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827830.  Wed Jun 29, 2011 4:28 pm Reply with quote

I think that Stanley Unwin did quite a lot of infixing to produce his wonderful manglespeak.
Can we get Unwinese transcripts to check this?

827833.  Wed Jun 29, 2011 4:38 pm Reply with quote

Are you sure? My understanding is that an infix is simply a morpheme, not necessarily a word in its own right, whereas tmesis is only a sort of infix because it always involves the insertion of a whole word.

827844.  Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:15 pm Reply with quote

Not in the least sure :-)

That's why I ended the 1st post with "Is this true?"

Here is where we sort where we sort general ignorance from ignorance :-)

827853.  Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:07 pm Reply with quote

Oh, I think I'm pretty squarely in the latter category on this one.

827863.  Wed Jun 29, 2011 9:40 pm Reply with quote

I thought of the use of "whenever" to mean "when" but that doesn't fit so forget it

827909.  Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:17 am Reply with quote

I think I just thought of a word or two with infixes:
altogether (all-to-gather)
algobrake (all-go-broken): this is archaic

I am open to correction here, but I think that the 'to' in 'I am going to eat' is not the same as the 'to' in 'I am going to MacDonalds'.

827915.  Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:38 am Reply with quote

Notwithstanding is the only example I can think of.

827920.  Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:58 am Reply with quote

Altogether I believe is 'al' modifying 'together' rather than 'to' being inserted.

827923.  Thu Jun 30, 2011 6:10 am Reply with quote

Yup. Neither altogether nor notwithstanding are examples if infixing because they are al- as a prefix to together and not- as a prefix to withstanding.

827957.  Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:59 am Reply with quote

morpheme an element of speech having meaning or grammatical function that can not be subdivided into further such elements. [Collins English Dictionary].

I think in Homer's case the "ma" in "saxamaphone" is a nonsense syllable rather than "ma" for "mother" so it does not qualify as a genuine morpheme or word (see below).

Tmesis interpolation of a word, or group of words, between the parts of a compound word [Collins English Dictionary].

In which case, even although it breaks the syllables in a most pleasing was, "abso-bloody-lutely" does not count as an example of tmesis as absolutely is not a compound word. Although if the choice of place of insertion was "absolute-bloody-ly" - between word and suffix - where it comes closest to a compound word, it might qualify. It is possible for a word to be a morpheme but the qualification here is "word" - which may be multisyllabic.

Infix to insert (an affix) or (of an affix) into the middle of a word. [Collins English Dictionary].

Note: An infix must be in the middle of a word and a timesis must split the parts of a compound word.

Compound word a word made up of two or more other words.
[Oxford companion to the English language]

However, from the same authority

Infix citing a Yurok language example says "there is no strict equivalent in English, but then goes on to cite word games such as Turkey Irish that insert nonsense syllables as a possible example (which re-instates Homer's "saxamaphone")

(but also gives the strict definition of); (2) The opening up of polysyllables to make room for expletives : abso-blooming-lutey (and my favourite so far) kanga-bloody-roo!.

Yet, the Oxford contradicts the Collins AND itself;
Tmesis The insertion of one word into another as in every-bloody-where and abso-blooming-lutely [Oxford Companion to the English Language]

Note the first example splits a compound and the second a word

My conclusion is that even the authorities disagree. :-)

In which case, lacking a strictly defined role in English, an infix or a tmesis is what-bleeding-ever you de-freking-sire it to be. :-)

828062.  Thu Jun 30, 2011 7:02 pm Reply with quote

They do seem to disagree, and every source I consult has their own take. So, what do we know? Broadly that an infix is something word-ish stuck in the middle of something else word-ish and tmesis is a kind of thing that's a bit like that. We also know that, in spite of their inability to adequately define either, experts agree there are few (or no) true infixes in English, but that tmeses abound.

So glad we cleared that up. Suze?

828276.  Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:39 pm Reply with quote

Kanga-bloody-roo mate! :-)

828324.  Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:52 pm Reply with quote


It's not the sort of thing that I'm likely to obsess about, but ordinarily I'd only use the term infix if the inserted bit was there for a grammatical reason (as in the (disputed) German past participle downgeloadet, where the -ge- marks tense). I suppose one might also use infix for bits that get inserted into the names of chemicals (propan-1-ol, that sort of thing). English does not require infixes for grammatical purposes, as has been noted.

For me at least, it's only tmesis if the inserted bit is purely emphatic and doesn't change the meaning (abso-fucking-lutely, and such like).

829763.  Fri Jul 08, 2011 4:07 am Reply with quote

I'm not sure that the German "ge" particle counts as an infix -- and incidentally, it marks the past participle, not the past tense. It often looks like an infix, but it's actually a prefix, in front of which another prefix is sometimes added.

For example, if we take the German German word for "download", that's "herunterladen", composed of the verb "laden" ("to load") with the prefix "herunter" (itself composed of two prefixes, "unter" meaning "down" and "her" indicating motion towards the speaker, that is "down towards me [onto my computer from a remote server]"). (*)

This is an example of a "separable verb", meaning that in certain constructions, the prefix is detatched from the basic verb: "I download the software" -- "Ich lade die Software herunter".

That "ge" is a prefix is easily seen if we take the word "laden" on its own to mean simply "load": "Ich habe die Sachen ins Auto geladen" -- "I have loaded the things into the car".

In the perfect aspect, the past participle is placed at the end of the sentence or clause and, if it is from a separable verb, "reunited" with its original prefix. Thus, in the sentence "I have downloaded the software" -- "Ich habe die Software heruntergeladen" -- the past participle "heruntergeladen" contains three prefixes, all piled up and jammed together. What it almost certainly is not is a single word split by an infix.

(*) Incidentally, this is what "Raus!" -- which is an abbreviation of "Heraus" -- is supposed to mean: "Come out here!" rather than "Go out there!" Most Germans, though, say "Raus!" to mean either, probably because the technically correct word for shooing people out of somewhere away from you, "hinaus", lacks a certain sense of urgency.


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