewart Kramer Says:

    The similarity to “compartmentalized” seems to favor the “-al-” version. To me, “departmentize” sounds clunky.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      On “departmentize”: in any area where there’s lots of conventionalization (as is clearly the case for verbs in -ize), any form that would conform to a regularity but happens not to have been conventionalized in that function is going to “sound clunky”.

  4. And you thought -ize was complicated | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] on this blog, in my 3/1/21 posting […]

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