You are on page 1of 17


Morphology is concerned with the elements that compose words and the organization of these elements into hierarchical structures. A word is an arbitrary pairing of sound and meaning (But see discussion in Baker & Bobaljik (2000))


The Vocabulary items: (1) Identifying index: Syntactic category: Meaning: Syntactic features: Morphological features: /perestroika/ Noun reorganization, reconstruction [+abstract] none /bInd/ Verb to make secure by tying [+transitive] zero inflection ablaut

Each wor d belongs to a grammatical/syntactic category. The vocabular y is not simpl y a long, random list, but is structured into special subgroups of words identi fie d by the grammatical/syntactic categories (=the tra dit ional parts -of-speech) The basi c parts -of-speech o f Englis h: Nouns = Class of word s whose characteristi c role is to be an argument of the verb. Words denotin g concrete entities (dog, tree) and wo rds denoting abstract concepts ( music, anger) belong to thi s class. Verbs = Class of word s who se characteristi c role in th e clause is to deter mine, wholl y or in part , the other words that its construction may or must have. Words denotin g action or processes (run, make, melt) characteristica lly belong to this class.

Adject ives = Class of word s who se characteristi c role is to be mod ifiers of nouns (in tall men , tall is the adjectiv e mod ifyin g the noun men). Adverbs = Class of word s whose characteristi c role is to be mod ifiers of verb or ver b phrases (e. g badly in he wrote it badly).

Preposi tions = Class o f words whose memb ers typical ly come before a noun phrase an d which i s characterize d by ones w hich basic ally indicate spatia l relations (behind in behind the sof a )


Perestroika, Monangahela, dog, boy, bind = Simple words Complex words: (2) a. high school, easy chair, black board, gentleman [A + N]N b. c. un-wise, un-happy, un-natur-al, un-woman-ly [un + A]A

woman-ly, other-word-ly, heaven-ly, weather-ly [N + ly]A


black-ness, un-poison-ous-ness, gentlemanli-ness


(3) [[ un [ [ [gentle]A [man]N]N li]A ]A ness]N [ anti [ [ [ dis [ establish]V ]V ment]N arian ]A ]A ism ]N

INFLECTIONAL AND DERIVATIONAL MORPHOLOGY Two main fields are traditionally recognized within morphology Inflectional morphology studies the way in which words vary (or inflect) in order to express grammatical contrasts in sentences such as singular/plural or past/present tense.

Examples of inflectional morphology: boy vs boy-s child vs. child-r-en love vs. love-s vs. go vs. goe-s vs.

love-d went

Derivational morphology studies the principles governing the constructions of new words, without reference to the specific grammatical role a word may play in a sentence. Examples of derivational morphology: drink vs. drink-able inflect vs, dis-infect

THE NOTION OF MORPHEME Morphemes are the structural units of words (see Appendix I) MORPHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS In analyzing words into morphemes in a language we know, we often easily discover the separate parts because we can recall similar words with which to compare the words under analysis. In working with an unfamiliar language, it is necessary to have a group of similar forms to compare and from which to extract the recurring parts. A form from Kekchi (a Mayan language of Guatemala) (4) tinbeq 'I will walk.' (cf. Nida (1949, 6)

To decide on a division of this form into smaller units, or even to know if such a division is possible, we have to consider other forms of the language. Comparison with forms such as tatbeq 'you (sg.) will walk' and ninbeq 'I am walking' show that the form tinbeq is composed of three morphemes: t- 'future' (contrasting with n- 'present progressive'), -in- 'first person singular subject' (contrasting with -at'second person singular subject') and -beq 'walk.


Swahili (East Africa). 1. ninakusikia 2. ninamsikia 3. ninakisikia 4. ninawasikia 5. anakusikia 6. anamsikia 7. anawasikia 8. anatusikia 9. unanisikia 10. unawasikia 11 tunakisikia 12. wanakusikia 13. ninakujibu 14. nitakujibu 15. nimekujibu 16. nilikujibu 17. unamjibu 18. utamjibu 19. umemjibu 20. ulimjibu 21. mnanisikia 22. mmewasikia 23. mtatusikia 24. mlikisikia 25. ninamjua 26. niliwajua 27. atanisaidia 28. wamekusaidia

'I hear you' 'I hear him' 'I hear it' 'I hear them 'he hears you' 'he hears him' 'he hears them' 'he hears us' 'you hear me' 'you hear them' 'we hear it' 'they hear you 'I answer you' 'I will answer you' I have answered you' 'I answered you' 'you answer him' 'you will answer him' 'you have answered him' 'you answered him' 'you (pl.) hear me' 'you (pl.) have heard them' 'you (pl.) will hear us' 'you (pl.) heard it' 'I know him' 'I knew them' 'he will help me' 'they have helped you'

The order of morphemes: (6) subject tense object prefix prefix prefix verb stem objects stems -ni- 'me' -sikia 'hear' -ku- 'you' -jibu 'answer' -m- 'him' -jua 'know' 'it' -saidia 'help' -tu- 'us' -wa- 'them'


subjects tenses ni- 'I' -ta- 'future' u- 'you' -na- 'present' a- 'he' -me- 'perfect' tu- 'we' -li- 'past' -kim- 'you (pl.)' wa- 'they'

PROBABLE new words made up of these same morphemes in the correct order. (8) atamsikia walitujibu tumekijua nimemsaidia

But we can never absolutely certain that a given form is correct unless we learn the language as well as a native speaker knows it. There may always be irregularities for which we have not yet seen evidence. See Appendix II

ROOTS AND STEMS Roots The root is generally the principle carrier of the lexical meaning of a word, while affixes generally carry grammatical meanings. For example, in cats, the root cat carries the basic meaning Felis domesticus, while -s carries the grammatical information 'plural.' In some languages, roots characteristically occur in a particular position. In Turkish and Eskimo, the root occupies the first position in a word. Stems In addition to roots, we also distinguish stems. A stem may be also a root, as cat in cats. Often, a stem consists of a root plus something else. The present tense of the Latin verb amo@ 'love' is formed from the root am- plus the theme vowel -a@ plus the person-number suffixes.


Bound morphemes do not occur in isolation. Root that may constitute words by themselves: (9) gentle, usurp, difficult, dog, man

Bound stems/roots (cf Aronoff (1976):



-port im-port re-ceive re-port

-here in-here

re-mit ad-mit

AFFIXES: Prefixes = a ff. + X and Suffixes = X + aff. Affixes commonly determine the lexical category of the word that they form: ex.: a word formed with the suffix -ion is a noun a word formed with the suffix -ize is a verb Affixes are not freely combinable: (11) seren-ity *shop-ity * proverb-ity *machin-ity regular-ize scandal-ize *usurp-ize *develop-ize

Reason: -ity is added to adjectives, but not to nouns or verbs -ize is added to adjectives and nouns, but not to verbs

Bound morphemes may be assigned morphological templates like the following: (12) ii. iii. iv. v. vi. vii. i. [ [ X ] A + ness] N : gentleness, grammaticalness, uneasiness [ un+ [ X ]A ]A : ungrammatical, unaware, unconscious [ [ X ]A +ity ]N : serenity, grammaticality, electricity [ [X]N +ly]A : godly, gentlemanly, husbandly, daily [ [ X]A +th]N : truth, width, breadth, depth [ per + stemLat.]A: permit, pertain, perform [###]Stem: -mit, -tain, -sist, -form

Open and closed classes of morphems: A count of the morphemes in any language will reveal many more root morphemes than affixes. The set of affixes is closed and can only rarely gain or lose members. The set of roots is open, and a normal speaker of a language adds new roots to his lexicon throughout his life.

TYPES OF AFFIXES 1. PREFIXES: a. Prespecified (English) work re-work likely un-likely like dis-like b. Reduplicated (Tagalog) bili 'buy' bi-bili 'will buy' kuha 'get' ku-kuha 'will get' punta 'go' pu-punta 'will go' sulat 'write' su-sulat 'will write' tawa 'laugh' ta-tawa 'will laugh'


SUFFIXES: work likely bake

work-ed likeli-ness bak-er


INFIXES Tagalog bili kuha sulat punta tawa

'buy' 'get' 'write' 'go' 'laugh'

b-um-ili k-um-uha s-um-ulat p-um-unta t-um-awa

'to buy' 'to get' 'to write' 'to go' 'to laugh'


CIRCUMFIXES em-bold-en



NULL MORPHOLOGY Noun/Adjective Verb a frame to frame dry to dry a run to run

I. Ablaut: strike teach drive ring struck taught drove rang struck taught driven rung

Stem Changes
II. RESYLLABIFICATION: The Semitic binyans. Arabic root /ktb/ katab write kutib 'was written aktub 'is writing uktab 'was being written Hebrew root /gdr/ Active gadar goder yi-gdor gdor li-gdor 'enclosed 'encloses 'will enclose 'enclose! 'to enclose Passive ni-gdar ni-gdar yi-gader hi-gader le-hi-gader 'was enclosed 'is enclosed' 'will be enclosed' 'be enclosed!' 'to be enclosed'

perfective active perfective passive imperfective active imperfective passive