What is Morphology (Fundamentals of Linguistics)

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What Is Morphology?

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This classification is quite artificial. Real languages rarely fall cleanly into one of the above classes, e. Moreover, this classification mixes the aspect of what is expressed morphologically and the means for expressing it. Inflection is required in particular syntactic contexts. It does not change the part-of-speech category but the grammatical function. The different forms of a word produced by inflection form its paradigm. Inflection is complete , i. Regarding inflection, words can be categorized in three classes:. Conjugation is mainly concerned with defining tense and aspect and agreement features like person and number.

German verb forms come in present and past tense, indicative or subjunctive. Declination marks various agreement features like number singular, plural, dual, etc. In contrast to inflection which produces different forms of the same word derivation and compounding are processes that create new words. Thus, derivation and compounding have nothing to do with morphosyntax. They are a means to extend our lexicon in an economic and principled way. In derivation, a different word--often of a different part-of-speech category--is produced by adding a bound morph to a stem.

Derivation is incomplete, i. For example, in German the very productive derivational suffix -bar can be applied to many but not all verbs to produce adjectives:. Application of a derivational morpheme may be restricted to a certain subclass. For example, application of the English derivational suffix -ity is restricted to stems of Latin origin, while the suffix -ness can apply to a wider range:.

Derivation can be applied recursively, i. That way a potentially infinite number of words can be produced. Take, for example, the following chain of derivations:. Semantic interpretation of the derived word is often difficult. While a derivational suffix can usually be given a unique semantic meaning many of the derived words may still resist compositional interpretation. This may be due to lexicalization, i. For a more detailed discussion see Trost While inflectional and derivational morphology are mediated by the attachment of a bound morph to a base form, compounding is the joining of two or more base forms to form a new word.

Most common is just setting two words one after the other, as in state monopoly, bedtime or red wine.

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The last part of a compound usually defines its morphosyntactic properties. Semantic interpretation is even more difficult than with derivation. Almost any semantic relationship may hold between the components of a compound:.

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The boundary between derivation and compounding is fuzzy. Historically, most derivational suffixes developed from words frequently used in compounding. An obvious example is the —ful suffix as in hopeful, wishful, thankful. Phrases and compounds cannot always be distinguished. The English expression red wine in its written form could be both.


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In spoken language the stress pattern differs: In German phrases are morphologically marked, while compounds are not: But for verb compounds the situation is similar to English: Every word form must at the core contain some root form. This root can must then be complemented with additional morphs. How are morphs realized? Obviously, a morph must somehow be recognizable in the phonetic or orthographic pattern constituing the word.

The most common type of morph is a continuous sequence of phonemes. All roots and affixes are of this form. A complex word can then be analyzed as a series of morphs concatenated together. Agglutinative languages function almost exclusively this way. But there are surprisingly many other possibilities. An affix is a bound morph that is realised as a sequence of phonemes or graphemes. The by far most common types of affixes are prefixes and suffixes. Many languages have only these two types of affixes. Among them is English at least under standard morphological analyses.

A prefix is an affix that is attached in front of a stem. An example is the English negative marker un- attached to adjectives:. A suffix is an affix that is attached after a stem. Across languages suffixation is far more frequent than prefixation. Also, certain kinds of morphological information are never expressed via prefixes, e.

Many computational systems for morphological analysis and generation assume a model of morphology based on prefixation and suffixation only. A circumfix is the combination of a prefix and a suffix which together express some feature. Both theoretically and from a computational point of view a circumfix can be viewed as really two affixes applied one after the other. In German, the circumfixes ge--t and ge--n form the past participle of verbs:. An infix is an affix where the placement is defined in terms of some phonological condition s.

These might result in the infix appearing within the root to which it is affixed. In Bontoc , a Philippine language, the infix -um- turns adjectives and nouns into verbs Fromkin and Rodman The infix attaches after the initial consonant:. Reduplication is a border case of affixation. The form of the affix is a function of the stem to which it is attached, i.

Reduplication may be complete or partial. In the latter case it may be prefixal, infixal or suffixal. Reduplication can include phonological alteration on the copy or the original. In Javanese complete reduplication is used to express the habitual-repetitive. Partial reduplication is more common. In Yidin y , an Australian language, prefixal reduplication is used for plural marking.

An example for infixal reduplication is the frequentative in Amharic , a semitic language spoken in Ethiopia Rose From a computational point of view one property of reduplication is especially important: Since reduplication involves copying it cannot—at least in the general case—completely be described with the use of finite-state methods. Semitic languages at least according to standard analyses exhibit a very peculiar type of morphology: A so-called root, consisting of two to four consonants, conveys the basic semantic meaning. A vowel pattern marks information about voice and aspect.

A derivational template gives the class of the word traditionally called binyan.


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In Arabic verb stems are constructed this way. The root ktb write produces--among others--the following stems:. This term subsumes processes which do neither introduce new nor remove existing segments. Morphs are not realized as any string of phonemes, but as a change of phonetic properties or an alteration of the prosodic shape.

Ablaut refers to vowel alternations inherited from Indo-European. It is a pure example of vowel modification as a morphological process. Examples are strong verbs in Germanic languages like English e. In Icelandic this process is still more common and more regular than in most other Germanic languages. The following example is from Sproat , p. Umlaut has its origin in a phonological process, whereby root vowels were assimilated to a high-front suffix vowel.

When this suffix vowel was lost later on, the change in the root vowel became the sole remaining mark of the morphological feature originally signalled by the suffix.

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In German the plural of nouns may be marked by umlaut sometimes in combination with a suffix , whereby in the stem vowel the feature back is changed to front:. Another possibility to realize a morpheme is to alter the prosodic shape. Tone modification can be used to signal certain morphological features. In Ngbaka , spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo, tense-aspect contrasts are expressed by four different tonal variants Nida A morpheme may be realised by a stress shift.

English noun-verb derivation sometimes uses a pattern where the stress is shifted from the first to the second syllable:. Total modification is a process occurring sporadically and idiosyncratically within inflectional paradigms. It is usually associated with forms that are used very frequently. Examples in English are went , the past tense of go , and the forms of to be: Sometimes a morphological operation has no phonological expression whatsoever.

Examples are found in many languages. A possible analysis is to assume a zero morph which attaches to the noun to form a verb: Another possibility is to assume two independent lexical items disregarding any morphological relationship. Somehow morphs must be put together to form words.

A word grammar is determining the way this has to be done. This part of morphology is called morphotactics. As we have seen, the most usual way is simple concatenation. What are the conditions governing the ordering of morphemes in pseudohospitalization? In 1 an obvious restriction is violated: The violation in 2 is less obvious. In addition to the pure ordering requirements there are also rules governing to which types of stems an affix may attach: One possibility to describe the word formation process is to assume a functor-argument structure.

Affixes are functors that pose restrictions on their single argument. That way a binary tree is constructed. Prefixes induce right branching and suffixes left branching. In figure 1 the functor pseudo - takes a nominal argument to form a noun, —ize a nominal argument to form a verb, and —ation a verbal argument to form a noun.

This description renders two different possible structures for pseudohospitalization. The one given in figure 1 and a second one where pseudo- combines first directly with hospital. We may or may not accept this ambiguity. To avoid the second reading we could state a lexical constraint that a word with the head pseudo- cannot serve as an argument anymore. Affixes is that they attach to specific categories only. This is an example for a syntactic restriction. Restrictions may also be of a phonological, semantic or purely lexical nature. A semantic restriction on the English adjectival prefix un- prevents its attachment to an adjective that already has a negative meaning:.

The fact that in English some suffixes may only attach to words of Latin origin cf.


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In some cases there is a mismatch between the phonological and the morphological structure of a word. One example is comparative formation with the suffix —er in English. Roughly, there is a phonological rule that prevents attaching this suffix to words that consist of more than two syllables:.

If we want to stick to the above rule unrulier has to be explained with a structure where the prefix un- is attached to rulier. But, from a morphological point of view, the adjective ruly does not exist, only the negative form unruly. This implies that the suffix —er is attached to unruly. We end up with an obvious mismatch! Another potential problem is cliticization. A clitic is a syntactically separate word phonologically realized as an affix.

The phenomenon is quite common across languages. In English auxiliaries have contracted forms that function as affixes: In this process the ordering of constituents is also altered. One could assume that this is all a system needs to know to break down words into their component morphemes.

But there is another aspect that makes things more complicated: Phonological rules may apply and change the shape of morphs. To deal with these changes and their underlying reasons is the area of morphophonology.

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