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On 7 November 2016 at 18:15, Jeffrey Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I am confused about how to distinguish clitics from affixes. This does not
> seem to me to be a clearcut distinction. Can anyone give me a definitive
> guideline?

The line between them is not always obvious, but the essential
distinction is one of what level of structure they appear in / attach
to. If a particular morpheme is always part of a particular kind of
word, moves around with that word, and otherwise behaves in such a way
that we can conclude that it is a part of the internal morphological
structure of that word, then it's an affix. If a particular morpheme
appears phonologically to attach to another word, but patterns with a
particular bit of *syntax*, rather than with a particular *word*, and
behaves syntactically as if it were a separate word despite it's
phonological behavior, then it's a clitic.

Consider, for example, the English possessive <'s>. It goes on the
ends of nouns to make the possessive, right? Well, not really- it goes
on the ends of *noun phrases*. It often looks like it attaches to
nouns, but that's just because bare nouns can constitute noun phrases,
and complex noun phrases often end with nouns anyway, but in fact
other stuff can be inserted between the head noun and the <'s>, as in
"the man I had lunch with's food", where we see the possessive marker
attaching to a preposition. Phonologically, it happens to be stuck to
a preposition, because that's what happens to be next to it at the
phonological level, but syntactically it is associated with the entire
noun phrase, and so we know that it is in fact a clitic rather than a
suffix.

-l.