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Unformatted text preview: What is Morphology? Linguistics 101 P. & P. Houghton Spring 2009 1 What is Morphology? Now that we know about sounds, through our study of phonetics and phonology, we are ready to look at the next level up. What happens when we combine phones to form bigger units? What are those bigger units? Phones can combine to form pieces of words which have a meaning . Sometimes, a word cannot be broken down into any more pieces – like the word cat . Sometimes, a word can be broken down into pieces; for instance, cats can be broken into cat and-s . You could conceive of breaking cat into more parts, like ca and t – but neither of those bits would mean anything by itself. The smallest piece of a word that has a meaning is called a morpheme . Words are made up of at least one morpheme, but some words are made up of lots of morphemes; for example, antidisestablishmentarianism is made up of seven morphemes: anti- , dis- , establish ,-ment ,-ari ,-an ,-ism . Notice that none of these pieces of the word can be broken into any smaller bit; for example, even though anti- looks like it could be broken into ant and i , both of which are words of English, the word ant and the pronoun i (normally written I ) have nothing to do with the morpheme anti- . Morphemes do not just contribute bits of sound to a word, they also are contributing meaning. A morpheme is a little bundle of sound and meaning, which can be used as a building block to form bigger words. Morphology is the study of morphemes, and how they pattern. Each human language uses a huge number of different morphemes in order to express various ideas. Speakers need to keep track of all these morphemes – what they mean, how they sound, and how they can be combined with other morphemes. Every morpheme that a speaker knows is kept in her mental dictionary, called the lexicon . The lexicon is a listing of every morpheme, containing all the important information that is necessary to understand what the morpheme means and how it is used. 1.1 Types of morphemes In fact, there are many different kinds of morphemes. The lexicon makes sure to catalog, for each entry, what type of morpheme it is. There are three sets of features to consider when assessing which flavor of morpheme you’re dealing with: Is it a root or an affix? Is it free or bound? Is it functional or lexical? Linguistics 101 What is Morphology? Roots and Affixes Whether a morpheme is a root or an affix depends on how it connects with other mor- phemes. For example, happy is a root , because other morphemes can be attached to it – as in unhappy , happiness , or unhappiness . On the other hand, un- and-ness are affixes , because they are being attached to the root. It is generally the case that roots can occur by themselves and affixes cannot, though this isn’t always the case, as we’ll see in the next contrast....
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- Fall '11
- Morphology, Synthetic language