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An affix is a morph that always occurs attached to another morph and forms a phonological unit with that morph. Affixes are most often phonologically reduced, i.e. short. They often have a semantically bleached meaning (vague, abstract, grammatical), especially compared to roots. The element to which an affix attaches to is called the base or root.

Affixes are distinct from compounds in that the entities that form a compound can occur independently on their own and that they do not form a productive pattern. Affixes have a predictable function and can typically attach to a large number of words whereas compounds tend to be more restricted.

Whether or not reduplication is a case of affixation is not entirely clear. Theoretically, one can define reduplication as affixation where the attached affix (be it in-, pre, circum- or post-) is so formally weak that it harmonises with the root.

  • "In general, affixes are subsidiary to roots, while roots are the centers of such constructions as words. Roots are frequently longer than affixes, and generally much more numerous in the vocabulary." (Gleason 1955:59)
  • “Obligatorily bound morphs which do not realise lexemes and which are attached to roots to produce word-forms are called affixes.” (Bauer 1988:11)



Formed from Latin ad ‘to’ and fixus ‘fixed’. The term affix is attested in English since the 17th century. Before that, morphology was generally described in terms of paradigms rather than in terms of constituent elements such as affixes and roots.

See also

Affixes (survey article)


  • Bauer, Laurie. 1988. Introducing linguistic morphology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Bauer, Laurie. 2003. Introducing linguistic morphology (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-343-4
  • Gleason, H. Allan. 1955. An introduction to descriptive linguistics. New York: Henry Holt and Company.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics

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