[v. in-fiks, in-fiks; n. in-fiks]

An infix is an affix inserted inside a stem (an existing word). It contrasts with adfix, a rare term for an affix attached to the outside of a stem, such as a prefix or suffix.

Infixes in English

English has very few true infixes (as opposed to tmesis, see below), and those it does have are marginal. A few are heard in colloquial speech, and a couple more are found in technical terminology.

  • The infix ‹iz› or ‹izn› is characteristic of hip-hop slang, for example hizouse for house and shiznit for shit. Infixes also occur in some language games. The ‹ma› infix, whose location in the word is described in Yu (2004), gives a word an ironic pseudo-sophistication, as in sophistimacated, saxomaphone, and edumacation.
  • Chemical nomenclature includes the infixes ‹pe›, signifying complete hydrogenation (from piperidine), and ‹et› (from ethyl), signifying the ethyl radical C2H5. Thus from the existing word picoline is derived pipecoline, and from lutidine is derived lupetidine; from phenidine and xanthoxylin are derived phenetidine and xanthoxyletin.

Infixes in other languages

While unusual in English, infixes are common in Austronesian and Austroasiatic languages. For example, in Tagalog, a grammatical form similar to the active voice is formed by adding the infix ‹um› near the beginning of a verb. Tagalog has borrowed the English word graduate as a verb; to say "I graduated" a speaker uses the derived form grumaduate.

Arabic uses a common infix, ‹ت› ‹t› for Form VIII verbs, usually a reflexive of Form I. It is placed after the first consonant of the root; an epenthetic i- prefix is also added since words cannot begin with a consonant cluster. An example is اجتهد ijtahada "he worked hard", from جهد jahada "he strove". (The words "ijtihad" and "jihad" are nouns derived from these two verbs.)

In Seri some verbs form the plural stem with infixation of ‹tóo› after the first vowel of the root; compare the singular stem ic 'plant (verb)' with the plural stem itóoc. Examples: itíc 'did s/he plant it?' and ititóoc 'did they sow it?'.

Other processes called infixation

Tmesis is sometimes considered a type of infixation. It is found in English profanity, such as fanfuckingtastic and absobloodylutely. However, it is often disqualified since the inserted element is a lexical word rather than an affix. See the article expletive infixation.

Sequences of adfixes (prefixes or suffixes) do not result in infixes: An infix must be internal to a word stem. Thus the word originally, formed by adding the suffix -ly to original, does not turn the suffix -al into an infix. There is simply a sequence of two suffixes, origin-al-ly. In order for -al- to be considered an infix, it would have to have been inserted in the non-existent word *originly. The "infixes" in the tradition of Bantu linguistics are often sequences of prefixes of this type, though there may be debate over specific cases.

The Semitic languages have a form of ablaut (changing the vowels within words, as in English sing, sang, sung, song) which is sometimes called infixation, as the vowels are placed between the consonants of the root. However, this interdigitation of a discontinuous root with a discontinuous affix is more often called transfixation.

See also interfix.

Glossing infixes

When glossing, it is conventional to set off infixes with , rather than the hyphens used to set off prefixes and suffixes:
sh‹izn›it, saxo‹ma›phone, pi‹pe›coline


Alan C. L. Yu (2004) Reduplication in English Homeric Infixation

See also

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