29 January 2014

te- prefix

Malay has lots of prefixes. For example:

  • ber- is an intransitive verbal prefix, so berjalan ('to walk') has no object.
  • meN- is a transitive prefix, so membuat ('to do') requires an object after it.
  • ter- is either the superlative prefix, e.g. terbaik ('the best'), or it is a passive prefix, e.g. terputus ('be cut').

But what about the te- prefix? Examples include:

  • tetapi ('but'), which means much the same as tapi.
  • tetamu ('guest'), which is the standard term, but tamu also exists.
  • tetangga ('neighbour'). I haven't come across this one, but my dictionary lists it. The root tangga means 'steps', but rumah tangga means 'family'.
  • tetikus ('computer mouse'), where tikus is an ordinary mouse.
  • tetingkap ('computer window'), where tingkap is the window in a building.

I suspect that nobody really uses the last two, as most people probably generally use the English terms 'mouse' and 'window'. But I saw tetikus in the Media Permata today, in an article on e-payment.

This te- prefix is different from the other prefixes because it can only occur with a word that begins with 't'; so it is not really a prefix but more of a kind of alliteration. And I am also not sure how productive it is. For example, would it be possible to have ?teturun ('to fall') or maybe ?tetutup ('to close')? I don't think these exist; but maybe words such as these will emerge, by analogy with the five listed above. Perhaps in relation to computers? Maybe teturun and tetutup might become used to refer to downloading material and closing a computer window?