Morphological Processes: Derivational Affixes

As we have established in the previous section, derivational morphemes allow us to produce new words in two ways. On the one hand, derivational affixes can change the meaning of the base to which they are affixed, e.g., correct vs. in-correct or healthy vs.un-healthy. On the other hand, derivational affixes change the grammatical word-class of the base. Take, for instance, the affixation of the suffix -ly to adjectives such as nice, quick and happy in order to derive the adverbs nicely, quickly or happily.

For clarification, consider the following morphological examples below (as quoted in Bauer 1988, 75)

  • appear - dis|appear
  • bishop - bishop|ric
  • boy - boy|hood
  • green - green|ish
  • king - king|dom
  • likely - un|likely
  • lingual - tri|lingual
  • lion - lion|ess
  • Marx - Marx|ist
  • poet - poet|ry
  • song - song|ster

In these examples, there is a slight change in meaning and form. The word "lion" is transformed into its "female equivalent", the "lioness", through the affixation of "-ess". By adding the suffix "-dom"' to "king", we produce a word that no longer describes the person but the area in which the king reigns. Also, the prefixes "dis-" and "un-"'' negate the base to which they are attached. However, the words remain within the same grammatical word category, i.e. a noun remains a noun, an adjective remains an adjective.

Additionally, it is important to mention that the derivational affixes do not necessarily carry a regular meaning. This makes them different from inflectional affixes, as is explained in the previous section. To examine this, one can look at the suffix "-dom". When we add this suffix to the base "bore", the word "boredom" is created. "Boredom" describes the state of being bored. However, when we add "-dom" to the base "king", we receive the noun"kindom". This does not resemble the state of being a king but rather the area in which the king reigns. Obviously, there is a variety of derivational affixes which show a quite regular meaning. These affixes tend to be the most productive ones.