Morphology Lectures: LING 057
Content in language: ideas
and their expression in speech.
We express ideas through language; we connect meaningful units into larger
units (`words' ?) and these units into sentences. Morphemes have phonemic
shape. They are the smallest units of meaning. When we know the
phonemic system, we can then transcribe morphemes phonemically.
Item & Process vs. Item & Arrangement.
Kinds of morphemes:
- Lexical: have referents in the real world, even if
abstract concepts: dog, cat, truth, beauty. A non-finite
- Grammatical: have no referents, but have function
in the language to express relationships in the sentence,
or relationships between speech events and time and
space: plural/singular, past/present/future, continuous,
animate/inanimate, mass/count (nouns), person/number/
gender, etc.; `if', `so'... An almost finite set (new
can come into being; old ones can become archaic.)
- Another distinction: free vs. bound. Free morphemes
occur syntactically freely, or independently. (Perhaps this
is what we mean by a `word'). Bound morphemes must always be attached as
affixes to a particular position of another morphemes. E.g. the
} is always bound. The preposition
``to" is usually free (but may be bound as in ``to-day"
- Kinds of morphology:
- Inflectional: regular, applies to every noun, verb, whatever
or at least the majority of them. E.G. all count nouns have
singular/plural distinction, all verbs have tense
distinctions, etc. Tend to be very Productive,
i.e. are found throughout the language; every (count) noun can be
pluralized, every verb has a past tense, etc.
- derivational: morphemes usually change ``form class"
(``part of speech"), e.g. makes a verb out of a noun,
or an adjective out of a verb, etc. Not always very
regular, not very productive.
- Example: Photograph (n.) --> photograph-y (another kind
- clear (adj.) + ance, +ity, +ness : clearance, clarity, clearness: 3
different kinds of N's
- -ness, -hood, -ize, -dom, -ling. Likeness, likelihood (but not
*likehood, *likeliness); kingdom, princeling (but not *kingling, princedom).
-ize is very productive: can be added to many form classes to make verbs:
potentialize, manhattanize, losangelize, maximize, miniaturize, etc.
- nation (n.) + al (adj.) --> `national' + ize
(makes a verb) `nationalize' + ation --> `nationalization' (back to a
noun) ``process of making s.t. belong to the nation") + de- -->
`denationalization' ``reversing the process of making s.t. belong to the
Some morphemes sound the same but have different meaning,
(and may even be spelled differently). here vs. hear,
there/their/they're, to/too/two, sew/sow/so. fly (noun) vs.
fly (verb); [Þ] -th (ordinal marker on numerals, e.g.
vs.[Þ] -th (nominalizing suffix as in width, truth).
But some morphemes may have many synonyms/meanings that
are not obvious: square: instrument; rectangle; board;
product of number x 2; open place; unopened cotton
flower; straight person; bundle of shingles,
- Empty morphs: cran of cranberry; rasp
`raspberry' (huckle-berry, straw-berry, ...);
`to' of English infinitive: what is its meaning? What is the meaning of `so'
in `I know the answer and so does Mary'? What is the meaning of
`ruth' in ruthless, of `couth' in uncouth? If a farm-er is one
who farms, a work-er is one who works, is a butl-er one who buttles? Is
an ush-er one who ushes? Ideally we want to assign each piece to
morpheme; if we can't, we don't throw it away; we call it an empty morph (i.e.
is empty of obvious meaning.)
- Allomorphs. Pieces that are in complementary
/z/, /s/ and /îz/ are allomorphs of the plural morpheme
} in English. The other allomorphs are the `ablaut' types
(foot/feet), items like oxen and children; Latin and Greek plurals
(cactus/cacti; criterion/criteria); zero plurals (fish/fish; sheep/sheep), and
some other things like loaf/loaves; house/houses [hauzîz];
- How to find morphemes. Gather a corpus of data, segment (think of
the segmentation process of involving your cutting up the thing with a knife
or scissors) it, classify the segments. Nothing is left over! No pieces can
be swept into the wastebasket! Account for everything!
- How morphemes occur:
- Follows the thing it's attached to: Suffixation: English
- Precedes the thing it's attached to: Prefixation: pre-, in-,
un-, de-, ex-
- Infixation: ?? (rare, but may occur in Khmer) is inserted into the
middle of another morpheme.
- Discontinuous: brother, br eth ren; ch[ai]ld,
- Reduplication: tick-tock, ding-dong, itty-bitty, flim-flam,
namby-pamby, hodge-podge, willy-nilly, teensy-weensy; common in
Chinese, South and Southeast Asian languages, Japanese, etc. (But note also
that some kinds of compound phrases, some of which rhyme, may not be true
reduplication: lovey-dovey, artsy-fartsy, hunkey-dorey ...)
- Replacive: foot, feet; goose/geese,
- Zero: plural of sheep (fish, deer), past of hit, put
- Suppletive: Something totally different replaces the root
(stem): past of go is went; singular of people is ... person?
- Grammatical Categories:
We need to distinguish between the semantic category (which may not be overtly
marked) vs. the marker itself. (the expression of the category). English
singular is not marked, but plural is. But we don't say there is no singular;
we recognize that the singular is zero-marked or ``unmarked".
Animate/inanimate is not marked in English, but must be recognized; mass/count
as a category of English nouns has no obvious mark, but has an effect in
pluralization: mass nouns are not pluralized (one milk, 2 milks?) but count
nouns are: one glass of milk, 2 glasses of milk.
- Portmanteau morphs:
Sometimes a category is expressed in one part of the
language, or with some items, but not with others.
Person-number and gender are marked in English pronouns
(I: lst. sg., we: 2nd/sg., he: 3rd/masc/sg., she:
3rd/fem/sg., they: 3rd/plural; you: 2nd person. )
but not in English nouns: only number marked in N's,
except for those with biological gender (which require
gender-marked pronouns in the syntax, although not in
morphology). We can say that the pronoun ``I" is marked
for person/number/gender but is all carried together in
the one segment /ai/; we cannot segment /ai/ into 3
pieces. Therefore it is a ``portmanteau" for 3 categories.
It is sometimes useful to contrast one view of morphology (grammar) as a
set of items and their distribution (where they occur) vs.
another model, where we have items and the processes (rules) that
determine their distribution.
Item and Process (I&P) sets up a base form or UF, derives
other allomorphs from it. English plural:
convert it to /s/ when following voiceless consonants, insert schwa
between s, c, z, s, j, s.
Item and Arrangement (I&A) sets up the items (morphemes and
allomorphs) and states their distribution.
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