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 common in Malay and Georgian.
〉Angle brackets〈 are used to mark off circumfixes.
The circumfix is probably most widely known from the German past participle, which is ge〉 〈t for regular verbs. The verb spielen, for example, has the participle gespielt. Dutch has a similar system (spelen → gespeeld in this case).
East Asian languages
Malay has eight circumfixes, namely
- per〉 〈kan,
- per〉 〈i,
- ber〉 〈an,
- ke〉 〈an,
- pen〉 〈an,
- per〉 〈an,
- se〉 〈nya,
- ke〉 〈i.
For example, a circumfix can be added to the root adil "fair" to form keadilan "fairness".
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-lahā〈š "you don't bring them to her".
In Berber languages the feminine is marked with the circumfix t〉 〈t. The word afus "hand" becomes t〉afus〈t. In Kabyle, θ〉issli〈θ "bride" derives from issli "groom". From bni, to build, with t〉 〈t we obtain tbnit "thou buildest".
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 some Slavic languages, and in Hungarian, the superlative of adjectives is formed with a circumfix. For example, in Czech, the circumfix nej〉 〈ší is used – mladý "young" becomes nejmladší "youngest". The corresponding circumfix in Hungarian is leg〉 〈bb, as in legnagyobb "biggest", from nagy "big". (In both cases, the comparative form is produced using the suffix without the prefix: mladší "younger"; nagyobb "bigger".)
In Gurmanchema, noun classes are indicated by circumfix.
- Tadmor, Uri (2005), "Malay-Indonesian and Malayic languages", in Strazny, Philipp, Encyclopedia of Linguistics, New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, pp. 644–647
- Colarusso, John (2005), "Georgian and Caucasian languages", in Strazny, Philipp, Encyclopedia of Linguistics, New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, pp. 380–383
- Boeckx, Cedric; Niinuma, Fumikazu (2004), "Conditions on Agreement in Japanese", Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 22 (3): 453–480, doi:10.1023/B:NALA.0000027669.59667.c5
- Baryadi, I. Praptomo (2011). Morfologi dalam Ilmu Bahasa (in Indonesian). Yogyakarta: Sanata Dharma University Publishers. pp. 42–43.