Grammar: affixes

Let’s take a journey into the world of Japanese grammar. Before you groan too loudly, what I intend to with this series of articles differs from what you may be accustomed to if your exposure to Japanese grammar is limited to the “Japanese for Idjits” ilk of books. I plan to talk about how the Japanese talk about Japanese grammar… in Japanese.

In the spirit of my usual stream-of-consciousness rambling, I’m going to start arbitrarily with prefixes and suffixes.

接頭辞 [せっとうじ] – prefix
接 [セツ・つぐ] – touch; contact
頭 [トウ・あたま] – head
辞 [ジ・やめる] – word; term

Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? A prefix is a “word” (morpheme*, more precisely) that “contacts the head” (of another word). Now that you know this word, its counterpart should be relatively easy!

接尾辞 [せつびじ] – suffix
接 [セツ・つぐ] – touch; contact
尾 [ビ・お] – tail
辞 [ジ・やめる] – word; term

You’ve probably noticed that the only difference between the two words is the character in the middle: 頭 (head) vs. 尾 (tail).

Keep your 頭 in the game, but watch your 尾! (Sorry… couldn’t resist.)

*形態素 [けいたいそ] – a morpheme is any of the minimal grammatical units of a language, each constituting a word or meaningful part of a word, that cannot be divided into smaller independent grammatical parts. For instance, the verb “walked” comprises 2 morphemes: walk and -ed.

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