A circumfix is an affix, a morpheme that is placed around another morpheme. Circumfixes contrast with prefixes, attached to the beginnings of words; suffixes, that are attached at the end; and infixes, inserted in the middle. See also epenthesis. Circumfixes are extremely common in Indonesian, Malay and Georgian.
The circumfix is probably most widely known from the German past participle (ge- -t for regular verbs). The verb spielen, for example, has the participle gespielt. Dutch has a similar system (spelen – gespeeld in this case).
In older English, the present participle could be formed using the circumfix a- -ing : Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,// Old time is still a-flying (Robert Herrick).
In Hebrew, magdelet "magnifier", for example, the root is gdl "big" (in the H-stem hagdel "to enlarge") and the circumfix is m- -et.
In most North African and some Levantine varieties of Arabic, verbs are negated by placing the circumfix ma... -š around the verb together with all its prefixes and suffixed direct- and indirect-object pronouns. For example, Egyptian bitgibuhum-laha ("You bring them to her") is negated as ma-bitgibuhum-lahāš ("You don't bring them to her").
In Japanese, some linguists consider o- -ni naru and o- -suru to be honorific circumfixes; for example yomu → o-yomi ni naru (respectful), o-yomi suru (humble).
In Berber languages the feminine is marked with the circumfix t…t. The word afus (hand) becomes tafust. In Kabyle, θissliθ "bride" derives from issli "groom".
Negation in Guaraní is also done with circumfixes, nd- -i and nd- -mo'ãi for future negations.
In Czech, as well as in Hungarian, superlative is formed by the circumfix (nej...ší, resp. leg...bb). In Czech nejmladší "youngest", for example, the root is mladý "young" and the circumfix is nej- -ší; in Hungarian legnagyobb "biggest", the root is nagy "big" and the circumfix is leg- -bb.
Full article ▸