Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Clitic (Grammar)


A clitic is a morpheme that has syntactic characteristics of a word, but shows evidence of being phonologically bound to another word.


A clitic may have a nonclitic alternant.



  • The contraction of the morpheme is, as in

  • What's going on?
  • The possessive marker 's, as in

  • The man in the black coat's book.

Note: Clitics that occur on the last element of a clause will always cliticize to the end of that element.


Here is a table that compares and contrasts clitics and affixes:



Functions above the word level syntactically and on the word level phonologically.

Functions on the word level syntactically and phonologically.

May attach to words belonging to a variety of syntactic categories.

Attaches to words belonging to a single syntactic category.

May attach to words or whole phrases.

Attaches to single words.

Occurs at the edge of a word.

May occur within or at the edges of a word.