A circumfix (abbreviated CIRC) (or ambifix) is an affix which has two parts, one placed at the start of a word, and the other at the end. Circumfixes contrast with prefixes, attached to the beginnings of words; suffixes, attached at the end; and infixes, inserted in the middle. 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). In Dutch, the circumfix ge⟩...⟨te can be used to form certain collective nouns (berg (mountain) → gebergte (mountain range)).
East Asian languages
Malay has eight circumfixes:
For example, the circumfix ke⟩...⟨an can be added to the root adil "fair/just" to form keadilan "fairness/justice".
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 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".)
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- Colarusso, John (2005), "Georgian and Caucasian languages", in Strazny, Philipp, Encyclopedia of Linguistics, New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, pp. 380–383
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- Alexis Amid Neme and Eric Laporte (2013), Pattern-and-root inflectional morphology: the Arabic broken plural |year=
- Alexis Amid Neme and Eric Laporte (2015), Do computer scientists deeply understand Arabic morphology? - هل يفهم المهندسون الحاسوبيّون علم الصرف فهماً عميقاً؟, available also in Arabic, Indonesian, French