1. Definition of Morphology
  • Morphology is a branch of linguistics that studies the form of words.
  • The unit of Morphology is Morpheme.
  1. Morpheme
  • Morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of a language.
Word & Morpheme Similarity Having sounds and meaning.
Difference Word can stand alone and form a sentence by itself.Morpheme cannot stand alone and must be linked to other morphemes.
  • The symbol of a morpheme is { }.
  • Characteristics of a morpheme

+ Morpheme can’t be divided into smaller parts.

+ Morpheme can be either a word or part of a word that has the meaning.

Ex: {teach}

teacher {teach} + {er}

+ Morpheme can reoccur in different environment without any change in meaning.

Ex: {un-}: unhappy, unimportance,…

  1. Classification/ Types of morphemes
  • Morpheme can be classified according to 4 categories


  • 2 types of morpheme:

+ Free morpheme (FM) is the morpheme that can stand alone with meaning (a monomorphemic word).

+ Bound morpheme (BM) is the morpheme that is always annexed to other morphemes

+ Example:                  dis/honest                             aware/ness
                                     BM     FM                                  FM        BM


  • 2 types of morpheme:

+ Root/ base: part of a word that has the main meaning or its lexical meaning.
Ex: work/er  -> work
FM   BM        R/B
Most bases in English are free morphemes, but some are bound morphemes.
Base in English can be:

  • Freebase # free morpheme
  • Bound base # bound morpheme

Stem: an existing word before affixes are added or a root in which an affix is added.

Ex: boy         ->             boyish         ->            boyishness
stem                         stem                             stem

+ Affixes:

  •  Bound morphemes that can be added to a stem.
  • Affixes can be added before, within, or after a stem.


  • 3 kinds

+ Prefixes: bound morphemes that are added before a free base/ stem.
Ex: not/ no {un-; in-; im-; il-; dis-;…}

+ Infixes: bound morphemes that are insulted within a word.
Ex: tooth -> teeth

+ Suffixes: bound morphemes that are added after a free base/ stem.
Ex: adjective suffixes {-ful; -able; -cal; -ic; -ous; -eous; -iar; -less; -ly}


  • Morpheme can be:

+ Inflectional morphemes
Bound morphemes are added to stem to make new grammatical forms.
Ex: go – went – gone – going

Characteristics of inflectional morphemes

  • Do not make a change in part of speech.
  • In words, inflectional morphemes always come last.
  • Inflectional morphemes do not connect.
  • Inflectional morphemes can come up with all stems of the given part of speech.

+ Derivational morphemes
Bound morphemes are prefixes, suffixes to form a new word.
Ex: work (v) -> worker (n)

Characteristics of derivational morphemes

  • Change parts of speech of words.
  • Some suffixes do not make a change in part of speech.
    Ex: king (n) -> kingdom (n)
  • Do not close off the word. Inflectional morphemes can be added after derivational morpheme.
    Ex: person (n) -> personal (a) -> personality (n) -> personalities (n)

    4. Allomorphs

  • Allomorphs are the different form of the same morpheme.
  • An allomorph is the one that is similar to meaning but different from sound(s).
    Ex: {-er}: [-er] -> teacher
[-ist] -> pianist

[-ant] -> participant

  • Types of allomorph

– Phonologically conditioned allomorphs

When the distribution is determined by the preceding sounds, the selection of allomorphs is phonologically conditioned.
Ex: ‘hats’ -> the morpheme {s} is pronounced /s/ because it is preceded by a voiceless consonant.

  • The phonologically conditioned allomorphs are from the morpheme {-s} & {-ed}.
  • Morphologically conditioned allomorphs.

-Morphologically conditioned allomorph is determined by a special morpheme (for irregular plural nouns or verbs).

4 types

+ Zero allomorph
There is no change in the form of the word(s) although the meaning maybe a little bit different.
Ex: fish -> fish                        put -> put

+ Addictive allomorph: adding suffixes to an existing word.
Ex: ox -> oxen                        child -> children

+ By replacing sound
Ex: mouse -> mice                woman -> women

+ Suppletive allomorph: making a change in the form of the word => change in meaning.
Ex: be -> was/ were -> been                    bad -> worse

5. Immediate constituents (IC)

  • Only 2 constituents at each cut.
  • The recommendations on IC divisions
    + If a word has an inflectional suffix, the first cut is between that suffix and the word.
    + One of the IC should be a free form -> means a form that can stand alone with its meaning.
    + The cut is related to the meaning of word.


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