In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Affixation

  • Introduction
  • Handbooks
  • Glossaries
  • Reference Resources
  • Dictionaries, Databases, and Corpora
  • Special Resources on Individual Languages
  • Journals and Special Issues
  • Typology and Universals
  • Types of Affixes
  • Productivity
  • Computational Modeling

Linguistics Affixation
Stela Manova
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 March 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0183


Affixation is a morphological process whereby a bound morpheme, an affix, is attached to a morphological base. Diachronically, the English word affix was first used as a verb and has its origin in Latin: affixus, past participle of the verb affigere, ad- ‘to’ + figere ‘to fix’. Affixation falls in the scope of Morphology where bound morphemes are either roots or affixes. Prefixes (affixes that precede the root) and suffixes (affixes that follow the root) are the most common types of affixes cross-linguistically. Affixes mark derivational (-er in teach-er) and inflectional (-s in teacher-s) changes, and affixation is the most common strategy that human languages employ for derivation of new words and word forms. However, languages vary in the ways they express the same semantics, and if in English the noun biolog-ist is derived from biology through the addition of the suffix -ist, in Russian (and other Slavic languages) the same derivation does not involve the addition of an affix but subtraction of form: biolog-ija ‘biology’ → biolog ‘biologist’. Most languages make an extensive use of affixes (most European, African, Australian, and Amerindian languages are of this type), whereas others (e.g., Vietnamese), hardly do. In languages that use affixes, there is a general preference for suffixes over prefixes.

General Overviews

Affixation is a major morphological device, and a book-length study that provides an overview of affixation is, as a rule, not titled affixation but morphology; that is, all morphology textbooks are actually general overviews of the topic of affixation. Of the older sources, Nida 1949 introduces a very accessible morpheme analysis and defines most of the affix types known in present-day morphological theory. The more recent sources are allotted into three groups: Textbooks for Beginners, Intermediate-Level Textbooks, and Advanced-Level Textbooks.

  • Nida, E. 1949. Morphology: The descriptive analysis of words. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

    This book can be seen as a predecessor of all modern morphology textbooks. It is written within the framework of American structuralist linguistics to which issues related to identification of affixes appear central.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.