Key Terms • vowels • height • backness • roundedness • monothongs, diphthongs • suprasegmental phonology /prosodics • pitch • intonation • connected speech • weak forms • assimilation • elision • intrusion / linking 25 / 63
Session 6: Types of Morphemes Session 6: Types of Morphemes Words are the nuts and bolts of language. All of us rely on a huge repertoire of words each time we communicate. We assemble long lists of words (dictionaries) and have frequent debates about what exactly a word means (or doesn't mean) and who has the authority to decide about such issues. Morphology is interested in the internal structure of words, much in the same way that phonology is interested in meaning-distinguishing speech sounds ( phonemes ). We can break down words into smaller units by analyzing their structure and identify systematic processes that allow speakers to add new words to the lexicon and indicate grammatical information such as tense and number. An example illustrates the point. Think about what information is contained in the word girls . Is it possible to break this word down into smaller structural units? girls = girl + - s It seems that girls can be broken down into two parts, the first of which refers to something in the world (a young female human being) and the second indicating a grammatical category - in this case number - and specifying plural. The same approach can easily be applied to other kinds of words. kicked = kick + - ed While girls is a noun kicked is a verb, yet the same rules apply. Kicked can be segmented into the first part that describes a kind of action ( kick ) and the second part that adds the information past tense (- ed ). Tense is another grammatical category that can be encoded morphologically in English. Think about what kinds of words take which endings for a moment. Only verbs ( talked , laughed , pushed , loved ) allow us to add information about tense, whereas only nouns ( girls , boys , zebras , chairs ) permit marking number. Let's compare this with the another kind of example. The word coolness consists of two parts, giving us the same kind of formula as in the previous two examples. coolness = cool + ness However, things look different when we analyze the segments. Cool can have a whole range of meanings , but most commonly it is an adjective that describes a person or thing. But what about - ness ? It does not indicate number or tense - in fact it contains no information about any grammatical category whatsoever. -Ness also does not indicate a specific thing, action or state. So what is it good for? Look at these example sentences: Mike is a cool guy 26 / 63
Session 6: Types of Morphemes Coolness is a good trait to have The -ness in words such as coolness, hipness, sadness or vagueness seems to mean "having the attribute X" and adding it to an adjective apparently changes that adjective into a noun. There are many more endings of this type that affect word class (for example, by transforming an adjective into a noun) and that may change a word's meaning to different degrees.
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- The Canterbury Tales, Vowel