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In English, we have prefixes, like "pre-"; suffixes, like "-ize"; and arguably, expletives that function as infixes (one classic example is "abso-fucking-lutely").

In Japanese, we also have prefixes, like 超~, 大~; and suffixes, like ~っぽい, ~化{か}. Does Japanese have any infixes, though? I'm interested both in any modern, productive infixes that may exist that I'm not aware of, as well as any historically-productive infixes that are now fossilized.

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  • I wasn't quite sure how to tag this, so please retag as necessary.
    – senshin
    Aug 20, 2013 at 14:24
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    This question is missing the opportunity to use one of the best words ever: tmesis!
    – user1478
    Aug 20, 2013 at 21:22

5 Answers 5

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To the best of my knowledge there are none. Infixes are really pretty rare crosslinguistically, so it's not that surprising. English's expletive ones are pretty unusual even by English's standards, and as far as I know they're not particularly productive (I can't think of too many words you're actually allowed to use them with).

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  • What about inserting っ or ん (like in よっぽど and あんまり)?
    – execjosh
    Aug 20, 2013 at 23:34
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    I think that would be better described as a sound change.
    – ithisa
    Aug 21, 2013 at 18:06
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    ...that's actually an interesting case. It could potentially be an infix. It could also just be that there's a particular shape associated with certain kinds of adverbs (like こっそり, which doesn't alternate with *こそり), and よっぽど and あんまり (and probably also やっぱり) have been added to the category of adjectives that's supposed to have that shape.
    – Sjiveru
    Aug 21, 2013 at 23:04
  • @Sjiveru, there actually is a word こそり, albeit archaic -- see Kotobank's page. From what I've seen in my own research of this Japanese word-formation pattern, things start from a base morpheme (often onomatopoeia, sometimes a verb root). Then you get 1) reduplication, 2) suffixation with ん, 3) suffixation with り, 4) り + gemination of the root, 5) suffixation with と, 6) gemination of the と. I had a thread about this a bit ago on the Talk page for どくん at Wiktionary. Oct 14, 2021 at 19:10
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From Natsuko Tsujimura's An Introduction to Japanese Linguistics, page 148:

Infixes are bound morphemes that are inserted in the middle of a word rather than being placed before or after it. Japanese does not have any examples of infixes. (emphasis added)

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The only one I can think of, if it can be called an infix, is [兼]{けん} as in:

[書斎兼応接間]{しょさいけんおうせつま} - a room used for both study and for receiving vistors

or

[総理大臣兼外務大臣]{そうりだいじんけんがいむだいじん} - (be both) Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

But as it has been pointed out, prefixes and suffixes are much more common in Japanese.

One might ask whether の and つ count in phrases that have become one word, such as [おの-づ-から]{自ずから}, [あき-つ-かた]{秋津方}, [あき-つ-しま]{秋津島}, [つち-の-え]{戊}.

Other than infixes (inside one morpheme), there are also interfixes (placed between morphemes), and this describes 兼, の and つ much better.

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    As you say, your examples are interfixes rather than infixes.
    – Zhen Lin
    Aug 20, 2013 at 18:21
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What about っ (the "little tsu") and ん?

For example:

  • やはり → やっぱり・やっぱし
  • よほど → よっぽど
  • あまり → あんまり・あんまし
  • みな → みんな

These seem, to me at least, to be similar to English colloquialisms (e.g., hizouse, saxomaphone).

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Not sure if it's quite the same thing linguistically, but you sometimes see なんか used with negative forms of adjectives or in て form + negative.

欲しくない → 欲しくなんかない

待ってないんだから → 待ってなんかないんだから!

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  • Hmm... This is an interesting specimen :)
    – execjosh
    Aug 24, 2013 at 7:53
  • By one analysis, 欲しくない is 欲しく (adverb) + ない (adjective), already two discrete words. As further evidence for this point of view, you can also say 欲しくありません. This two-word analysis is one explanation for why it's valid to insert particles between the -く form and ない, such as 高くはない or 行きたくもない. For the -てない form, I don't think I've ever heard anyone explain this as anything but two words, so anything between the -て and the ない, by definition, wouldn't be an infix. May 16, 2014 at 18:01

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