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Lecture 1

ENG 426: Morphology
By Ammar Anas
(Content of the lecture 1 covers topic such as word: definition, classification, types versus tokens, and lexicon.)
Defining Morphology
Morphology is a branch of linguistics (and one of the major components of grammar) that studies word
structures, especially in terms of morphemes.
Traditionally, a basic distinction has been made between morphology (which is primarily concerned with the
internal structures of words) and syntax (which is primarily concerned with the ways in which words are put
together in sentences).
"The term 'morphology' has been taken over from biology where it is used to denote the study of the forms of
plants and animals. . . . It was first used for linguistic purposes in 1859 by the German linguist August
Schleicher (Salmon 2000), to refer to the study of the form of words. In present-day linguistics, the term
'morphology' refers to the study of the internal structure of words, and of the systematic form-meaning
correspondences between words. . . .
Morphology is an essential subfield of linguistics. Generally, it aims to describe the structures of words and
patterns of word formation in a language. Specifically, it aims to (i) pin down the principles for relating the
form and meaning of morphological expressions, (ii) explain how the morphological units are integrated and the
resulting formations interpreted, and (iii) show how morphological units are organized in the lexicon in terms of
affinity and contrast. The study of morphology uncovers the lexical resources of language, helps speakers to
acquire the skills of using them creatively, and consequently express their thoughts and emotions with
What is a word?
Some definition of a word:
1: A single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a
sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed:
(Source: )
2: A word is “an uninterrupted string of letters which is preceded by a blank space and followed either by a
blank space or a punctuation mark” (Plag 2003)
3: A speech sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation inwriting, that symbolizes and
communicates a meaning and may consist of a single morpheme or a combination of morphemes.
(By Richard Nordquist,

… words are not to be regarded as merely sequences of syllables. The concept of the word is a grammatical concept. For example: (1) The interrogation took a long time because the suspect kept introducing red herrings. unexpect-ed).com/EBchecked/topic/329791/language/27160/Grammar#ref665936) In linguistics. but they are recognized as recurrent units that make up sentences. collocations and proverb are composed of two or more words and despite that they have meaning. and in particular to acquire meanings that are more specialised than one would predict if one had never encountered them before. as with cupboard and handkerchief. rock. (Source: http://global. and sentences (He threw a rock too but he missed). (red herring is an idiom meaning ‘irrelevant argument’. For example. A complex word will typically include a root and one or more affixes (rock-s. men. red-ness. quickly. but the two characteristics do not always go together. run. me. The point is that association of meaning to be a word is not always applicable. redness. Words can be put together to build larger elements of language. (2) They are the building-blocks for words and phrases. and so on). white coffee. and in most languages some of them appear in different forms according to their function (English man. are distinguished because they occupy different places in sentence structure. I. un-. unexpected). in speech. Those items which are building-blocks for words and phrases are characterized as “word”. as they are often called.britannica. quick-ly. their meaning cannot be predicted from the words it is composed of. A stitch in time saves nine. -ly. Native speakers develop ability to understand new words by looking into identifiable parts for example “dioecious” is completely a new word and a native speaker can predict the meaning of “dioeciously” as the suffix -ly has adjective meaning of “dioecious”. which is the smallest unit of meaning but will not necessarily stand on its own. a word is the smallest element that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content (with literal or practical meaning). running. -ed). expect). walked. Due to this reason. those items which have meanings that are unpredictable and need to be included in dictionaries are called Lexical item. or more than one root in a compound (black-board. A word may consist of a single morpheme (for example: oh!. or parts of speech. red. whereas a morpheme may not be able to stand on its own as a word (in the words just mentioned. such as phrases (a red rock). -ing. . Most of the above definitions of the word characterize two following characteristics: (1) they have meanings that are unpredictable and so must be listed in dictionaries. Dictionary will not need to include “dioeciously” in dictionary. clauses (I threw a rock). white noise and white man (3) Too many cooks spoil the broth. It does not mean that the common view of words as basic semantic building blocks of language is simply wrong because in some instances a word’s original motivation is totally obscured by its pronunciation but can still be glimpsed from its spelling. the relationship between a word and its meaning is purely based on convention. -ness. Classes of words. words are not separated by pauses. It does not mean the association of meaning to a word is wrong. rat-race).wikipedia. Very generally. run-ning. these are -s. Word such as “un-Clintonish and de-Yeltsinises are other examples which have predictable meaning for a native speakers and do not need to include in the dictionary. (Source: http://en. grammar is concerned with the relations between words in sentences. walk. Although this is broadly true. It shows that words are intrinsically prone to drift semantically. This contrasts with a morpheme.) (2) white wine. or several (rocks. Another point is that Idioms.

each instance of a word counts as a token of that word. Example: Mary goes to Edinburgh next week. and the fifth word is the same as the thirteenth. But there is also a sense in which there are fewer than fourteen words in the sentence. . so there are only twelve words in the sentence. and likewise the fifth and thirteenth word. This gives the number of types with a particular affix. Type: In counting words in a text or corpus. Words are recorded in the dictionaries on type interpretation.What is token type relationship? Token: In counting words in a text or corpus. there are fourteen words. the third word is the same as the eleventh. In the above sentences. only the first instance of each word is counted. Let us say that the third and the eleventh word of the above sentence are distinct tokens of a single type. This gives the raw number of words that occur with a particular affix. because two of them (the words to and next) are repeated. In this sense. and she intends going to Washington next month.