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Hi Everyone,

I have a very simple question, which I thought could be answered with a quick Google search. However, this is NOT the case.

Does anyone know 'exactly' how many prefixes there are in the English language, and how many suffixes?


Thanks,

CC Emotion: smile

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Cup cakeDoes anyone know 'exactly' how many prefixes there are in the English language, and how many suffixes?
Cup cakeDoes anyone know 'exactly' how many prefixes there are in the English language, and how many suffixes?

First we should make a distinction between inflectional and derivational affixes (bound morphemes).

We have just eight inlfectionals in English and they are all suffixes. By 'inflectional', it means they assume a grammatical function and represent relationships between different parts of a sentence:

1. -s

2. -ed

3. -ing

4. -en

5. -s

6. -'s

7. -er

8. -est

On the other hand, we have derivational affixes which include both prefixes and suffixes, and they always precede their inflectional counterparts. They are called 'derivational' because they assume a lexical function and when they are added to a root/stem, a new word is derived. The suffixes in this category far outnumber the prefixes.

There are 140 prefixes in English:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_prefix

And there are 976 suffixes based on the following wiki list:

https://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=Category:English_words_by_suffix

However, I wouldn't say such lists are definitely accurate or complete as they are not based on a comprehensive linguistic research.

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Cup cakeDoes anyone know 'exactly' how many prefixes there are in the English language, and how many suffixes?

There are probably different ways of counting them, so in all likelihood, the answer is no. Nobody knows.

CJ

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Comments  

Thanks, CJ.

I have one more question on the topic.

If we take a word like regulate, does this word really have a suffix?

There is no such word as regul/regule/reguly etc. Regulate is a word on its own merit. So why is 'ate' considered to be a suffix here? (according to research on the net)

My understanding is that a prefix and a suffix is added to create a new word. Thus, devalue has a prefix because value is a word. Similarly, payable has a suffix because pay is a word.

Cheers,
CC Emotion: smile

Cup cakeIf we take a word like regulate, does this word really have a suffix?

You've got to the crux of the matter. There is no agreement on this. It depends on what teaching method you're using.

As for me, I consider 'ate' a suffix, even though the Latin root 'regula' is not an English word.

My reasoning goes like this: It would be strange not to include 'ate' as a suffix when 'activate' comes from the English word 'active'. What sense does it make to reject 'ate' as a suffix in 'regulate' and then accept it as a suffix in 'activate'? Either 'ate' is a suffix or it's not. In my opinion you create a mess if you say that the same ending on a word can be a suffix or not a suffix depending on exactly which word it is. That way you have to say that 'ate' is a suffix and'ate' is not a suffix. Emotion: surprise In short, you can never claim that anything is either a prefix or a suffix unless you specifyin which word.

Cup cakeMy understanding is that a prefix and a suffix is added to create a new word. Thus, devalue has a prefix because value is a word. Similarly, payable has a suffix because pay is a word.

As you see from my answer above, I think that prefixes and suffixes are added to roots, including foreign language roots we've inherited over the centuries, and not added to words. If they are added only to words, then 'able' is a suffix in 'payable', but not in 'probable'. And what are you going to do with 'portable' (can be carried)? 'port' is a word, but most of the definitions of 'port' have nothing to do with carrying, and mostly to do with ships and harbors. How do you get 'can be carried' from 'able to be made into a harbor'?

What a can of worms!

CJ

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

You've raised a very good point. I never thought of this way.

I think this is a very challenging topic to teach. I was told today by a colleague that she has had some Japanese students in the past who had amazing 'formulae' to work out prefixes and suffixes. How on earth can you apply a formula? I don't agree with some of the definitions on the net to try and explain some of the prefixes either. Too many words are homophones. Speaking of which...

... [port] mostly to do with ships and harbors...

port is also an alcoholic drink, but of course, you'd know that.


Thanks, CJ. Brilliant...as usual. Emotion: rose Emotion: smile

Cup cake

port is also an alcoholic drink, but of course, you'd know that.

Yes. Sometimes, when I see some nice juicy grapes, I think, "Those might be portable". Don't you?

Emotion: big smile

CJ

Emotion: big smile Emotion: big smile

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 Persian Learner's reply was promoted to an answer.
Cup cakeIf we take a word like regulate, does this word really have a suffix?

Yes it does, but first we should make a distinction between bound and free roots. Bound roots cannot occur in isolation and they acquire meaning only in combination with other morphemes.

For example, words of Latin origin such as receive, perceive, and deceive share a common root: '-ceive', and the words 'remit', 'permit', 'commit', 'submit', 'transmit' and 'admit' share the root '-mit'. Although we, users of the English language, make no connection with such Latinate bound roots (unless they occur in a specific word), the original Latin speakers recognized them as meaningful words, though not exactly in the transformed anglicized forms 'ceive' or 'mit'.

By the same token, the verb 'regulate' has the Latinate root 'regula', meaning 'rule'. But in English we have made many derived words with this bound root through affixation: deregulate, regulation, regulate, etc.


Free roots, on the other hand, can stand alone as single words.

Let's examine the word 'unsystematically' and break it into its morphological building blocks:

Starting with the suffixes, first we must remove the 'ly' and we have the stem 'unsystematical'.

Then the suffix morpheme 'al' is dropped: 'unsystematic', still a stem.

Next the prefix 'un-' must be removed (morphemes work in a hierarchical order), before dropping the last suffix (-atic) to come up with the root 'system'.

Therefore, 'system' is a free root as it can stand alone as an independent word.

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