Ithkuil: A Philosophical Design for a Hypothetical Language

5a Verb Morphology
9 Syntax
5b Verb Morphology (continued)
10 Lexico-Semantics
1 Phonology
6 More Verb Morphology
11 The Script
  2 Morpho-Phonology  7a Using Affixes 12 The Number System
   3 Basic Morphology 7b Using Affixes (continued) The Lexicon
  4 Case Morphology   8 Adjuncts Revised Ithkuil: Ilaksh


Chapter 7: Using Affixes

7.1 Distinction in Suffixes by Affix-Type 7.5 Morpho-Phonological Rules for Suffixation
7.2 Suffixes Modifying Other Suffixes 7.6 Rules for Optional Prefixation
7.3 The Five Affix Classes 7.7 List of Affixes
7.4 Personal Reference Suffixes Sec. 7.7 Continued

All Ithkuil formatives are capable of taking various consonant-based affixes. Like affixes in other languages, these are used to modify the stem in a variety of ways and to derive new concepts. In Ithkuil, such affixes usually appear as suffixes (i.e., are added sequentially following the stem), however, it is possible for Ithkuil affixes to optionally appear as prefixes (i.e., added on to the front of a stem) under certain circumstances. It is for this reason these morphological elements are referred to as affixes and not more specifically as prefixes or suffixes. Nevertheless, the rules for prefixation of Ithkuil affixes are subordinate and secondary to the rules for suffixation. Therefore, in the following discussion I will first describe the rules for using Ithkuil affixes as suffixes, followed by a section on the options for prefixation.

The morpho-phonological structure of suffixes (how they are formed from consonants and vowels) has already been briefly discussed in Section 2.7. This chapter will describe the actual function of the particular affixes themselves.

There are 153 different consonantal suffix categories, each of which divides into the nine degrees previously discussed in Section 2.7.2 giving a total of 1377 distinct suffixes. As described in that section, each degree of a suffix has a distinct meaning, often representing a point along a continuum in terms of how much or how little the underlying semantic sense of the affix category is being manifested by the particular formative.

It is important to remember that, since all morpho-semantic stems are both nominal and verbal in meaning, all suffixes to a stem have both a nominal and a verbal meaning. Therefore, the choice whether to translate the suffixes below into their nominal or verbal meaning is entirely dependent on the morpho-syntactical structure of the word within the context of its use in a phrase or sentence as a whole.

We have seen in Section 2.7 that consonantal suffixes fall into three affix-types, each having nine degrees. It is the combination of affix-type and degree which determines the vowel infix which accompanies each consonantal suffix. For example, the suffix -nt of Type 1 takes the following forms for its nine degrees: -int, -ent, -änt, -önt, (a)nt, -ünt, -ïnt, -ont, -unt. Compare this to the same affix -nt of Type 2, whose nine forms are: -înt, -ênt, -ânt, -ønt, -uint, -ÿnt, -ënt, -ônt, -ûnt; and the suffix -nt of Type 3, whose nine forms are: -ient, -iënt, -iunt, -iont, -iänt, -uänt, -uont, -uënt, -uent. These vowel infixes for suffixes are shown in Table 21 below (this table already appeared in Chapter 2 as Table 9; it is repeated here for convenience).

Table 21: Vocalic Infixes for Consonantal Suffixes by Affix Type

Affix Type 1: -V1C
Affix Type 2: -V2C
Affix Type 3: -V3C
standard form
optional reversed form
standard form
optional reversed form
standard form
optional reversed form
Degree 1
Degree 2
-êC / -eiC
Degree 3
-äC / -aeC
-âC /-aiC
Degree 4
-øC / -euC
Degree 5
Degree 6
-üC / -ëuC
-ÿC / -auC
Degree 7
-ïC / -ëiC
Degree 8
-ôC / -oiC / -ouC
Degree 9

NOTE: For convenience’ sake, when referring to a particular affix of specific type and degree, we will use the notation in the paragraph above, followed by a slash and a number indicating the degree. Thus, the affix -nt of Type 1 and 4th degree will be written -V1nt/4, while the affix -r of Type 3 and 8th degree would be written -V3r/8, and so forth.



The meaning and usage of each affix by type is particular to each individual affix. For example, some affixes of Type 1 have a completely different meaning than their Type 2 or Type 3 counterparts, while other affixes can be used as both Type 1 or Type 2 with the affix having the same meaning but conveying a different effect on the overall connotation of the word to which they are affixed. Still other affixes retain their meaning across all three affix types but again convey a different overall connotation on the words to which they are affixed.

For example, the Type 1 suffix -ej (or -jei), i.e., -V1j/2, means ‘hardly any (of)…’ as in the word qumjéi ‘hardly any persons,’ while its Type 2 counterpart -êj (or -jeu), i.e., -V2j/2, has the completely different meaning of ‘somewhat like/sort of like…’ as in qumjéu ‘sort of like some persons.’ Compare this, however, to the Type 1 suffix -up (or -pu), i.e., -V1p/9, and its Type 2 counterpart -ûp (or -), i.e., -V2p/9, which both mean ‘exactly similar to…/identical…,’ the difference in usage being that the Type 1 affix conveys merely a circumstantial or incidental similarity, while the Type 2 suffix implies that the similarity is an integral aspect of the word. In English, such a distinction would most likely be conveyed by using a different word. For example, note the difference when we add these two suffixes to the Ithkuil word qum ‘person’: qumpu means ‘identical-looking person,’ whereas qumpû means ‘twin.’ In this way, we can say that the suffix -Vp with Type 1 vocalic infixes conveys a circumstantial application of its meaning to a stem, while with Type 2 vocalic infixes, it conveys a derivational application of its meaning (i.e., wholly new concepts or words are derived from the stem).



In addition to the patterns of suffix usage described above, there is another class of suffixes which not only can be used to distinguish a circumstantial versus derivational aspect like -Vp above, but can also be used to modify an adjacent suffix rather than the stem. This is somewhat analogous to the way that adverbs can be used to modify descriptive adjectives in English. For example, in the phrase suddenly blue sky, it is the blueness that is sudden, not the sky. In Ithkuil, certain suffixes can be used to modify another suffix (usually the one following, unless there are only two affixes on the stem, in which case the suffix order is irrelevant); this is done by using Type 3 vocalic infixes. For example, the suffix -Vd/5, which means ‘enough / sufficient(ly),’ can be used both circumstantially (using Type 1 infixes) and derivationally (using Type 2 infixes) to modify a stem, or can be used to modify only the adjacent suffix (using Type 3 infixes). This is illustrated below:

qumad (or qumda): ‘a sufficient person’ (i.e., one able to perform the task at hand)
qumuid (or qumdui): ‘a recruit’ (i.e., one able to meet performance or entry requirements)
qumüxduï (or qumiädüx): ‘a sufficiently large person’ (where suffix -V1x/6 = ‘large’)



All in all, there are five different patterns in which the meanings/functions of affixes are distributed. There are those like -ej and -êj above where the Type 1 meaning/function is completely different than that of Type 2. We will label these classes of affixes V1C affixes and V2C affixes respectively, as they represent two totally independent affixes.

Additionally there are those like -up and -ûp which are essentially a single affix with one meaning/function that alternates between Type 1 and Type 2 infixes to distinguish a circumstantial versus a derivational aspect in the stem to which they are affixed. We will label such affixes V0C suffixes.

Then there are suffixes like -(a)d/-uid/-iad shown above which alternate the circumstantial/derivational distinction using Type 1 versus Type 2 infixes, but then go a step further by using Type 3 vocalic infixes to indicate modification of an adjacent suffix; we will label these V3C suffixes.

Lastly there is a class of suffixes labeled VSC suffixes; this class of suffix operates like a V1C suffix (i.e., an independent affix which modifies the stem circumstantially, but not derivationally) but then also uses Type 2 infixes to apply the same meaning to the adjacent affix, similarly to the use of Type 3 infixes for V3C suffixes.

These five classes of affixes are summarized below:

Takes Type 1 vocalic infixes only. Can be either circumstantial or derivational in meaning (but not both), depending on the particular affix.
Takes Type 2 vocalic infixes only. Can be either circumstantial or derivational in meaning (but not both), depending on the particular affix.
Takes both Type 1 and Type 2 vocalic infixes. Use of Type 1 infix means affix applies circumstantially to the particular instance of the stem; use of Type 2 infix means the affix is derivational and generates an emergent concept for the stem constituting a new semantic whole.
Takes both Type 1 and Type 2 vocalic infixes, but use is circumstantial only, not derivational. Use of Type 1 infix means affix aplies the stem; use of Type 2 infix means the affix applies to the adjacent affix only.
Same as V0C affixes where Type 1 infix operates circumstantially and Type 2 infix operates derivationally; but also takes Type 3 vocalic infixes which function to modify an adjacent affix (as with VSC suffixes when using Type 2 infixes)



There is one additional class of suffixes which must await analysis until the next chapter on adjuncts. In Sec. 8.1 we will encounter a type of adjunct known as a personal reference adjunct which roughly corresponds to the function of personal pronouns in Western languages. These adjuncts come in two types: single-referent and dual-referent. We will see that the 46 single-referent adjuncts have corresponding suffix forms which utilize Type 3 vocalic infix patterns, and that the nine degrees associated with each suffix correspond to nine specific nominal cases (specifically the seven Associative cases described in Sec. 4.4 and two of the Appositive cases described in Sec. 4.5). These suffixes will be discussed in detail in Sec. 8.1.5.



When adding suffixes to a stem, several factors affect how suffixation takes place. For example, when adding the 5th degree suffix -(a)s to the stem ruk, one cannot simply append the suffix directly as in ruks because the resulting final consonant combination of -ks would be misinterpreted as the Grade 4 mutation of the C2 radical s (i.e., the reader would misinterpret the word to be based on the stem rus instead of ruk). In this case, there are two options. The suffix can take its optional vowel component, giving rukas, or the suffix can be reversed to give ruksa. Such reversals are permitted under certain circumstances such as when the suffix is word-final, as is the case here. An astute reader may be wondering at this point, wouldn’t the -ks- conjunct in ruksa once again be mistaken for the Grade 4 mutation of s as it was in ruks? In this case, the answer is no because there is no other reason for the final -a to be there. In words where a final vowel appears for no possible reason, then it means it is the vocalic portion of a “reversed” suffix. However, one must be certain there is not another reason for the final vowel. For example, in the word ïruksá, one might be tempted to interpret the final vowel as being the vocalic portion of a reversed -(a)s suffix, however, in fact this word represents the word rus with Grade 4 mutation of the C2 radical s, declined into the ABSTRACT perspective, a morphological category shown by ultimate stress plus the addition of an anaptyctic (i.e., “extra”) vowel, in this case, the word-initial ï- (see Secs. and 3.3.4).

7.5.1 Multiple Affixation

When adding two or more suffixes to a stem, the suffixes generally can be added to the stem in any order desired, with the exception of suffixes which modify an adjacent suffix (i.e., VSC suffixes utilizing Type 2 vocalic infixes and V3C suffixes utilizing Type 3 vocalic infixes). Such suffixes must immediately precede the suffix they are modifying, unless they are in word-final position, in which case they modify the immediately preceding suffix.

7.5.2 Reversal of Suffixes

As mentioned above, the form of a suffix can be optionally reversed from vowel+consonant to consonant+vowel under certain circumstances. The main reason for reversing suffixes is for euphonic purposes to preserve a CVC format for the stressed syllable whenever possible (see Sec. 1.4.5). We have seen in the example ruksa above, that such reversals are possible when a suffix is in word-final position if it will not cause confusion regarding interpretation of any resulting consonantal conjunct. The same is true of suffix reversals within a word as well, i.e., the reversal is permissible as long as the reversal does not cause ambiguity in interpreting which vowels go with which consonant, or that a resulting consonant conjunct is misinterpreted as a biconsonantal suffix form or C2 radical. For example, the stem peix plus the two suffixes -(a)r (-V1r/5) and -uic (-V2c/5) can be realized either as peixruic, peixarcui, peixuicra, peixcuira, peixracui or peixuicar . However, the stem stis plus the two suffixes -(a)k and -(a)t (-V1k/5 and -V1t/5) can only be realized as stisatka, stisatak or stisakat, since the forms stiskat, stistak, or stisakt could be respectively misinterpreted as stisk+at, stist+ak, and stis+akt.



Under a certain narrow range of circumstances, a formative may have one consonantal affix appear as a prefix to the stem rather than being suffixed. The sole reason for doing so is for euphonic purposes, either to decrease the number of syllables or to avoid euphonically awkward combinations of consonants and vowels among the suffixes to the stem. Because of the morpho-phonological restrictions on consonantal prefixation as described below, prefixes are uncommon.

The rules for optional prefixation depend on whether or not the formative has a word-initial vocalic prefix (i.e., the Affiliation/Extension [+ Conflation] prefix as described in Sections 3.2, 3.4, and 5.3. These two possibilities are each detailed in the sections which follow.

7.6.1 Prefixation Rules for Formatives Without Vocalic Prefixes

If the formative is a noun with no word-initial vocalic Affiliation/Extension prefix, then the consonant is placed in word-initial position before the C1 radical. If the resulting consonantal conjunct (with the C1 consonantal form) is phonaesthetically impermissible or it causes ambiguity over the interpretation of C1 (i.e., the prefix + C1 conjunct could be misinterpreted as one of the mutational grades of that or a different C1 radical), then an anaptyctic vowel -ï- must be inserted between the prefixed consonant and the C1 consonant. For example s + kuil becomes sïkuil, not skuil, since the sk- initial conjunct of the latter would be misinterpreted as the C1 radical of an entirely different stem.

As for the vocalic portion of the affix (the portion which indicates which of nine degrees is to be associated with the affix), the vocalic portion is suffixed to the stem in word-final position (and therefore its word-final form) in a manner so that it cannot be ambiguously interpreted as being associated with another suffix. Thus kuil + es, if prefixed, becomes sïkuilei. For prefixed consonants which do not cause confusion over the interpretation of the C1 radical, these can be directly adjoined to the C1 radical, preceded by a word-initial ï- if phonaesthetically necessary, e.g., guil + uj becomes jguilu, while kuil + up becomes ïpkuilu.

Note that forms such as sïkuilei and ïpkuilu above are considered highly affected morphological forms, since their “standard” forms are far more euphonically desirable (i.e., kuiles and kuilpu). In such cases, these “affected” prefixed forms have the rhetorical effect of emphasizing or highlighting the affix as having exaggerated significance.

7.6.2 Rules for Formatives With Vocalic Prefixes

For formatives that are either verbs or nouns with a vocalic Affiliation/Extension prefix, the rules for consonantal prefixation are more constrained, as no forms using an anaptyctic vowel are permitted. The consonantal affix is infixed between the word-initial vocalic prefix of the formative and the C1 radical. This is only permissible if the infix does not cause ambiguity in interpretation of the resulting consonant conjunct, i.e., it will not be confused with either a different radical or an Illocution affix (see Sec. 5.1). The vocalic portion of the consonantal affix which indicates the degree of the affix is suffixed in word-final position so that it cannot be ambiguously interpreted as being associated with another suffix. Thus, for example, woikâl + uc becomes woickâlu. If placement of the vocalic suffix indicating degree results in ambiguity as to which consonantal affix it applies to, then prefixation of the consonantal affix is not permitted. For example, the form ébdortui would be impermissible because it is ambiguous as to whether the word is equivalent to édorta+bui, édora+(a)t+bui, or édora+tui+(a)b.



The 153 affix categories are given in the sections which follow. Each affix indicates which of the five classes of affixes it belongs (V1C, V2C, V0C, VSC, or V3C), the consonant-form associated with it, its overall function, its three-letter label used in morphological analysis, and the meaning or translation of each of its nine degrees. For most degrees, a nominal and verbal meaning is given.

7.7.1 Demonstrative Affixes

These affixes correspond to various determiners and modifying adjectives in English having to do with denoting or identifying a noun within a larger context or discourse.

Degree Of Definiteness
Degree 1 any (number of) [random selection - NOT quantitative/partitive “any”]; in any manner
Degree 2 almost any; in almost any (number of) way(s)
Degree 3 some X or other; in some way or other
Degree 4 some certain X ; in some certain way [identity unknown]
Degree 5 this X or that; a certain X or more; in this way or that [identity almost known – choices limited]
Degree 6 a certain / a particular; in a certain or particular way [identity ascertainable]
Degree 7 presumably this/that; apparently this X ; in that way presumably [tentatively identified]
Degree 8 this/that/said; in said manner/(in) that way [identity known]
Degree 9 at hand/under discussion/this one now/instant; in this manner [identity = present context]


Degree Of Discretion
Degree 1 announced/advertised/heralded; w/ public disclosure
Degree 2 open & well-known; with full public knowledge
Degree 3 open/public; for all to see/publicly/openly
Degree 4 shown, open, or available by request/ by request
Degree 5 semi-public(ly), exclusive(ly)
Degree 6 own/personal; personally
Degree 7 own private; privately
Degree 8 secret; secretly
Degree 9 confidential/classified


Degree Of Inclusion
Degree 1 not a(ny), not one, no X whatsoever, none of X; in no such manner
Degree 2 hardly any, barely any X; in hardly any such manner
Degree 3 some few/a few certain … ; in a few certain ways
Degree 4 some (of)/certain . . .; in certain ways
Degree 5 several / more than a few / various / in various ways / in several different ways
Degree 6 a significant portion of/a fair number of; in a fair number of ways
Degree 7 most/in most ways
Degree 8 almost every; in almost every way
Degree 9 each/every; in each way


Exactness of Identity / Identity As a Referent Or Standard
Degree 1 nothing like that X; nothing like that ; in no way similar
Degree 2 somewhat like that X; somewhat so
Degree 3 nearly or almost that X; nearly or almost so
Degree 4 just about . . . / for all intents and purposes
Degree 5 kind of / type of / this sort of; typically
Degree 6 such (a); in such a manner
Degree 7 clear (case of); clearly / certainly / indeed[in negative sentences = no way / at all]
Degree 8 just like that; just so, thus(ly)
Degree 9 the exact X / the very (one); exactly thus / exactly so


Degree Of Familiarity
Degree 1 unknowable / alien; unable to even try X-ing
Degree 2 totally unfamiliar; totally unaccustomed to X-ing
Degree 3 unfamiliar; unaccustomed to X-ing
Degree 4 somewhat unfamiliar; somewhat unaccustomed to X-ing
Degree 5 only just (recently) familiar; only just recently familiar to X-ing
Degree 6 somewhat familiar; somewhat accustomed to X-ing
Degree 7 familiar/known; accustomed to X-ing
Degree 8 well-known / utterly familiar with / ingrained; inherently accustomed or used to X-ing
Degree 9 intimate with; intimately involved with / intimately accustomed to


Degree Of Similarity
Degree 1 opposite; as different as possible / at the other extreme
Degree 2 completely different/dissimilar; in a totally different or dissimilar way
Degree 3 rather different / barely similar / almost completely different or dissimilar; in an almost completely different way
Degree 4 other [=different]; in another [=different] way
Degree 5 somewhat different, only superficially similar; somewhat differently
Degree 6 similar in the ways that count/similar down deep, some sort of X; similarly at deep level
Degree 7 (somewhat) similar, only superficially different, sort of like, something like, X-like; similarly
Degree 8 very similar; very similarly
Degree 9 [exactly the] same, indistinguishable from; in the [exactly] same way


7.7.2 Deictic Affixes

Deictic affixes refer to the grammatical process of deixis, the act of pointing to or pointing out. The affixes correspond to the different variants of the concepts of ‘here’ and ‘there.’ In Ithkuil, distinctions are made in these affixes as to whether a referent is near the speaker, near the listener, distant from both, whether it is observable or accessible, and in some case, whether it is alienable or inalienable (i.e., whether the entity can be separated from the associated person).

Deixis Categories
Degree 1 yonder / way over there somewhere / a long way away (not near anyone) [inaccessible or unobservable]
Degree 2 over there somewhere (by third party) [inaccessible or observable]
Degree 3 there somewhere (by listener) [inaccessible or observable]
Degree 4 here somewhere (by speaker] [inaccessible or observable]
Degree 5 here (by speaker and accessible]
Degree 6 here with us (by speaker and listener and accessible]
Degree 7 there [by listener and accessible]
Degree 8 there (by third party, but accessible to speaker and listener)
Degree 9 yonder / way over there [not near any party but accessible]


More Deixis Categories
Degree 1 spread out/ everywhere / scattered yonder / all over out there [inaccessible]
Degree 2 spread out/ everywhere / scattered all about listener / all over the place around listener [inaccessible]
Degree 3 spread out/ everywhere / scattered all about speaker / all over the place / here and there [inaccessible]
Degree 4 spread out/ everywhere / scattered all about speaker / all over / here & there [observable but inaccessible]
Degree 5 spread out/ everywhere / scattered all throughout speaker / enveloping speaker [inalienable]
Degree 6 spread out/ everywhere / scattered all throughout speaker / enveloping speaker [alienable]
Degree 7 spread out/ everywhere / scattered all about speaker/all over the place / here and there [accessible]
Degree 8 spread out/ everywhere / scattered all about listener / all over the place around listener [accessible]
Degree 9 spread out/ everywhere / scattered yonder / all over out there [accessible]


7.7.3 Sequential Affixes

Numerical Sequence
Degree 1 first / initial; first(ly) / first of all
Degree 2 second; secondly
Degree 3 third; thirdly
Degree 4 still near the beginning / not yet halfway
Degree 5 the middle one, in between (sequentially)/ just about halfway there
Degree 6 nearing the end
Degree 7 third from last; antepenultimately
Degree 8 next to last; penultimately
Degree 9 last / final; last(ly) / finally (in terms of sequence)


Sequence Relative to Present Context
Degree 1 immediately beforehand / first
Degree 2 one before preceding
Degree 3 the former; primarily
Degree 4 two before preceding
Degree 5 current/at hand; now/currently / at the moment [in sequence of events]
Degree 6 second one after next
Degree 7 the latter; secondarily
Degree 8 one after next
Degree 9 next / following; then / next


Sequence of Cause and Effect
Degree 1 originating; originally / in the first place / initially / at the outset
Degree 2 preliminary; preliminarily
Degree 3 preparatory / in preparation for / getting ready to
Degree 4 awaited; waiting to/ waiting for [focus on imminency or sequential position, NOT on anticipation]
Degree 5 precursor to; but just beforehand
Degree 6 based on the preceding and setting the stage for what follows
Degree 7 eventual / at last; at last / finally (result)
Degree 8 following /...which follows; then subsequent to that / following that...
Degree 9 subsequent / consequent; then / so / thus / therefore


7.7.4 Coordinative Affixes

or -V1y
Adjunctive Coordination
Degree 1 in conjunction with / combined with / including X
Degree 2 and / also / additionally/ furthermore/ moreover/ what’s more
Degree 3 . . . and so forth / and so on / and all that/ and whatever else
Degree 4 and at the same time / and simultaneously
Degree 5 and [all in a series]
Degree 6 or [potentially inclusive] = and/or
Degree 7 either . . . or [exclusive or] / or else
Degree 8 . . . or something else / or whatever / or whatever else
Degree 9 either . . . or [exclusive or in a series]

Degree 2 of this affix is used with FOCUS (see Sec. 3.5) to disambiguate a sentence like Our team defeated their team, too [is our team on a winning streak or is their team on a losing streak?]

Contrastive Coordination
Degree 1 still / nevertheless / however — (despite seemingly inherent conflict or contradiction)
Degree 2 besides / not just . . . but also / in addition to X… also
Degree 3 even / or even / … still [e.g., thicker still]
Degree 4 or [= otherwise]
Degree 5 as opposed to / but not
Degree 6 but [qualifying]
Degree 7 however / on the other hand — (simple difference in expected outcome, no inherent conflict)
Degree 8 but (rather) [= substitute]
Degree 9 just in case / should the need arise


Distributive Coordination
Degree 1 applying to each equally [unfairly]
Degree 2 applied selectively by decision/preference [unfairly]
Degree 3 respectively (=to each) but in differing amounts [unfairly]
Degree 4 selectively at random [unfairly]
Degree 5 respectively [= applied in the sequentially spoken order]
Degree 6 selectively at random [fairly]
Degree 7 respectively (=to each) but in differing amounts [fairly]
Degree 8 applied selectively by decision/calculation [fairly]
Degree 9 applying to each equally [fairly]


Chapter 7 continued >>


5a Verb Morphology
9 Syntax
5b Verb Morphology (continued)
10 Lexico-Semantics
1 Phonology
6 More Verb Morphology
11 The Script
  2 Morpho-Phonology  7a Using Affixes 12 The Number System
   3 Basic Morphology 7b Using Affixes (continued) The Lexicon
  4 Case Morphology   8 Adjuncts Revised Ithkuil: Ilaksh

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