Morphology and Linguistics

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.

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 a short segment of language that meets three criteria:
1.       It is a word or a part of a word that has meaning.
2.       It cannot be divided into smaller meaningful parts without violation of its meaning or without meaningless remainders.
3.       It recurs in differing verbal environments with a relatively stable meaning.
The word unlikely has 3 morphemes while the word carpet is a single morpheme. The words car and pet are independent morphemes in themselves. The word carpet has nothing to do with the meaning of car and pet. Carpet is a minimal meaningful unit by itself. Again, the word garbage is a single morpheme while the words garb and age are independent morphemes by themselves. A systematic study of morphemes or how morphemes join to form words is known as morphology.
The definition of the morpheme may not be completely unassailable as will be evident from the discussion that follows, but it is certainly a very satisfying definition applicable to a majority of words in any language. The English word unassailable is made up of three morphemes, un, assail, able, each one of which has a particular meaning distribution and a particular phonological form or shape.
Some Basic Concepts of Morphology
We can easily recognise such constructions as mats, artists, artistic. national, childishness, unmoved, denationalization, horseride, highway, footpath as words. Difficulty arises when we try to define these constructions – but all the same they can be recognised. They have meaning which is independent of the meaning of other words. They convey the meaning in the same way as the following words :
Sky, water, hill, cousin, mango, walk, sew, autumn and tap.
But the crucial difference between the first set of examples and the next is that while we can break the items of the first set and still obtain smaller meaningful units we cannot break the items occurring in the second set. If we do so we would be destroying their meaning. Let us see how the items in the first group of examples can be split.
i.       mat + s
ii.      art + ist
iii.     art + ist + ic
iv.     nation + al
v.      child + ish + ness
vi.     un + move +d
vii.    de + nation + al + ize + ation
viii.   high + way
ix.     foot + path
After having broken these words we are left with more particles with different meanings. Attempts to break these ten words have not destroyed their meaning. We rather discover that the words are composed of smaller particles. We also see that two types of meaning in such constructions can be identified :
a.   some particles refer to the external reality.
(sky, dog, table, nation, child)
b.   others donot do so, but are to be understood in terms of their function within the language.
Words of the former type are known as content words and their meaning as lexical meaning; while words that are meaningful in terms of their structural significance are called form words having structural, formal or grammatical meaning. Thus we can see that the word child is content word whose meaning is referable to the external world and is bound to be destroyed if we try to split it further :
ch – ild, chi-Id, chil-d
But after breaking childishness into childish and ness we get two segments whose meanings are independently contained in them. We cannot break -ness; but childish can be split into child and -ish. Again we obtain such particles each one of which possesses meaning. Further attempts to break them will, however, destroy their meaning. We will not get more particles that can either be referred to the external reality or can be construed as having any grammatical function. They are the minimal meaningful units. Such a particle is called a morpheme. ‘Since a morpheme is a unit of language, it will have a differential function; that is, it has some conventional and recurrent connection with nonlinguistic circumstances in which it occurs’ (Dinnech). In the above examples, the particles that we have been able to obtain after breaking the various sequences, are all minimal meaningful parts of the English language. They are minimal since they cannot be broken down further on the basis of meaning. They are meaningful because we can specify the kind of connection they have with the nonlinguistic circumstances in which they are used.
Morpheme is, therefore, the minimal recurring unit of grammatical structure, possessing a distinctive phonemic form, having a grammatical function and may differ in its phonological manifestations.
Morpheme and Syllable
A single morpheme may be made up of one syllable, more than one syllable, or no syllable at all. Monosyllabic morphemes (those consisting of one syllable) are tin, train, gold, pen, man, cat, dog. But words like station and teacher are composed of two syllables – sta-tion, tea-cher, Hyperion and introduction contain four syllables; and chloromycetin contain five syllables. These are all single morphemes, though their syllabic composition varies. On the other hand, there are morphemes that can be marked to contain no syllable at all – the plural morpheme /-s/, the past tense morpheme /-d/ are example of this type. Though they are not syllabic, they are morphemes. In this context, the case of zero allomorph is still more interesting.
Morph :
The concept of morph 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).
Allomorph :
In our discussion of morpheme 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.
The plural morpheme in English (which combines with a noun morpheme to form a plural) is represented by three allomorphs /s/, /z/ and /iz/ in different environments (which are phonologically conditioned).
Plural Morpheme
/iz/ in the case of words ending in /s/, /z/, /ò/, /з/, /tò/, /dз/
e.g. buses /ru : bΛsız/, vases /va: zız/, bushes / b ò f ız/,
rouges /ru : зız/, churches /tòз tòız/ judges/, /dзnΛdзız/
/s/ in the case of words ending in a voiceless consonant (other than ò, s, tò): cats /kæts/, caps /kæps/
/z/ in the case of words ending in voiced sounds (other than /z, з, dз/): boys: b]ız/, bags /bægz/
Similarly, the present tense morpheme {-e(s)} has three allomorphs /s/, /z/ &. /iz/, e.g. packs /pæks/, digs /digz/, washes /woòiz/. The past tense morpheme of English, {-e(d} has also three different (phonologically conditioned) allomorphs /t/, /d/ and /id/. The rule that governs these allomorphs is as follows:
Past Morpheme
/t/ after morphs ending in voiceless sounds (except /t/)
booked /bkt/, pushed /pòt/
/d/ after morphs ending in voiced sounds (except /d/).
loved /lžvd/, bagged /bægd/
/id/ after morphs ending in /t/ and /d/ wanted /wantid/ wedded /wedid/
The relationship between the terms morph, allomorph and morpheme is similar to that between phone, allophone and phoneme. The term ‘morph’ means shape. Any minimal phonetic form that has meaning is a morph. Thus /bžs/, /iz/ /bò/, /iz/, /kæp/, /s/, /b]i/, /z/ are all morphs. Those morphs which belong to the same morpheme are called allomorphs of that morpheme. Thus /s/, /z/ and /iz/ are allomorphs of the plural morpheme {e(s)}. Similarly, a phoneme is a minimal, distinctive unit in the sound system of a language. A phoneme may sometimes occur in more than one phonetic form called allophones. These phonetic forms have considerable phonetic similarity between them and their phonological function is the same. They, however, never occur in the same phonetic environment and are said to be in complimentary distribution. Allomorphs, like allophones, are also in complimentary distribution. The phonemes /p/, /t/ and /k/ for example, have two phonetic forms each i.e. [p] and [ph], [t] and [th], [k] and [kh]. Here [p] and [ph] arc the allophones of the phoneme /p/. All the speech sounds (phonemes as well as allophones) arc called phones.
It may be noted that in some languages words can generally he segmented into parts (morphs) while it is not so in others. Similarly there are languages in which the morph tends to represent a single minimal tirammatical unit (a morpheme) while
Allomorphs of a morpheme may change their phonemic shapes due to two types of conditioning:
a)   phonological or phonemic conditioning
b)   morphological conditioning
Phonological Conditioning
We shall first examine the following sets of words :
The pluralising suffix in set A appears as /s/; in set 13 it appears as /z/. This can be explained as due to the occurrence of final sound of the stem which is voiced, or voiceless. In set A words end in the voiceless sounds /t/ and /p/ affecting the plural morpheme which also appears as a voiceless phoneme /-s/. But in set B the stems end in voiced sound and affect the plural morpheme, which becomes /-z/. The phonetic quality of one sound affects the phonetic quality of another occurring in close proximity. The affected sound is phonetically conditioned. Both /-s/ and /-z/ are the allomorphs of the plural morpheme. Their positions cannot be interchanged, i.e., we cannot have /z/ placed in set A and /s/ in set B. These sounds are thus in complementary distribution. In the same way words rose, pose, advise, horse, judge take the plural morpheme which is phonemically realized as /iz/ so we have roses /rәuziz/; poses /pәuziz/; horses /h]:siz/, etc. These words also show phonological conditioning.
We thus obtain three phonologically conditioned allomorphs of the plural morpheme /s/ ~ /z/ ~ /iz/. Phonological conditioning is predictable.
(Plural Morpheme z1}
{Past Tense Morpheme}
Morphological Conditioning
The regularity of phonological conditioning is restricted. There are several irregular forms that donut show the predictable direction of morphophonemic changes. We can always explain reasonably why such variant forms as the /t/~/d/~/id/ occur for past tense and /s/~/z/~/iz/ for plural morpheme.
But such explanation is not possible in the case of the plural form of child – children, and sheep – sheep. These forms are not phonologically conditioned, i.e. the proximity of a sound doesnot affect these forms. en is peculiar to children, oxen and brethren. Such changes are said to be due to morphological conditioning.
We shall consider below some major types of morphological conditioning.
Zero Suffix
Certain words in English do not show any change of form when inflected either for pluralizing or making into past tense form. These singular – plural and present and past tense forms are alike.
Set A          (Singular)                    Set B (Plural)
                  Sheep                           sheep
                  deer                             deer
                  cattle                            cattle
Set A          (Present Tense)            Set B (Past Tense)
                  cut                                cut
                  put                               put
                  hit                                hit
                  beat                              beat
But we know that set A words are in present tense and that set B words are in the past tense. With this understanding we use the words.
There is a sheep
There are sheep
He cuts
He has cut
We can say that a zero suffix of plural and a zero suffix of the past tense has been added to these forms. The change is not one of overt alteration in the phonemic shape of the morpheme (allomorph). They are said to undergo a zero modification. This is shown by {q} symbol which is called zero allomorph.
Thus, sheep is written as /òi:p + q/.
cut is written as /kžt + q/
Vowel Mutation
Let us take another example; the plural form of man is men that of woman is women, and louse is lice. In making them plural we see that nothing has been added, but a change in the vowel and diphthong has been made.
/a/              >         /e/
/au/            >         /ai/
Similarly, for making past tense, we can change the vowels as shown below :
find – found            /ail > /au/
swim – swam           /i/ > /æ/
bring – brought       /i/ > /]/
seek – sought          /i:/ > /]:/
catch – caught         /æ/ > /]:/
feed – fed                /i:/ > /e/
These changes too cannot be explained by the process of phonetic change. These are irregular changes and are known as vowel-mutation.
A few more examples are to be seen below :
fly – flew                 /ail > /u:/
slay – slew              /ei/ > /u:/
get – got                 /e/ > /]/
meet – met              /i:/ > /e/
take – took  lei        /ei/ > /u/
Vowel mutation can also be seen in verb-making, adjectivising, noun-making, and so on.
Consonant Change
Apart from vowel changes, pluralizing is effected by changes in consonants also. Some English words ending in /f/ – leaf life, wife, knife, shelf loaf make their plural by converting /f/ into /v/ and adding /z/. Examples are given below.
shelf /òelf/      > shelves /òelvz/
sheaf /òi:f/      > sheaves /òi:vz/
knife /naif/     > knives /naivz/
wolf /wulf/     > wolves /wulvz/
wife /waif/   > wives /waivz/
But here too we observe irregularity. Not all words ending in /f/ undergo such changes -proof, roof and reef, to name only three, take /s/ for changing to plural form; while hoof is pluralized both by simply adding /s/ – hoofs and through the process of consonant change – hooves.
In the case of past tense formation also we observe consonant replacement –
send           – sent
bend           – bent   /d/ > /t/
lend           – lent
spend         – spent
The list of different kinds of changes signalling pluralization and past tense formation is fairly long. What is important here is to understand the mechanism of different types of vowel and consonant mutation that operates in such processes.
In suppletion instead of a partial change in the root (either vowel change or consonant change or addition of s), we see the whole form of the root being replaced by a new -form. So, we see the past tense of go is went, and the comparative of bad is worse, good has better as comparative, the adjective of moon is lunar, and sea ,has marine as its adjective; tooth is adjectivised as dental and mouth as oral. What we see in these examples is the complete change in the phonemic shape of the stem, for changing their form classes.
Free Morphemes and Bound Morphemes
Two types of morphemes have been identified on the basis of their occurrence in larger constructions : free form and bound form. A morpheme that occurs alone, or can stand alone is a free form. It doesnot require the presence of another morpheme; in other words, such a morpheme doesnot need the support of any other element. All content words are free forms : house, church, girl, cat, walk, see, red, short, book, water. Some form words are also free forms, always, though, but, never, and, or, if. The meaning of such words is ‘contained in their ability to refer to some point in the world outside’.
A second class of morphemes called bound form, contain elements that must always be attached to some other elements. They cannot occur or stand alone. In words like watery, invisible, reader, possibility, madness, cats, and manly. We can identify such morphemic particles as -y, in, -He, – cr, -ty, -ness, -s, and -ly. Their meaning is in their grammatical functions such as noun-making, verb-forming, pluralizing, adjectivising, and so on. They can be attached to any other free forms of the same form class to construct similar segments. Isolated they donot stand by themselves.
Two types of hound form that are widely used are prefix and suffix. As a class they are known as affixes.
A prefix precedes a free form, a stem or a root. We see these in the following words : uncommon, decentralise, disappoint, recycle. Un-, de-, dis-, re- are all prefixes. There are many other prefixes. All these are word-formative elements.
A suffix is also a word-formative clement – it follows a free form. Examples are sleeveless, temptation, government, activate, darkness, reader.
By adding a suffix we can either negativise a word, i.e. hat less, merciless, or change its form class; dark is an adjective, by adding -ness we can change it into noun.
-ate and -ide are verb-making particles. They are, therefore, known as grammatical morphemes.
Inflection and Derivation
Affixes are classified on the basis of their function into two categories – derivation and inflection. Affixes that cannot take another affix is generally identified as inflectional affixes. If we add -s or -ed to present we will get derivative words presents and presented. We cannot add another suffix to it. Inflectional suffixes of this type may create a set of forms of a morpheme within the same form class, usually known as paradigm. Such words are said to be ‘inflected’. We can in this way pluralise a noun, speeches, judges and tops, etc.
These words are said to be inflected for pluralising. Similarly nouns can be inflected for making them genitive – teacher’s, doctor’s, men’s, etc. Verbs are inflected for third person singular. Generally, in English, inflectional affixes are suffixes. They define a part of speech, but donot change it – ugly, uglier, ugliest – all the three forms belong to the adjective form class.
Both prefixes and suffixes can be derivational. The form-class of the morphemes may be changed by additing a derivational affix. Globe (N) may become global (Adj), globalize (vb), globalization (N); and so also child (N), childish (Adj), childishly (Adv), childishness (N). Each time a derivational affix is added in the above examples, we see the form-class changing.
A significant feature of the derivational affix is that other suffixes can be added to it. One of the functions of derivational affixes has been recognised as that of ‘formation of new words’ (Richards, Platt, Weber). This is one of its functions,
Another function is that they maintain the form-class, that is, the grammatical category is not changed, as is seen below :
If we add the prefix un-to certain (Adj.), we donot find the prefix changing the root to another form-class. Uncertain remains as much an adjective as certain is. Similarly, possess (vb) can take a negativising prefix dis- to make an antonym dispossess while retaining its form-class association.
Structure of Words
Considered from the point of view of their morpheme constituents, there are mainly three types of words:
(i) Simple Words: They consist of a single free morpheme followed, or not, by an inflectional suffix, e.g. play, plays, stronger.
(ii) Complex words: They consist of a base and a derivational affix, e.g. goodness, enable, boyhood, determination.
(iii) Compound words: They consist of two (or more) free stems which are independent words by themselves, e.g. over-ripe, happy-go-lucky, elevator-operator.
A morphological analysis of a few more words will further clarify the position:
Various Ways of Word Formation
The users of a language have to be conversant with the myriad ways in which words are formed. A simple word like happiness for example, is formed by adding the suffix -ness to the base word happy. While the word happy is an adjective, the word happiness is a noun. The word happiness has thus been derived from the word happy. This most important method of word formation is known as affixation, i.e. by adding a prefix or a suffix to a base. The base is different from the stem. The stem is that part of the word that remains after every affix has been removed. A base can also be stem but every base is not a stem (see Examples (a) and (b) below). Every stem can, however, be a base. The stem cannot be further broken up into two separate morphemes. Here are two examples:
A Wonderful World
Apart from affixation, there are several other ways in which new words are formed. Also, words are used in different ways for different meanings or connotations. The world of words in any language is a wonderful world. A user of a language who masters the art of using words or manipulating words becomes a wizard with the language and proves to be a master in the skill of communication. It would be quite pertinent, therefore, to briefly list some of the different ways in which words are formed or skilfully used.
Use of prefixes
Prefixes arc used to coin new words of various types:
(a) Negative prefixes
Prefix               Base word                    New word
im-                   possible/mortal             impossible/immortal
in-                    evitable                        inevitable
                        sensitive                       insensitive
un-                   stable                           unstable
                        like                               unlike
a-                     theist                            atheist
                        moral                            amoral
non-                 entity                            non-entity
                        violence                        non-violence
dis-                  passionate                    dispassionate
                        service                          disservice
il-                     logical                          illogical
                        limitable                       illimitable
ir-                     rational                         irrational
                        relevant                        irrelevant
de-                   frost                              defrost
                        forestation                    deforestation
mis-                  interpret                       misinterpret
                        represent                      misrepresent
pseudo-            secular                         pseudosecular
                        religious                       pseudosecular
(b) Prefixes of Number
mono-               syllabic                         monosyllabic
                        logue                            monologue
uni-                  lateral                           unilateral
                        cellular                         unicellular
bi-                    lingual                         bilingual
                        lateral                           bilateral
di-                    pole                              dipole
                        ode (electrode)             diode
                        urnal                            diurnal
tri-                    weekly                          triweekly
                        angle                            triangle
tetra-                cyclic                            tetracyclic
multi/poly-        syllabic                         polysyllabic
                        racial                            multiracial
                        pronged                       multipronged
                        lingual                         multilingual
(c) Prefixes of Time and Order
re-                    evaluate                       re-evaluate
                        examine                       re-examine
ante-                chamber                       antechamber
fore-                 knowledge                    fore-knowledge
                        tell                               foretell
pre-                  natal                             prenatal
                        mature                          premature
post-                 war                               post-war
                        dated                            post-dated
ex-                   M.N.A.                         ex-M.N.A.
                        principal                       ex-principal
super-              structure                       superstructure
                        fine                              superfine
(d) Prefixes of Location
sub-                  way                              subway
                        terranean                      subterranean
Inter-/intra-      national                        international
                        class                             interclass
                        group                           intragroup
                        departmental                intra-departmental
trans-               plant                            transplant
                        migration                      transmigration
(e) Prefixes of Degree or Size
super-              man                              superman
                        natural                         supernatural
out-                  run                               outran
                        live                               outlive
under-              state                             understate
                        cooked                          undercooked
hyper-              active                           hyperactive
                        critical                          hypercritical
ultra-                modern                         ultramodern
                        simple                          ultrasimple
mini-                bus                               minibus
                        skirt                              miniskirt
over-                active                           overactive
                        smart                            oversmart
sub-                  human                          subhuman
                        zero                              subzero
                        standard                       substandard
arch-                bishop                          archbishop
                        angel                            archangel
(f) Prefixes of Attitude
pro-                  congress                       pro-congress
                        democracy                    pro-democracy
anti-                 hindu                           anti-hindu
                        social                            anti-social
co-                    operate                         cooperate
                        sponsor                        cosponsor
counter-            act                                counteract
                        proposal                       counterproposal
(g) Other Prefixes
auto-                biography                     autobiography
                        start                              autostart
neo-                 rich                              neorich
                        classical                        neoclassical
semi-                circle                            semicircle
                        nude                            seminude
pan-                 Indian                          pan-Indian
(h) Class-changing Prefixes
Here are examples of some prefixes that change the class to which a word belongs:
New word
Use of suffixes
The suffixes may be broadly divided into two categories: class maintaining and class-changing. Here are a few examples:
(a) Class-maintaining Suffixes
New word
(b) Class-changing Suffixes
(i) Noun to adjective
(ii) Adjectives to Noun
(iii) Nouns to Verbs
(iv) Verbs to Nouns
(v) Verbs to Adverb
(vi) Adjectives to Adverbs
Some words can be used as nouns, verbs, adverbs or adjectives without any change in the form of the word, without the addition of an affix or prefix. This process of derivation is called conversion. Here are some examples:
Light:         Switch on the light (noun).
Light the lamp (verb).
The luggage is light (adjective).
Travel light if you must (adverb)
Round:       The earth is round like a ball (adjective).
The principal went on a round (noun).
You must round all the sharp corners (verb).
Fast:           He is observing a fast today (noun).
He ran fast to catch the bus (adverb).
This is a fast colour (adjective).
I am fasting these days (verb).
(A lexicographer may enter all these four different uses of the word fast as four different lexical items).
Back:          He is carrying a bag on his back (noun).
You must back me up (verb).
The plane flew back in no time (adverb).
He left by the back door (adjective).
(b) Other types of conversion
i)    Please give me two coffees.
(An uncountable noun used as a countable noun)
ii)   This instrument is a must for you.
(A closed system word being used as a noun)
iii)  I do not like this touch-me-not policy.
(A phrase being used as an adjective)
iv)  I do not believe in any ism bothering the society today.
(A suffix being used as a noun)
v)   He is only being nice.
      (Stative verb used as a dynamic verb)
(c) In some words of two syllables, change of accent from the first to the second syllable changes a noun/adjective to a verb:
Noun/Adjective                  Verb
‘conduct                             con’duct
‘subject                               sub’ject
‘object                                ob’ject
‘present                              pre’sent
‘contrast                             con’trast
(d) There are some words, in which there is a change in the meanings of words if the final consonant is voiced (either by a change in spellings or without it); for example:
Final sound
Final sound
advice (n.)
advise (v.)
thief (n.)
thieve (v.)
house (n.)
house (v.)
Compound Formation
Compounds are formed by joining two or more bases. These bases are, in some cases, separated by a hyphen, while in other cases, the hyphen appears to have disappeared with the passage of time. There is no rule governing the presence or absence of the hyphen. Here are some examples of compound words:
(a) Noun + Noun
Motor cycle                        hair breadth
teargas                               goldfish
girl-friend                           television fan
bread-piece                        block-head
fire-engine                         pot-belley
(b) Noun + Adjective
trustworthy                         beauty conscious
home sick                           brickred
duty free                             sea-green
(c) Adjective + Noun
paleface                              yellow press
                                          red light
fathead                               greenhorn
(d) Compounds with verbs/adverbials/verbal nouns
sight-seeing                       man-eating
birth-control                        heart-breaking
record-player                      easy-going
brain-washing                    baby-sitting
walking-stick                      lip-read
Two words are sometimes clipped and the clippings joined to forma new word.
brunch        from        breakfast and lunch
smog          from        smoke and fog
telecast       from        television and broadcast
motel          from        motorists and hotel
English (or any other language) generally borrows words from other languages with which it comes into contact. English continues to enrich its store of words by such borrowings.
Guru          (from Hindi)
bazaar        (from Persian)
Sheikh        (from Arabic)
tycoon        (from Japanese)
Dame         (from French)
New words have to be given to new inventions. Such words (as other words of the language) are arbitrary but in course of time, they come to stay as a part of the language.
X-rays, laser, sputnik, astronaut
Some words are formed by the sounds that suggest their meaning.
clang, whisper, thunder, click, tick, lisp, murmur
Language, as everybody knows, is dynamic. It continues to acquire new words with the passage of time. Some words also go on disappearing, as the time passes, due to several reasons. Language is open-ended and modifiable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s