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Examples of multiple affixation in English


In linguistics, the process of adding a morpheme (or affix) to a word to create either (a) a different form of that word (e.g., birdbirds), or (b) a new word with a different meaning (birdbirder).

The two primary kinds of affixation are prefixation (the addition of a prefix) and suffixation (the addition of a suffix). Clusters of affixes can be used to form complex words.

See also:


Examples and Observations:

  • The Iliad is an exploration of the heroic ideal in all its self-contradictoriness.

  • Macduff: What three things does drink especially provoke?
    Porter: Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.
    (William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act Two, scene 3)

  • Productivity
    "If an affix is productive, i.e. capable of forming new words, it can sometimes generate an enormous number of new word forms. The process may be open-ended; this is particularly clearly illustrated by affixes which can attach to names to form new lexical items, like -ism in Thatcherism, Stalinism, etc. New derivational formations may be formed at almost any time within the context of a particular utterance."
    (Philip Durkin, The Oxford Guide to Etymology. Oxford University Press, 2009)

    "You might be thinking that affixation of cran- to roots is a productive rule because you are familiar with the word cranapple or crangrape, advertising names for drinks that contain cranberry juice. Note, however, that this is the only place we see cran- attached to another morpheme, and one way to analyze this use of cran- is not as an affix attached to apple, nor even as a bound root, but rather as a blend. Blends are words that are combinations of two or more reduced words; a classic example is smoke + fog = smog. Cranapple can therefore be analyzed as blend of cranberry + apple rather than as evidence that cran- affixation is productive, allowing cran- to be attached to roots other than berry."
    (Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Wadsworth, 2010)

  • Maintaining and Changing Word-Classes With Affixation
    "Prefixation and suffixation are types of affixation (or derivation) that differ most obviously in positioning but also in another important respect. Typically, prefixation is class-maintaining in that it retains the word class of the base. Retention when a prefix is added is illustrated by the noun pair choice/pro-choice, the adjective pair green/ungreen, and the verb pair select/deselect. Suffixation tends to be class-changing. Change when a suffix is added is illustrated by the shift from the adjective fat to the noun fattism, the verb lug to the adjective luggable, and the verb highlight to the noun highlighter. There are exceptions in both directions. Prefixation brings about a shift from the adjective sure to the verb ensure, from the noun mask to the verb unmask, and from the noun friend to the verb befriend. Suffixation has no effect on the word class of the noun pairs martyr/martyrdom, author/authorships, and host/hostess, or the adjective pairs kind/kindly and economic/economical, though there is a shift in subclass from concrete noun to abstract noun in the first two noun pairs."
    (Sidney Greenbaum, Oxford English Grammar. Oxford University Press, 1996)

  • Multiple Affixation
    "Words may have multiple affixes either with different suffixes . . . or with the same prefix recurring as below in [3.22].
    [3.22] a. the latest re-re-re-make of Beau Geste.
    [3.22] b. the great-great-great-great grandson of the last Tsar of Russia.
    What [3.22] shows is that, with a limited number of morphemes, morphological prefixation rules can apply recursively in English . . .. However, performance difficulties in working out what exactly great-great-great-great grandson or re-re-re-make means do severely restrict the chances of such words being used. But the point is that the grammar cannot exclude them as ill-formed. Recursive rules are one of the devices that make morphology open-ended. . . .

    "Reattaching the same morpheme again and again is permitted, but unusual. What is common is multiple affixation of different affixes. . . .
    Observe that where several prefixes or suffixes occur in a word, their place in the sequence is normally rigidly fixed."
    (Francis Katamba, Morphology. St. Martin's Press, 1993)


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