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The process of affixation consists in coining a new word by adding an affix or several affixes to some root morpheme. The role of the affix in this procedure is very important and therefore it is necessary to consider certain facts about the main types of affixes.

1 Stem is part of the word consisting of root and affix. In English words stern and root often coincide.


From the etymological point of view affixes are classified into the same two large groups as words: native and borrowed.

Some Native Suffixes1














Noun-forming -er worker, miner, teacher, painter, etc.
-ness coldness, loneliness, loveliness, etc.
-ing feeling, meaning, singing, reading, etc.
-dom freedom, wisdom, kingdom, etc.
-hood childhood, manhood, motherhood, etc.
-ship friendship, companionship, master-ship, etc.
-th length, breadth, health, truth, etc.
Adjective-forming -ful careful, joyful, wonderful, sinful, skilful, etc.
-less careless, sleepless, cloudless, sense-less, etc.
-y cozy, tidy, merry, snowy, showy, etc.
-ish English, Spanish, reddish, childish, etc.
-ly lonely, lovely, ugly, likely, lordly, etc.
-en wooden, woollen, silken, golden, etc.
-some handsome, quarrelsome, tiresome, etc.
Verb-forming -en widen, redden, darken, sadden, etc.
Adverb-forming -ly warmly, hardly, simply, carefully, coldly, etc.

1 The table gives examples of especially frequent native affixes.

Borrowed affixes, especially of Romance origin are numerous in the English vocabulary (Ch. 3). It would be wrong, though, to suppose that affixes are borrowed in the same way and for the same reasons as words. An affix of foreign origin can be regarded as borrowed only after it has begun an independent and active life in the recipient language, that is, is taking part in the word-making processes of that language. This can only occur when the total of words with this affix is so great in the recipient language as to affect the native speakers' subconscious to the extent that they no longer realise its foreign flavour and accept it as their own.

* * *

Affixes can also be classified into productive and non-productive types. By productive affixes we mean the ones, which take part in deriving new words in this particular period of language development. The best way to identify productive affixes is to look for them among neologisms and so-called nonce-words, i. e. words coined and used only for this particular occasion. The latter are usually formed on the level of living speech and reflect the most productive and progressive patterns in word-building. When a literary critic writes about a certain book that it is an unputdownable thriller, we will seek in vain this strange and impressive adjective in dictionaries, for it is a nonce-word coined on the current pattern of Modern English and is evidence of the high productivity of the adjective-forming borrowed suffix -able and the native prefix un-.

Consider, for example, the following:

Professor Pringle was a thinnish, baldish, dispeptic-lookingish cove with an eye like a haddock.

(From Right-Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse) 81

The adjectives thinnish and baldish bring to mind dozens of other adjectives made with the same suffix: oldish, youngish, mannish, girlish, fattish, longish, yellowish, etc. But dispeptic-lookingish is the author's creation aimed at a humorous effect, and, at the same time, proving beyond doubt that the suffix -ish is a live and active one.

The same is well illustrated by the following popular statement: "/ don't like Sunday evenings: I feel so Mondayish". (Mondayish is certainly a nonce-word.)

One should not confuse the productivity of affixes with their frequency of occurrence. There are quite a number of high-frequency affixes which, nevertheless, are no longer used in word-derivation (e. g. the adjective-forming native suffixes -ful, -ly; the adjective-forming suffixes of Latin origin -ant, -ent, -al which are quite frequent).

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