A disfix is a subtractive morpheme, that is, a morpheme which manifests itself through elision (the removal of segments from a root or stem). Thus it can be seen as a kind of "anti-affix". An example comes from Murle, an Eastern Sudanic language of southern Sudan:

/oɳiːt/ "rib" ↔ /oɳiː/ "ribs".


In French

From a more familiar language, some French plurals are derived from the singular, and many masculines from the feminine, by dropping the final consonant and making some generally predictable changes to the vowel:

Singular Plural trans.
bœf cattle
œf ø eɡɡs
ɔs o bones
Feminine Masculine trans.
blɑ̃ʃ blɑ̃ white
fʀɛʃ fʀɛ fresh
ɡʀos ɡʀo large
fos fo wrong
fʀɑ̃sɛz fʀɑ̃sɛ French
ɑ̃ɡlɛz ɑ̃ɡlɛ English
fʀwad fʀwa cold
ɡʀɑ̃d ɡʀɑ̃ big
pətit pəti small
fʀit fʀi fried
bɔn bɔ̃ ɡood

The singular–plural forms are irregular in French, but nouns and adjectives ending in certain consonants in the feminine regularly drop that consonant in the masculine (apart from environments of liaison).[1]

Disfixation is uncommon, but is important in the Muskogean languages of the southeastern United States.

Disfixes in Muskogean

In Muskogean, disfixes are used to derive pluractionality (repeated action, plural subjects or objects, or greater duration of a verb). In Alabama, there are two principal forms of this morpheme:

  • In most verbs, the last two segments are dropped from the penultimate syllable of the stem, which is the final syllable of the root. If the syllable has only two segments, it is elided altogether. For example:
balaaka "lies down", balka "lie down"
batatli "hits", batli "hits repeatedly"
cokkalika "enters", cokkaka "enter"
  • In some verbs, the final consonant of the penult is dropped, but the preceding vowel lengthens to compensate:
salatli "slide", salaali "slide repeatedly"
noktiłifka "choke", noktiłiika "choke repeatedly"

Unlike the case in French, Muskogean disfixation is productive.


  1. ^ This process is not productive in French, and therefore arguably not true disfixation; speakers of the language may learn them as suppletive pairs of words rather than deriving one from the other. (Booij, Lehmann, & Mugdan, Morphology, Walter de Gruyter, 2000, p 582)

See also


  • George Aaron Broadwell. "Subtractive Morphology in Southern Muskogean," International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 59, No. 4, Muskogean Languages of the Southeast (Oct., 1993), pp. 416-429
  • Heather Hardy and Timothy Montler, 1988. "Alabama H-infix and Disfixation," in William Shipley, ed., In Honor of Mary Haas: From the Haas Festival Conference on Native American Linguistics. Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3110111659

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