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Consider the Twi word osuani (learner/disciple) for a moment. The word can be broken down into three parts. The main part of the word is sua (learn, verb). Before and after this main part, we have o and ni respectively. In grammatical terms, we refer to the main part as the root. The other two parts of the word are our focus for today’s lesson.
What is an affix?
An affix is a word element that can be attached to a root to create a new word. As shown with the example osuani, an affix can be attached to the beginning of the root, or at the end. When an affix occurs at the beginning of a word’s root, we call it a prefix, known in Twi as nsianimu. On the other hand, if an affix occurs after the root, it is known as the suffix, known in Twi as nsiakyire.
An affix, be it a prefix (nsianimu) or suffix (nsiakyire), may be derivational or inflectional. Let’s clarify below.
When a derivational affix is attached to a word’s root, it forms a completely new word – with a new grammatical category – out of it. Take the word osuani again. The root is sua (learn, verb). So, you can see the root is a verb. After we attach the affixes o and ni, it becomes osuani (learner/disciple), which is no more a verb but a noun. In effect, the affixes have been used to form a new word that is of a different word class than the original.
On the other hand, there are some affixes that do not change the grammatical categories of the root words that they are attached to. These affixes only modify words to indicate certain grammatical components and functions. Let’s take a word like su (cry, verb), for instance. This verb is in the present tense. If we want to use it in its past tense form, we only have to attach the suffix iɛ to it to get suiɛ (cried). As you can tell, the new word suiɛ is still a verb. All that has changed with the addition of the suffix is the fact that suiɛ shows that the action of crying happened in the past. It is an affix like iɛ that we call an inflectional affix.
Examples of affixed Twi words
Nkraman (dogs); osukuuni (student); ɔkyerɛkyerɛni (teacher); praeɛ (broom); ɛmo (rice); agyata (lions); atenaeɛ (sitting place); kɔwensani (drunkard); afuo (farm); ɔdɔ (love); ɔdanseni (a witness); okunafoɔ (widow); obubuafoɔ (a cripple).
You have been introduced to a key grammatical element affix in this lesson. We could go on to look at the two types of affixes aforementioned, but, I think it would be appropriate if we pause here and have time to go over the lesson. Let’s ensure that we fully understand what we have here. Once we are clear about this introduction, we can then go on to check the Twi prefixes and suffixes there are in the next two lessons. No need to rush.