1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

negative vs. positive adjectives (ma- prefix)

Discussion in 'Tagalog and Filipino Languages' started by Gavril, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    Is there any widespread pattern in Tagalog wherein positive or neutral adjectives contain the prefix ma- (maganda "beautiful", mahaba "long", maigsi "short", etc.), whereas negative/pejorative adjectives don't (lisya "wrong", sakim "selfish", tamad "lazy", pisak "one-eyed", tanga "stupid" etc.)?

    Of course, there are some negative adjectives that begin with ma- (masama "bad", mali "wrong" etc.) and some positive/neutral adjectives that don't (bago "new"), but in my limited Tagalog studies, I've seen enough evidence to think that there could be a tendency in the other direction.

    Thanks for any info
  2. DotterKat Moderator

    California, USA
    English (American)
    No. Adjectival affixes are neutral and only the adjective itself gives the negative or positive connotation. For every maganda there is mapangit, mabango vs. mabaho, mabuti vs. masama, masaya vs. malungkot, matahimik vs. maingay, mapagbigay vs. maswapang, mapayapa vs. magulo, etc.

    Take note: the ma- prefix, which denotes an essential nature of something/someone as indicated by the adjective to which it is added, should not be confused with words that simply begin with the letters "ma", such as mali which you mentioned in your text. The "ma" is not a prefix but an integral part of the whole word (i.e., "li" is not an adjective).
  3. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Hi DotterKat,

    Several of these adjectives seem to have byforms without ma-: e.g., Tagalog-Dictionary.com lists the adjectives pangit, baho and lungkot as having the same meaning as the ma- forms. (In fact, this dictionary doesn't even recognize mapangit when I search for it, only pangit.)

    Do you happen to know why the forms with ma- (mapangit, mabaho, malungkot) alternate with prefix-less forms?


    (And apologies for misanalyzing mali.)
  4. DotterKat Moderator

    California, USA
    English (American)
    Pangit, baho and lungkot are root words to which affixes may be added. Dictionaries normally do not list all permutations of every word due to space limitations.
    These same root (unaffixed) adjectives can be used in sentences that essentially express the same idea, albeit in slightly different ways. With the ma- prefix (as an attributive adjective), the structure would be something like:

    Maganda siya.

    The unaffixed word ganda is used in an exclamatory sentence to express the same idea, although with a bit more emotion attached:

    Ang ganda niya! OR Kay ganda niya!

    There will be many other permutations for forming sentences expressing that essential nature of someone (her beauty), including the use of affixes like napaka- (Napakaganda niya!) or again using the root (unaffixed) form but intensified by duplication (Ang ganda ganda niya!).

    So, generally speaking, the ma- adjectival forms are used in the indicative mood and the root (unaffixed) forms, introduced by words such as ang, kay, napaka, anong or intensified by duplication are used in an exclamatory sentence. It all depends on how you wish to express the sentence.
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    OK, but I'm still a little puzzled by why the dictionary chooses to list a ma- form for some adjectives and an unaffixed form for others. (I'm not saying it's "wrong" to do this, I just don't understand the system behind it.)

    Could it be that the unaffixed forms of pangit, lungkot etc. are used far more often than the ma-forms? In other words, is it much less common to hear (for example) Malungkot siya than Ang lungkot niya, Napakalungkot niya or similar?

    Thanks again
  6. DotterKat Moderator

    California, USA
    English (American)
    No. Again, I think it is simply because dictionaries especially the concise ones, need to prioritize their entries. Root words would take precedence and derivatives would be mentioned after the definition or be given a separate entry if space allows. There are some Tagalog dictionaries wherein affixed adjectives and even conjugated verbs occupy several pages and root words seem to appear occasionally, quite the opposite of your experience.
    There is no way to quantitate the frequency of usage of affixed versus unaffixed Tagalog adjectives, but my estimation would be that the affixed forms are used more commonly, again the opposite of your hypothesis.
    Using another dictionary might be helpful.

Share This Page