Morphology is a level of structure between the phonological and the syntactic. It is complementary to syntax. Morphology is the grammar of words; syntax is the grammar of sentences. One accounts for the internal structure or form of words; the other describes how these words are put together in sentences. The English word ‘unkind’ is made up of two smaller units: ‘un’ and ‘kind’. These are minimal units that cannot be further sub-divided into meaningful units. Such minimal, meaningful units of grammatical description are generally referred to as morphemes. A morpheme is an minimal indivisible unit in morphology. The word ‘unlikely’ has three morphemes while the word ‘carpet’ is a single morpheme. Thus, a systematic study of morphemes or how morphemes join to form words is known as morphology. According to Hockett:
Morphology is the study of morphemes, which are the smallest significant units of grammar. According to Bloomfield, it is the study of the constructions in which sound forms appear among the constituents. Dorfman defines morphology as the study of the ways and methods of grouping sounds into sound-complexes or words.
“Morphemes are the smallest individually meaningful elements in the utterance of a language”
The concept of morpheme is central to morphology. There are two types of morphemes: Bound and Free. Thus a work like ‘unfaithful’ has ‘un’ and ‘ful’ as bound morphemes because they cannot express their meanings individual while ‘faith’ is a free morpheme because it can do the otherwise. Morpheme also has The concept of ‘morph’ which recognises that a morpheme has a phonetic shape. This phonetic representation is called its morph. The word writer has two morphemes, write and -er. These are realizable in the phonetic shapes as /rait/ and/-∂:/. These are two morphs of the morpheme (or word in this case). Closely allied is the concept of Allomorph. We have noted that it sometimes manifests itself in various phonetic shapes or forms. The plural morpheme can be realized as /-s/ or /-z/ or /-iz/ and so on. Similarly, the past tense morpheme can appear as /-d/, /-t/, /-id/, and /-q/. Each of these morphs belongs to the same morpheme. These are called allomorphs. A confusion arises as to whether a segment is a word or a morpheme or morph. So Hackett answers the question:
“A word is thus any segment of a sentence bounded by successive points at which pausing is possible.”
A division is traditionally made of morphology into two branches, viz. (i) Inflectional, and (ii) Derivational. In the former, we are concerned with the variations or inflections that occur in words so as to show grammatical contrasts in sentences, such as are found in singular/ plural numbers or present/past tenses. For example, ‘apple’ and ‘apples’ are two forms of the same word, but they differ in respect of number. Similarly, ‘live’ and ‘lived’ are two forms of the same word, but they differ in respect of tense. The study of this difference between the two words in each pair belongs to the field of grammar, and is thus a concern of’inflectional morphology’. In ‘derivational morphology’, we study the principles governing the construction of new words, without reference to the specific grammatical role a word might play in a sentence. Words like ‘enjoyable’ from ‘enjoy’, ‘agreeable’ from ‘agree’ or ‘dislodge, from ‘lodge’ are formed with their own grammatical properties. The study of the formation of words such as these belongs to the field of derivational morphology’. In Inflections, class usually remains the same as in: go-goes—going but in Derivations, class changes as in: play-playful-playfullness. For Hockett:
“Inflection is that part of morphology which involves inflectional affixes. The remainder of morphology is derivation”
Morphology operates on affixes which are the core of inflectional and derivational morphology. Affixes can be of three kinds: Prefixes are affixes that are added initially to a root, or that precede it; Infixes are affixes added within a root; and Suffixes are affixes that follow the stem or the root. When a suffix so occurs in a word as not to allow any other suffix to follow it, it is called an inflectional suffix, as when we add the suffix “ness’ to the root ‘kind’, we get the word ‘kindness’ which cannot take on another suffix. But when a suffix can be followed by some other suffix (s), it is called a derivational suffix. For example, the suffix My’, added to the root ‘kind’, may be followed by another suffix “ness’, and we have the word ‘kindliness’ (kind+li+ness) which contains a derivational suffix Mi’ followed by another suffix ‘ness’. Prefixes may also be both ‘inflectional’ and ‘derivational’. For example, the prefix ‘dis’ in ‘discount’ cannot take on another prefix, and is thus ‘inflectional’. But the prefix ‘pre’ in ‘pre-meditated’ can take on another prefix ‘un’ so as to form the word ‘unpremeditated’, and thus it is ‘derivational’. They help in forming a new word.