You are on page 1of 8

4 AFFIXATION

4.1 What is affix?


Affix is a bound morpheme that attaches to bases.
Two major problems:

It is not always easy to say whether something is bound or free morpheme;

It is not always obvious whether something should be regarded as base or affix.


The problems will be discussed in turn.

Consider the data in (1) through (4), which show the putative affixes free, -less, -like,
and wise in a number of derivatives, illustrated with quotations from the BNC:
1) There was never an error-free text, Copper said.
2) Now the lanes were careless, lawless.
3) Arriving on her broomstick at the prison-like school gates, Mildred peered
through the railings into misty playground.
4) She had been a teacher, and made sure the girl went to a good school: my granny
had more influence on me education-wise.
The first problem: Bound morphemes as morphemes can occur if attached to some other
morpheme. When this definition is applied, it turns out that all 4 morphemes also occur
on their own, and should therefore be classified as free morphemes, and not affixes.
Error-free can be paraphrased by free of errors, which means that free in error-free
and free in free of errors are most probably the same lexical item, and not two
different ones. This would mean that error-free should be regarded as a compound not
its derivative.
Prison-like can be paraphrased by like in prison.
However, when we try the same thing with the word involving wise and less, we fail.
The word education-wise can be paraphrased as in terms of education, with regard to
education, which shows that there is a difference between the morpheme wise we
find in complex words and the morpheme wise meaning clever. The latter is free
morpheme, the former a form that only occurs attached to a base.
Similar analysis holds for less. While there is a free morpheme less denoting the
opposite of more, -less is attached to a base. Furthermore, those two differ
significantly in pronunciation. Thus we have good evidence that less and wise are
two homographic morphemes, one being a suffix the other a free morpheme.

The second problem: Given that affixes are also obligatory bound, it is not particularly
obvious what the difference between a bound root and an affix might be. Root is the
central meaningful element of the word, to which affixes can be attached. The problem is
prominent with a whole class of word which are formed on the basis of morphemes that
are called neoclassical elements. These elements are lexemes that are originally
borrowed from Latin or Greek, but their combinations are of modern origin.
a) biochemistry

b) photo

c) geology

biorhythm

photonize

biology

biowarfare

photoanalysis

neurology

It is not obvious whether the italicized elements should be regarded as bound roots or
affixes.
Biology would consist of a prefix and a suffix. This would go against basic assumptions
about the general structure of the words. Alternatively, we could assume that we are not
dealing with affixes but with bound roots. Speakers of English who are familiar with such
words or even know some Greek would readily say that bio- has the meaning life, and
this insight would lead us to think that the words in a) behave exactly like compounds on
the basis of native words. For instance a blackboard is kind of a board, a kitchen sink is a
kind of a sink, a university campus is a kind of campus. And biochemistry is kind of a
chemistry, biorhythm is kind of a rhythm, etc. the only difference between neoclassical
forms and native compounds is that the non-native elements are obligatory bound. This is
also the reason why the neoclassical elements are often called combining forms. We can
thus state that neoclassical formations are best treated as compounds, and not as cases of
affixation.
4.2 How to investigate affixes: more on methodology
Let us start with the simplest and rather traditional kind of data base: reverse
dictionaries such as Walker (1924) and Lambert (1971), or Muthmann (1999). These
dictionaries list words in alphabetical order according to their spelling from right to
left, to the effect that words ending in <a> come first, those ending in <z> come last.
Thus sofa is among the first words and fuzz among the last. This kind of organization
is very convenient for the study of suffixes, whereas prefixes any large dictionary will
help the researcher to find pertinent forms.

The reverse dictionary of Muthmann (1999) is the most convenient for the
morphological research because it does not list the words in strictly orthographical
order, but groups them according to their pronunciation or morphology.

Needless to say, this kind of dictionary is extremely practical for the analysis of wordformation patterns, but has the disadvantage of containing nothing but word-forms,
hence not giving any additional information on these forms. Another disadvantage of
reverse dictionaries is their comparatively small size. Muthmann contains only 35,000
words, which compared to OED is a small data-base.

4.3 General properties of English affixation


These properties are mostly of a phonological nature, but they have serious
consequences for the properties of derived words and the combinability of affixes
with roots and other affixes. An inspection of the phonological properties of a wider
range of suffixes and prefixes reveals striking but also surprising similarities between
subsets of affixes:
a) Prexifes:
Contextualize

Decontextualize

Organize

Reorganize

Modern

Postmodern

Modify

Premodify

Argument

Counterargument

b) Suffixes
Feminine

Feminize

Mercury

Mercurate

Selective

Selectivity

Signify

Signification

Employ

Employee

If we analyze the pronunciation of the base words before and after the affixation of
the morpheme we can see the crucial difference between the prefixes and suffixes.
While the prefixes do not change anything the pronunciation or shape of the base
words, the suffixes have such an effect. They lead either to the deletion of material at
the end of the base or to a different stress pattern. Thus feminine loses two sounds
when ize attaches, and mercury loses final vowel when ate is attached.
Of course, not all suffixes inflict such phonological changes, as can be seen with
suffixes like less and ness.
Phonologically neutral suffixes: less and ness:
Propaganda

Propagandaless

Radiation

Radiationless

Manager

Managerless

Adventurous

Adventurousness

Articulate

articulateness

Openminded

Openmindness

Apart from the deletion of the base material at the end of the base, suffixes can also
cause reduction of syllables by other means. Consider the difference in behavior
between the suffixes ic and ance on one hand, and ish and ing on the other,
illustrated with the examples:
cy.lin.der

cy.lin.de.rish

cy.lin.dric

en.ter

en.te.ring

en.trance

(dots mark syllable boundaries)


The attachment of the suffixes ish and ing leads to the addition of a syllable which
consists of the base-final [r] and the suffix (.rish and .ring). The vowel of the last
syllable of the base [] is preserved when these two suffixes are added. The suffixes
ic and ance behave differently. They trigger not only the deletion of the last base
vowel but also the formation of a consonant cluster immediately preceding the suffix,
which has the effect that the derivatives have as many syllables as the base.
The term prosody is used to refer to all phonological phenomena that concern
phonological units larger than the individual sound. For example we know that the
word black has only one syllable, the word sofa two, we know that words are stressed
on certain syllables and not on others, and we know that utterances have a certain

information and rhythm. All these phenomena can be described in terms of


phonological units whose properties and behavior are to large extent rule-governed.
What concerns us here is the context of suffixation are two units called syllable and
prosodic word.
A syllable is a phonological unit that consists of one or more sounds and which,
according to many philologists has the following structure:
Strikes:
o

rime

onset

nucleus

coda

Onset is the first structural unit of the syllable and contains the syllable-initial
consonants.
Rime contains everything but the onset, and is the portion of the syllable that rhymes
(show-throw, screw-flew). The rime splits into nucleus and coda.
Nucleus is the central part of the syllable, usually consists of vowels.
Coda contains the syllable-final consonants.
The phonological word or prosodic word (symbolised as ) is a constituent in the
phonological hierarchy higher than the syllable and the foot but lower than
intonational phrase and the phonological phrase. It is largely held (Hall, 1999) to be a
prosodic domain in which phonological features within the same lexeme may spread
from one morph to another or from one clitic to a clitic host or from one clitic host to
a clitic.
Both in compounding and in certain cases of affixation it is possible to coordinate two
words by leaving out one element. This is sometimes called gapping and it is
illustrated:

a) Possible gapping in compounds: word and sentence structure, computer and


cooking courses, word-structure and -meaning, speech-production and
perception;
b) Possible gapping with prefixes: de- and recolonization, pre- and post-war, overand underdetermination;
c) Possible gapping with suffixes: curious- and openness, computer- and
internetwise, child- and homeless;
d) Impossible gapping with suffixes: *productiv(e)- and selectivity, *feder- and
local, *computer- and formalize.

4.4. Suffixes
4.4.1 Nominal suffixes
Employed to derive abstract nouns from verbs, adjectives and nouns.
-age: coverage, leakage, spillage, acreage, voltage, yardage, orphanage;
-al: arrival, overthrowal, recital, referral, renewal;
-ance (-ence/ -ancy/ -ency): absorbance, riddance, retardance.
-ant: applicant, defendant, disclaimant, attractant, etchant, pressant
-ce/ -cy: Convergence, efficiency, emergence, agency, presidency, regency, adequacy,
convergence, presidency.
-dom: Apedom, clerkdom, professordom, kingdom, cameldom
-ee: Employee, amputee, rehabilitee
-eer: Auctioneer, pamphleteer, cameleer
-er (-or): Blender, mixer, toaster, Londoner, New Yorker, sealer, fiver, fourth-grader,
conductor, oscillator, compressor
-(e)ry: Machinery, cutlery, pottery, confectionery
-ess: Lioness, tigress, waitress, clerkess
-ful: Bootful, handful, stickful
-hood: Adulthood, childhood, neighborhood
-ian/ ean: Technician, utopian, Hungarian, historian
-ing: Sleeping, building, running, wrapping
-ion: Starvation, hyphenation
-ism: Blondism, conservatism, racism, Marxism

-ist: Balloonist, careerist, fanatist


-ity: Productivity, curiosity, formality
-ment: Assessment, development, involvement
-ness: Nothingness, over-the-top-ness
-ship: Companionship, courtship, membership
4.4.2 Verbal suffixes
-ate: formulate, regulate, formate
-en: blacken, broaden, quicken, strengthen
-ify: magnify, humidify, solidify
-ize: hospitalize, mobilize,

4.4.3 Adjectival suffixes


-able/ -ible: fashionable, terrible, reasonable, flexible, reversible
-al: colonial, functional, cultural
-ary: complementary, evolutionary, fragmentary
-ed: wooded, broad-minded, fair-minded
-esque: Pinteresque, Kafkanesque
-ful: beautiful, forgetful, tactful
-ic/ -ical: magic/magical, historic/ historical, electric/ electrical
-ing: boring, changing
-ish: childish, vampirish, clearish
-ive: explosive, native, productive
-less: spotless, faceless, thankless, speechless
-ly: womanly, brotherly, easterly
-ous: curious, barbarous, famous

4.4.4 Adverbial suffixes:


-ly: shortly, hardly, dryly
-wise: likewise, food-wise

4.5 Prefixes
a(n)- asexual, asocial, ahistorical
anti- anti-war, anti-freeze, anti-capitalistic
de- decolonize, decaffeinate, deflea, deselect
dis- disassemble, disagree, disobey
in- incomprehensible, inactive, intolerable
mis- miscount, mistrial, mischief
non- non-rational, non-scientific
un- unbind, unreadable, unhappy
4.6. Infixation
Morphologists usually agree that there are no infixes in English language
However, there are some possibilities such as: kanga-bloody-roo, abso-bloominglutely;