LINGUIST List 4.907

Wed 03 Nov 1993

Disc: Infixes

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Geoffrey Russom, Re: 4.901 Infixes
  2. Laurie Bauer, Infixes
  3. , Re: 4.901 Infixes
  4. "david joseph kathman", Re: 4.901 Infixes
  5. , Infixation

Message 1: Re: 4.901 Infixes

Date: Sun, 31 Oct 93 09:51:37 ESRe: 4.901 Infixes
From: Geoffrey Russom <>
Subject: Re: 4.901 Infixes

The form un-effing-believable might simply reflect assignment of word status
to "un" in a particular dialect. It would be analogous to "too effing
right" and oust the form with pre-stress expletive infixation (unbe-effing-
lieveable), which occurs freely in simplexes OR at constituent boundaries
but doesn't like to appear within a subconstituent of a composite form
with a strong internal boundary elsewhere. It's sort of like poetic enjambment:
you can end the line at any sort of syntactic boundary when there's no
STRONGER syntactic break in the next line down, but you don't end the line
say between an adjective and an associated noun that ends a sentence within
the following line -- not if you're Mr. Pope, anyway.

I wonder whether anyone has observed a feature of expletive
infixation as it appears in my dialect: the quite perceptible
tensing of a normally unstressed vowel immediately preceding the infixed
item. Thus I get "absolutely" as [aebslutli], where  = schwa, but
[aebso-EffING-lutli], with tense [o]. This may have something to do with
the fact that I don't reduce word-final underlying /o/ in my dialect.
Sorry if this has been mentioned -- I've missed some postings on the
infix thread.

 -- Rick Russom
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Message 2: Infixes

Date: Mon, 1 Nov 1993 11:57:19 +Infixes
From: Laurie Bauer <>
Subject: Infixes

I have textual examples of both unbe-fucking-lievable and
un-fucking-believable, and I also have IN-fucking-communicado (caps in
original) and Macmillan (see below) lists in-goddamn-consistent. If only
unbelievable were at stake, we could make the presumption that the schwa in
the first syllable had been elided. That explanation doesn't work in the
other examples. So we appear to have at least two strategies for the
infixation. There is other evidence of more than one dialect of this
infixation. If infixation is an appropriate term, of course. Affixes are
not typically word-forms, and I would agree with Macmillan that the
parallels between infixation and interposing in damn bloody rude and half
past fucking four are very close. I append a brief bibliography of works
which have not (yet) been referred to. Macmillan's article is a must for
anyone interested in this area.
Brief bibliography on expletive infixation in English.
Aronoff, Mark. 1976. Word Formation in Generative Grammar. Cambridge,
Mass: MIT Press. Pp. 69-70.
Bauer, Laurie 1983. English Word-formation. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. Pp. 89-91.
Bauer, Laurie 1988. Introducing Linguistic Morphology. Edinburgh:
Edinburgh University Press. P. 127.
Bauer, Laurie 1993. Un-bloody-likely words. In L. Bauer & C. Franzen
(eds), Of Pavlova, Poetry and Paradigms. Essays in Honour of Harry Orsman.
 Wellington: Victoria University Press.
Bopp, Tina 1971. On fucking (well). A study of some quasi-performative
expressions. In A.M. Zwicky et al (eds), Studies Out of Left Field:
defamatory essays presented to James D. McCawley. Edmonton: Linguistic
Macmillan, James B. 1980. Infixing and interposing in English, American
Speech 55, 163-83.
Siegel, Dorothy 1979. Topics in English Morphology. New York and London:
Garland. Pp. 179-81.
Department of Linguistics, Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington, New
Ph: +64 4 472 1000 x 8800 Fax: +64 4 471 2070
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Message 3: Re: 4.901 Infixes

Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1993 11:05:26 Re: 4.901 Infixes
From: <>
Subject: Re: 4.901 Infixes

On the subject of where in a word an infix such as "fuckin" or "bloody" should
go, I've been silently speaking the words. I've realized that (at least for
me) the initial sylable is lengthened, i.e.- un:believable, fan:tastic, etc.
The infix goes into this 'space' in the pronunciation. The other issue seems
to be natural breaks in the words, i.e.- un+believable, kanga+roo, etc.
 -Pat Crowe, SUNY at Buffalo
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Message 4: Re: 4.901 Infixes

Date: Mon, 1 Nov 93 15:05:41 CSTRe: 4.901 Infixes
From: "david joseph kathman" <>
Subject: Re: 4.901 Infixes

Just for the record: two of the three people I asked today immediately
said they prefer "unbe-fucking-lievable" over "un-fucking-believable",
so it is said. All of us (myself included) agree that "un-fucking-believable"
is also possible, but we would be more likely to say "unbe-fucking-lievable".
Might I suggest that there are two different rules here, one saying the
infix goes before the stress and the other saying that it goes after the
first syllable? These will give the same results in many cases (e.g
fan-fucking-tastic), but will diverge in this instance. Also, I wonder
if there is any geographical or age distribution to this split.

Dave Kathman
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Message 5: Infixation

Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1993 15:23 -05Infixation
From: <mike.maxwellSIL.ORG>
Subject: Infixation

 John Koontz writes:
>I believe that the matter goes even further in Caddoan languages, where
>there are many stems with a discontinuous X__Y form (not sure what goes in
>the middle) in which X and Y are not morphemes on any semantic basis, but
>only due to this separability.

There are words in English which have similar properties--in this case,
they are not separable by other affixes, but the Y morpheme (which you
might want to call the stem) shows the same irregular allomorphs across
words. The prefixes are also common across the set of words, and
finally they all share a common stress pattern. I refer to words like
permit, commit, remit (which all have nominals in -mission); perceive,
conceive, receive, deceive (which all have nominals in -ception);
refer, prefer, defer, confer (which all have nominals in -ference);
etc. The nominals aren't always transparantly related semantically to
the verbs, but they are presumably related. This was noted in SPE (and
undoubtedly long before that). Aronoff talked about the fact that
morphemes don't always have a constant meaning, making explicit
reference to these words, if I recall correctly.
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