Wikipedia mentions 4 subgroups of affixes:

  • prefix, the affix is in front of the word

  • suffix, the affix is behind the word

  • infix, the affix is within the word
  • circumfix, the afix is separated into two parts, before and after the word

Now, in Arabic, the derivation of words is based on roots and patterns, to form a real word one has to combine the root and pattern, so that they are interlocked.

Similar to this, in Chinese one can combine, for instance, 起来 and 请客 by interlocking them into: 请起客来.

How is this kind of affixation called ?

  • 2
    Normally linguists call this a "Semitic lexical system", since it's common in the Afro-Asiatic family (which includes the Semitic subfamily, which contains prominent examples of Semitic lexical systems). It's a sort of evolved root system; many synthetic and polysynthetic languages have simple roots (Lushootseed words normally have CVC roots, though the words are normally much longer, from inflections and derivations). In Semitic systems, the root has been abstracted to consonants, and the inflections involve the vowels, plus affixes.
    – jlawler
    Nov 25, 2014 at 18:40
  • @jlawler. If affix means prefix + suffix + infix I do not see the point of counting the vowels as separate inflectional elements. Why can't we call the vowels in (for example) Arabic kutub "infixes"?
    – fdb
    Nov 25, 2014 at 20:06
  • 2
    Feel free to do so. But note that it's a compound infix: -u-u-, as is -i-a-
    – jlawler
    Nov 25, 2014 at 20:22
  • Or two infixes.
    – fdb
    Nov 25, 2014 at 20:27
  • 1
    This is known as template morphology Nov 26, 2014 at 2:50

3 Answers 3


Semitic root-and-pattern morphology can be called transfixation or templatic morphology, but in the morphological literature you're perhaps more likely to find the terms non-concatenative morphology or discontinuous morphology, which would include transfixation as well as other processes such as reduplication and morphologically conditioned segmental (e.g., ablaut) or non-segmental (e.g., tonal) changes.

Some prominent theoretical analyses of non-concatenative morphological processes include Prosodic Morphology (McCarthy & Prince 1995) and A-Morphous Morphology (Anderson 1992); Anderson goes so far as to question the theoretical status of the morpheme on the basis of patterns of this type.


These affixes are called transfixes.

  • 1
    I am not convinced that "transfix" is a useful concept. By the way, in the glorious Wikipedia article to which you have linked every one of the Arabic examples is wrong.
    – fdb
    Nov 25, 2014 at 17:04
  • What makes you question that "transfix" is a useful concept?
    – meireikei
    Nov 25, 2014 at 17:12
  • 1
    @fdb In what way are the Arabic examples wrong? Are they wrongly translated? If so, you can easily edit the respective examples. Or do you mean that the boldface vowels aren't transfixes? And in what way could the term "transfix" be not useful? It's just a name for a certain class of phenomena. Nov 25, 2014 at 20:23
  • They are misspelt and wrongly translated. For example it is not daraba “to beat” but ḍaraba (with emphatic ḍ) “he beat”. I am not exaggerating: every single example is wrong.
    – fdb
    Nov 25, 2014 at 20:29
  • 1
    your first sentence here was "I am not convinced that "transfix" is a useful concept" <-- that is what i am referring to.
    – meireikei
    Nov 25, 2014 at 21:08

You might want not to call this an affix. This is Templatic Morphology as opposed to Affixal Morphology as suggested by Jason Zentz above.

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