Classification of affixes.

Suffixes have been classified according to their origin, parts of speech they served to form, their frequency, productivity and other characteristics.

Within the parts of speech suffixes have been classified semantically according to lexico-grammatical groups and semantic fields, and last but not least, according to the types of stems they are added to.

In conformity with our primarily synchronic approach it seems con­venient to begin with the classification according to the part of speech. They will be listed together with words illustrating their possible semantic force.

Noun-forming suffixes:

-age(bondage, breakage, mileage, vicarage); -ance/-ence(assistance, reference); -ant/-ent(disinfectant, student); -dom(kingdom, freedom, officialdom); -ee(employee); -eer(profiteer); -er (writer, type-writer);-ess (actress, lioness); -hood(manhood); -ing (building, meaning, wash­ing); -ion/-sion/-tion/-ation(rebellion, tension, creation, explanation);-ism/-icism(heroism, criticism);-ist (novelist, communist); -ment(govern­ment, nourishment); -ness(tenderness); -ship(friendship); -(i)ty(so­nority).

Adjective-forming suffixes:

-able/-ible/-uble(unbearable, audible, soluble); -al(formal); -ic(poet­ic); -ical(ethical); -ant/-ent(repentant, dependent); -ary(revolutionary);-ate/-ete(accurate, complete); -ed/-d(wooded); -ful(delightful); -an/-ian(African, Australian); -ish (Irish, reddish, childish); -ive (active); -less(useless); -like(lifelike); -ly (manly); -ous/-ious(tremendous, curious);-some(tiresome); -y (cloudy, dressy).

Numeral-forming suffixes:

-fold(twofold); -teen(fourteen); -th(seventh); -ty (sixty).

Verb-forming suffixes:

-ate (facilitate); -er(glimmer); -en (shorten); -fy/-ify (terrify, speechify, solidify); -ize (equalize); -ish (establish).

Adverb-forming suffixes:

-ly (coldly); -ward/-wards(upward, northwards); -wise(likewise).

If we change our approach and become interested in the lexico-gram­matical meaning the suffixes serve to signalize, we obtain within each part of speech more detailed lexico-grammatical classes or subclasses.

Taking up nouns we can subdivide them into proper and common nouns. Among common nouns we shall distinguish personal names, names Of other animate beings, collective nouns, falling into several minor groups, material nouns, abstract nouns and names of things.

Abstract nouns are signalled by the following suffixes: -age, -ance/-ence, -ancy/-ency, -dom, -hood, -ing, -ion/-tion/-ation, -ism, -ment, -ness, -ship, -th, -ty.

Personal nouns that are emotionally neutral occur with the following suffixes: -an(grammarian), -ant/-ent(servant, student), -arian(vege­tarian), -ee (examinee), -er (porter), -ician(musician), -ist (linguist), -ite (sybarite), -or(inspector), and a few others.

Feminine suffixes may be classed as a subgroup of personal noun suffixes. These are few and not frequent: -ess (actress), -ine (heroine),-rix (testatrix), -ette(cosmonette).

Alongside with adding some lexico-grammatical meaning to the stem, certain suffixes charge it with emotional force. They may be derogatory: -ard(drunkard); -ling (underling); -ster(gangster); -ton (simpleton). These seem to be more numerous in English than the suffixes of endear­ment.

Emotionally coloured diminutive suffixes rendering also endearment differ from the derogatory suffixes in that they are used to name not only persons but things as well. This point may be illustrated by the suffix -y/-ie/-ey (auntie, cabbie (cabman), daddie), but also: hanky (handkerchief), nightie (night-gown). Other suffixes that express small-ness are -kin/-kins(mannikin); -let (booklet); -ock (hillock); -ette(kit­chenette).

The connotation of some diminutive suffixes is not one of endearment but of some outlandish elegance and novelty, particularly in the case of the borrowed suffix -ette(kitchenette, laun­derette, lecturette, maisonette, etc.).

Derivational morphemes affixed before the stem are called prefixes. Prefixes modify the lexical meaning of the stem, but in so doing they seldom affect its basic lexico-grammatical component. Therefore both the simple word and its prefixed derivative mostly belong to the same part of speech. The prefix mis-, for instance, when added to verbs conveys the meaning 'wrongly', 'badly', 'unfavourably'; it does not suggest any other part of speech but the verb. Compare the following oppositions: behave : : misbehave, calculate : : miscalculate, inform : : misinform, lead : : mislead, pronounce : : mispronounce. The above oppo­sitions are strictly proportional semantically, i.e. the same re­lationship between elements holds throughout the series. There may be other cases where the semantic relationship is slightly different but the general lexico-grammatical meaning remains, c f. giving : : mis­giving 'foreboding' or 'suspicion'; take : : mistake and trust : : mistrust.

The semantic effect of a prefix may be termed adverbial because it modifies the idea suggested by the stem for manner, time, place, degree and so on. It has been already shown that the prefix mis- is equivalent to the adverbs wrongly and badly, there­fore by expressing evaluation it modifies the corresponding verbs for manner. The prefixes pre- and post- refer to time and order, e. g. historic :: pre-historic, pay :: prepay, view :: preview. The last word means 'to view a film or a play before it is submitted to the general public'. Compare also: graduate :: postgraduate (about the course of study carried on after graduation), Impressionism :: Post-impressionism. The latter is so called because it came after Impressionism as a reaction against it. The prefixes in-, a-, ab-, super-, sub-, trans- modify the stem for place, e. g. income, abduct 'to carry away', subway, transatlantic. Several prefixes serve to modify the meaning of the stem for degree and size. The examples are out-, over- and under-.

The group of negative prefixes is so numerous that some scholars even find it convenient to classify prefixes into negative and non-neg­ative ones. The negative ones are: de-, dis-, in-/im-/il-/ir-, non-, un-

The prefix de- occurs in many neologisms, such as decentralize, de­contaminate 'remove contamination from the area or the clothes', de­nazify, etc.

The general idea of negation is expressed by dis-; it may mean 'not', and be simply negative or 'the reverse of, 'asunder', 'away', 'apart' and then it is called reversative. C f. agree : : disagree 'not to agree' appear : : disappear (disappear is the reverse of appear), appoint : : dis­appoint 'to undo the appointment and thus frustrate the expectation', disgorge 'eject as from the throat', dishouse 'throw out, evict'. Non- is often used in abstract verbal nouns such as non­interference, nonsense or non-resistance, and participles or former parti­ciples like non-commissioned (about an officer in the army below the rank of a commissioned officer), non-combatant (about any one who is connect­ed with the army but is there for some purpose other than fighting, as, for instance, an army surgeon.)

Non- used to be restricted to simple unemphatic negation. Begin­ning with the sixties non- indicates not so much the opposite of something but rather that something is not real or worthy of the name. E. g. non-book — is a book published to be purchased rather than to be read, non-thing — something insignificant and meaningless.

The most frequent by far is the prefix un-; it may convey two different meanings:

1) Simple negation, when attached to adjective stems or to partici­ples: happy : : unhappy, kind : : unkind, even : : uneven. It is immaterial whether the stem is native or borrowed, as the suffix un- readily com­bines with both groups. For instance, uncommon, unimportant, etc. are hybrids.

2) The meaning is reversative when un- is used with verbal stems. In that case it shows action contrary to that of the simple word: bind : : unbind, do : : undo, mask : : unmask, pack : : unpack.

A very frequent prefix with a great combining power is re- denoting repetition of the action expressed by the stem. It may be prefixed to almost any verb or verbal noun: rearrange v, recast v 'put into new shape', reinstate v 'to place again in a former position', refitment n 'repairs and renewal', remarriage n, etc. There are, it must be remembered, some con­straints. Thus, while reassembled or revisited are usual, rereceived or reseen do not occur at all.

The meaning of a prefix is not so completely fused with the meaning of the primary stem as is the case with suffixes, but retains a certain de­gree of semantic independence.

Among the above examples verbs predominate. This is accounted for by the fact that prefixation in English is chiefly characteristic of verbs and words with deverbal stems.

The majority of prefixes affect only the lexical meaning of words but there are three important cases where prefixes serve to form words belonging to different parts of speech as compared with the original word.

These are in the first place the verb-forming prefixes be- and en-, which combine functional meaning with a certain variety of lexical meanings. Be- forms transitive verbs with adjective, verb and noun stems and changes intransitive verbs into transitive ones. Examples are: be­little v 'to make little', benumb v 'to make numb', befriend v 'to treat like a friend', becloud v (bedew v, befoam v) 'to cover with clouds (with dew or with foam)', bemadam v 'to call madam', besiege v 'to lay siege on'. Sometimes the lexical meanings are very different; compare, for instance, bejewel v 'to deck with jewels' and behead v which has the meaning of 'to cut the head from'. There are on the whole about six semantic verb-forming varieties and one that makes adjectives from noun stems following the pattern be- + noun stem+ -ed, as in benight­ed, bespectacled, etc. The pattern is often connected with a contemptu­ous emotional colouring.

The prefix en-/em- is now used to form verbs from noun stems with the meaning 'put (the object) into, or on, something, as in embed, en­gulf, encamp, and also to form verbs with adjective and noun stems with the meaning 'to bring into such condition or state', as in enable v, en­slave v, encash v. Sometimes the prefix en-lem- has an intensifying func­tion, c f. enclasp.

The prefix a- is the characteristic feature of the words belonging to statives: aboard, afraid, asleep, awake, etc.

As a prefix forming the words of the category of state a- represents: (1) OE preposition on, as abed, aboard, afoot; (2) OE preposition of, from, as in anew; (3) OE prefixes ge- and y- as in aware.

This prefix has several homonymous morphemes which modify only the lexical meaning of the stem, c f. arise v, amoral a.

The prefixes pre-, post-, non-, anti-, and some other Romanic and Greek prefixes very productive in present-day English serve to form adjectives retaining at the same time a very clear-cut lexical meaning, e. g. anti-war, pre-war, post-war, non-party, etc.

From the point of view of etymology affixes are subdivided into two main classes: the native affixes and the borrowed affixes. By native affixes we shall mean those that existed in English in the Old Eng­lish period or were formed from Old English words. The borrowed affixes needs some explanation. The changes a morpheme undergoes in the course of language history may be of very different kinds. A bound form, for instance, may be developed from a free one. This is precisely the case with such English suffixes as -dom, -hood, -lock, -ful, -less, -like, -ship, e. g. ModE -dom < OE dom 'fate', 'power', c f. ModE doom. The suffix

-hood that we see in childhood, boyhood is derived from OE had 'state'. The OE lac was also a suffix denoting state. The process may be sum­marized as follows: first lac formed the second element of compound words, then it became a suffix and lastly was so fused with the stem as to become a dead suffix in wedlock. The nouns freedom, wisdom, etc. were originally compound words.

The most important native suffixes are: -d, -dom, -ed, -en, -fold,-ful, -hood, -ing, -ish, -less, -let, -like, -lock, -ly, -ness, -oc, -red, -ship,-some, -teen, -th, -ward, -wise, -y.

The suffixes of foreign origin are classified according to their source into Latin (-able/-ible, -ant/-ent), French (-age, -ance/-ence, -ancy/-ency,-ard, -ate, -sy), Greek (-ist, -ism, -ite), etc.

The term borrowed affixes is not very exact as affixes are never borrowed as such, but only as parts of loan words. To enter the morphological system of the English language a borrowed affix has to satisfy certain conditions. The borrowing of the affixes is possible only if the number of words containing this affix is considerable, if its meaning and function are definite and clear enough, and also if its structural pattern corresponds to the structural patterns already existing in the language.

If these conditions are fulfilled, the foreign affix may even become productive and combine with native stems or borrowed stems within the system of English vocabulary like-able < Lat -abilis in such words as laughable or unforgettable and unforgivable. The English words bal­ustrade, brigade, cascade are borrowed from French.

It should be noted that many of the borrowed affixes are interna­tional and occur not only in English but in several other European lan­guages as well.


The combining form allo- from Greek allos 'other' is used in lin­guistic terminology to denote elements of a group whose members to­gether constitute a structural unit of the language (allophones, allo-morphs). Thus, for example, -ion/-sion/-tion/-ation are the posi­tional variants of the same suffix. To show this they are here taken to­gether and separated by the sign /. They do not differ in meaning or function but show a slight difference in sound form depending on the final phoneme of the preceding stem. They are considered as variants of one and the same morpheme and called its allomorphs. De­scriptive linguistics deals with the regularities in the distributional re­lations among the features and elements of speech, i.e. their occurrence relatively to each other within utterances. The approach to the problem is consequently based on the principles of distributional analysis.

An allomorph is defined as a positional variant of a morpheme occurring in a specific environment and so characterized by complemen­tary distribution. Complementary distribution is said to take place when two linguistic variants cannot appear in the same environment. Thus, stems ending in consonants take as a rule -ation (liberation); stems ending in pt, however, take -tion (corruption) and the final t becomes fused with the suffix.

Different morphemes are characterized by contrastive dis­tribution, i.e. if they occur in the same environment they signal different meanings. The suffixes -able and -ed, for instance, are different morphemes, not allomorphs, because adjectives in -able mean 'capable of being': measurable 'capable of being measured', whereas -ed as a suf­fix of adjectives has a resultant force: measured 'marked by due propor­tion', as the measured beauty of classical Greek art; hence also 'rhyth­mical' and 'regular in movement', as in the measured form of verse, the measured tread.

In some cases the difference is not very clear-cut: -ic and -ical, for example, are two different affixes, the first a simple one, the second a group affix; they are said to be characterized by contrastive distribution. But many adjectives have both the -ic and -ical form, often without a distinction in meaning. COD points out that the suffix -ical shows a vaguer connection with what is indicated by the stem: a comic paper but a comical story. However, the distinction between them is not very sharp.

Allomorphs will also occur among prefixes. Their form then depends on the initials of the stem with which they will assimilate. A prefix such as im- occurs before bilabials (impossible), its allomorph ir- before r (ir­regular), il- before l (illegal). It is in- before all other consonants and vowels (indirect, inability).

Two or more sound forms of a stem existing under conditions of com­plementary distribution may also be regarded as allomorphs, as, for in­stance, in long a : : length n, excite v : : excitation n.

In American descriptive linguistics allomorphs are treated on a pure­ly semantic basis, so that not only [iz] in dishes, [z] in dreams and [s] in books, which are allomorphs in the sense given above, but also for­mally unrelated [n] in oxen, the vowel modification in tooth :: teeth and zero suffix in many sheep, are considered to be allomorphs of the same morpheme on the strength of the sameness of their grammatical meaning. This surely needs some serious re-thinking, as within that kind of approach morphemes cease to be linguistic units combining the two fundamental aspects of form and meaning and become pure abstractions. The very term morpheme (from the Greek morphe 'form') turns into a misnomer, because all connection with form is lost.

Allomorphs therefore are as we have shown, phonetically conditioned positional variants of the same derivational or functional morpheme (suffix, root or prefix) identical in meaning and function and differing in sound only insomuch, as their complementary distribution produces various phonetic assimilation effects.

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