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As written in Kremer, 1997 and Štekauer, 1995 words like ‘cat-like’ or ‘congressman’ etc. have what they call suffixoids or semiaffixes. IMO, it’s kind of a dull idea, because they look like straightforward words consisting with two stems joined by the null interfix, am I right?

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  • It does come up in some areas. Many print dictionaries don't try to include most words made from affixes such as -like because they're just too productive. I think I read about this in the front matter of the OED or Shorter OED, but it may have been another dictionary. When this first came up on the English Wiktionary years ago the consensus was to include all of them though - I don't know if this policy is still adhered to now. Also I don't recall coming across the term suffixoid before - interesting. I also haven't heard of the "null interfix". Nov 23, 2013 at 14:05
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    @hurufu Could you perhaps add a definition of suffixoid and null interfix? That would increase the likelihood of getting useful answers.
    – robert
    Nov 24, 2013 at 18:15
  • I have not coming across those terms neither, until I've found a wikipedia [article][1]. My first thought was that those terms (suffixoid and semiaffix) are superfluous. Those are just compound words, am I right? Or they are in some way different and I don’t get it? [1]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affix
    – hurufu
    Feb 24, 2014 at 22:57
  • “Null interfix” I guess was my neologism :P it’s just оnly unpronounceable interfix. For example in English ‘speed-o-meter’ and ‘cat-like’. There is an interfix ‘-o-’ in first word and nothing in second, but it’s clearly visible that those are fairly similar constructs, so I do not see why are they called different (intefix and suffixoid) In Russian, for example ‘cat-like’ ‘котоподобный’ /ˌkotopoˈdɔbnɨj/ do have pronounceable interfix. There are much more examples in different languages but I cannot recall them right now.
    – hurufu
    Feb 24, 2014 at 22:57
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    The null interfix is something you posit if you think of roots as needing something to stick them together. Sorta like mesons or gluons in particle physics.
    – jlawler
    Dec 26, 2016 at 19:16

2 Answers 2

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Note that there is always a grey zone between suffixes and compound words. Arguably, all suffixes were independent words historically, but lost their independent meaning (in German verblassen "to bleach out"). So we have at any time some things that are still recognisable as words, but half-way on becoming a true suffix. This things are called suffixoids.

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Suffixoids and prefixoids are words typically referring to some middle stage of grammaticalisation, i.e. when we do not consider the element a stand-alone word but it is not comparable yet to regular derivational morphemes.

This seems like a pretty apt analysis of both -like and -man in the examples above.

For -like, this is something that has actually already happened in Germanic languages in the past and it is the source of the adverbial suffix -ly/-lich/-lik etc. You can argue that -like serves as a derivational suffix because you can convert it further, e.g. to abstract noun (catlikeness - I supposed this would not work as a derivation from a compound word... cat+likeness).

For -man, you can actually even see that this form has been reduced phonetically - it lost accent and the mid-vowel changed to schwa. This is arguably being deconstructed lately by gender-conscious language as many people replace this element by -woman or -person.

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