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In morphology, circumfix is the combination of a prefix and a suffix that attach to a base simultaneously to express a single meaning or category.


Dutch collective nouns may be formed by adding the circumfix ge-...-te to underived nouns as in the examples:

   berg	        'mountain'	ge+berg+te	'mountains'	(*geberg, *bergte)
   vogel	'bird'		gevogelte	'poultry'	(*gevogel, *vogelte)
   raam	        'frame'		geraamte	'skeleton'	(*geraam, *raamte)


Another term for circumfix is discontinuous affix. This type of affixation is referred to as parasynthesis.

The existence of circumfixes is controversial. Many linguists argue that all cases of alleged circumfixation can be reduced to suffixation and concomitant prefixation (e.g. Scalise 1984, Schultink 1987). One objection to circumfixes is that they violate the Binary Branching Constraint.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Scalise, S. 1984. Generative Morphology. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Schultink, H. 1987. Discontinuity and multiple branching in morphology. In Crespo, Dotson-Smith & Schultink (eds.) Aspects of language. Studies in honour of Mario Alinei (vol.II), 481-491. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  • Spencer, A. 1991. Morphological Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.