Make a comparison between Derivational affixes and Inflectional affixes?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Affixes are lexical additions to the root of a word. The purpose is to either change the meaning or class of a word (derivational) or to modify a word to indicate its grammatical components and function (inflectional).

Let us explore this further:

The word "derivational" relates to something having been placed under a category, group, or classification. Hence, the affix is called derivational because the job of this particular lexical addition is to change the word class of the original root by making a completely different word.

Derivational and inflectional affixes are added to nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Examples of derivational affixes include:

For nouns: -ion, -ance, -ment, -ness

Example: kind- relates to categorizing (a kind of...)

while kindness- is a completely different word that means "a good nature". Notice how the derivational affix changed the word "kind", an adjective, into kindness, which is a noun.

Derivational affixes that create verbs are often en-, be-, de-, em-, and -ify...also, -ize, -en and -ate.

Ex: soft (noun) turns into soften (verb) with the affix -en.

Now, on to the inflectional affixes.

The word "inflectional" relates to expanding or changing the function of a word. Hence, the affix in this case is called inflectional because its task is to expand its grammatical function within the word.

[the] eight inflectional affixes ... depend on the function of a word in a sentence. (Mark Canada, University of North Carolina at Pembrooke)

Hence, inflectional affixes are the morphemes of the word that indicate whether the word is:

  • singular or plural (for nouns)
  • past, present, or progressive (for verbs)
  • superlatives (for adjectives and adverbs)

For example:

  • big-bigger-biggest (-er, -est are inflectional affixes)
  • calls, called, calling (-s, -ed, -ing, are inflectional affixes)
  • fox, foxes, fox's and foxes' are inflectional because they differentiate between singular/plural and possessives.

English has only eight inflectional affixes--that is, affixes that depend on the function of a word in a sentence.  For example, the inflectional affix s on the end of pot makes the word plural.  The remaining affixes in English are derivational affixes, which change the form or meaning of words. (Mark Canada)