I asked this question on Italian exchange, but I was told that this is more of a question about English terminology.

So here it is.

I am currently writing a short summary of certain morphological characteristics of Italian for my Thesis.

Now, Italian has certain morphemes that are put between root and other markers.

For instance, the future is made by root+fut+person.number:

am-er-emo “love-fut-2.PL” = we will love.

Now, is “-er-“ an infix, an interfix or just a suffix?

That is, how do I “parse” the word am-er-emo “love-fut-2.PL”?

“root-suffix-suffix”, “root-infix-suffix” or “root-interfix-suffix”?



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    Don't forget: 1.PL for "we". – Luke Sawczak Apr 27 '18 at 12:06

The general rule that I learned is: if it comes before the root, it's a prefix; if it comes after the root, it's a suffix; if it comes inside the root itself, it's an infix; if it comes both before and after, it's a circumfix.

Thus, your am-er-emo would be root-suffix-suffix, even though one comes closer to the verb than the other.

On the other hand, this isn't universally consistent. In Swahili, for example, tenses are indicated by a verb prefix, and any prefixes that come between the tense and the root are instead called "infixes". (A-na-ye-penda 3SG-PRES-REL-love "the one who loves" is analyzed as prefix-prefix-INFIX-root.)

In general, more and more linguists seem to be turning to the generic "affix" for all four cases.

EDIT: As requested, a bit of explanation for infixes. The best example I know of is from Proto-Indo-European and several of its descendants. In PIE, an -n- could be infixed before the last consonant of a verb stem to indicate the present tense. Latin, for example, has the verb root vic- "to conquer", as in veni vidi vici. In the present tense, however, it appears as vinc-, as in invincible. Similarly, the root scid- "cut" appears as scind- in the present. (There's actually one and only one instance of this nasal infix remaining in native English verbs: present-tense stand versus past-tense stood.)

EDIT: I forgot interfixes! Interfixes are entirely separate, they're not morphemes at all (in the sense of "meaning-bearing units"). Interfixes are sequences of phonemes that are inserted between two morphemes without having any meaning themselves. English doesn't really have these at all, but in German you see this with the /s/ added between elements of compound words.

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    In Latin and its daughter languages, there can be and often are several inflectional suffixes in a row. This certainly includes the future tense marker, which precedes the person/number markers. – jlawler Apr 27 '18 at 18:58
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    Agree with everything except "In general, more and more linguists seem to be turning to the generic "affix" for all four cases" – Alex B. Apr 27 '18 at 20:58
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    That Swahili example seems like just a misuse of the terminology, unless with longer roots it actually is inserted inside. As Wikipedia says, "In learner materials, all types of prefixes other than the subject prefixes are frequently, erroneously referred to as infixes." – curiousdannii Apr 27 '18 at 22:13
  • Mind adding an explanation of interfixes to this to make it a complete answer? :) – curiousdannii Apr 27 '18 at 22:16
  • @curiousdannii Good thought! Added – Draconis Apr 27 '18 at 22:51

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