Morpheme

Morpheme

Overview
In linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, a morpheme is the smallest semantically
Semantics
Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

 meaningful
Meaning (linguistics)
In linguistics, meaning is what is expressed by the writer or speaker, and what is conveyed to the reader or listener, provided that they talk about the same thing . In other words if the object and the name of the object and the concepts in their head are the same...

 unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

. A morpheme is not identical to a word
Word
In language, a word is the smallest free form that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content . This contrasts with a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning but will not necessarily stand on its own...

, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not
Bound morpheme
In morphology, a bound morpheme is a morpheme that only appears as part of a larger word; a free morpheme is one that can stand alone.Affixes are always bound. English language affixes are either prefixes or suffixes. E.g., -ment in "shipment" and pre- in "prefix"...

 stand alone, whereas a word, by definition, is a freestanding unit of meaning. Every word comprises one or more morphemes.

Every morpheme can be classified as either free or bound.
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In linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, a morpheme is the smallest semantically
Semantics
Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

 meaningful
Meaning (linguistics)
In linguistics, meaning is what is expressed by the writer or speaker, and what is conveyed to the reader or listener, provided that they talk about the same thing . In other words if the object and the name of the object and the concepts in their head are the same...

 unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

. A morpheme is not identical to a word
Word
In language, a word is the smallest free form that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content . This contrasts with a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning but will not necessarily stand on its own...

, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not
Bound morpheme
In morphology, a bound morpheme is a morpheme that only appears as part of a larger word; a free morpheme is one that can stand alone.Affixes are always bound. English language affixes are either prefixes or suffixes. E.g., -ment in "shipment" and pre- in "prefix"...

 stand alone, whereas a word, by definition, is a freestanding unit of meaning. Every word comprises one or more morphemes.

Free vs. bound


Every morpheme can be classified as either free or bound. These categories are mutually exclusive, and as such, a given morpheme will belong to exactly one of them.
  • Free morphemes can function independently as words (e.g. town, dog) and can appear with other lexeme
    Lexeme
    A lexeme is an abstract unit of morphological analysis in linguistics, that roughly corresponds to a set of forms taken by a single word. For example, in the English language, run, runs, ran and running are forms of the same lexeme, conventionally written as RUN...

    s (e.g. town hall, doghouse).
  • Bound morpheme
    Bound morpheme
    In morphology, a bound morpheme is a morpheme that only appears as part of a larger word; a free morpheme is one that can stand alone.Affixes are always bound. English language affixes are either prefixes or suffixes. E.g., -ment in "shipment" and pre- in "prefix"...

    s appear only as parts of words, always in conjunction with a root
    Root (linguistics)
    The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

     and sometimes with other bound morphemes. For example, un- appears only accompanied by other morphemes to form a word. Most bound morphemes in English are affix
    Affix
    An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...

    es, particularly prefix
    Prefix
    A prefix is an affix which is placed before the root of a word. Particularly in the study of languages,a prefix is also called a preformative, because it alters the form of the words to which it is affixed.Examples of prefixes:...

    es and suffix
    Suffix
    In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

    es. Bound morphemes that are not affixes are called cranberry morpheme
    Cranberry morpheme
    In linguistic morphology, a cranberry morpheme is a type of bound morpheme that cannot be assigned a meaning or a grammatical function but nonetheless serves to distinguish one word from the other.-Etymology:...

    s, their nomenclature derived from the bound, non-affix function of cran- in the word cranberry.

Derivational vs. inflectional


Bound morphemes can be further classified as derivational or inflectional.
  • Derivational
    Derivation (linguistics)
    In linguistics, derivation is the process of forming a new word on the basis of an existing word, e.g. happi-ness and un-happy from happy, or determination from determine...

     morphemes, when combined with a root, change either the semantic meaning or part of speech of the affected word. For example, in the word happiness, the addition of the bound morpheme -ness to the root happy changes the word from an adjective (happy) to a noun
    Noun
    In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

     (happiness). In the word unkind, un- functions as a derivational morpheme, for it inverts the meaning of the word formed by the root kind.
  • Inflection
    Inflection
    In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

    al morphemes modify a verb
    Verb
    A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

    's tense
    Grammatical tense
    A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

     or a noun's number
    Grammatical number
    In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

     without affecting the word's meaning or class. Examples of applying inflectional morphemes to words are adding -s to the root dog to form dogs and adding -ed to wait to form waited.

Allomorphs


Allomorph
Allomorph
In linguistics, an allomorph is a variant form of a morpheme. The concept occurs when a unit of meaning can vary in sound without changing meaning. The term allomorph explains the comprehension of phonological variations for specific morphemes....

s are variants of a morpheme that differ in pronunciation
Pronunciation
Pronunciation refers to the way a word or a language is spoken, or the manner in which someone utters a word. If one is said to have "correct pronunciation", then it refers to both within a particular dialect....

 but are semantically identical. For example, in English, the plural marker -(e)s of regular nouns can be pronounced /-z/, /-s/, or /-ɨz/, depending on the final sound of the noun's singular
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

 form.

Morphological analysis



In natural language processing
Natural language processing
Natural language processing is a field of computer science and linguistics concerned with the interactions between computers and human languages; it began as a branch of artificial intelligence....

 for Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

, Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 and other languages, morphological analysis is the process of segmenting a sentence into a row of morphemes. Morphological analysis is closely related to part-of-speech tagging
Part-of-speech tagging
In corpus linguistics, part-of-speech tagging , also called grammatical tagging or word-category disambiguation, is the process of marking up a word in a text as corresponding to a particular part of speech, based on both its definition, as well as its context—i.e...

, but word segmentation is required for these languages because word boundaries are not indicated by blank spaces.

Changing definitions of morpheme



In generative grammar
Generative grammar
In theoretical linguistics, generative grammar refers to a particular approach to the study of syntax. A generative grammar of a language attempts to give a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form grammatical sentences...

, the definition of a morpheme depends heavily on whether syntactic trees have morphemes as leafs or features as leafs.
  • Direct surface to syntax
    Syntax
    In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

     mapping LFG
    Lexical functional grammar
    Lexical functional grammar is a grammar framework in theoretical linguistics, a variety of generative grammar. It is a type of phrase structure grammar, as opposed to a dependency grammar. The development of the theory was initiated by Joan Bresnan and Ronald Kaplan in the 1970s, in reaction to...

     – leafs are words
  • Direct syntax to semantics mapping
    • Leafs in syntactic trees spell out morphemes: Distributed morphology
      Distributed morphology
      In generative linguistics, Distributed Morphology is a framework for theories of morphology introduced in 1993 by Morris Halle and Alec Marantz. The central claim of Distributed Morphology is that there is no unified Lexicon as in earlier generative treatments of word-formation...

       – leafs are morphemes
    • Branches in syntactic trees spell out morphemes:Radical Minimalism and Nanosyntax
      Nanosyntax
      Nanosyntax is an approach to syntax in which syntactic parse trees are built up out of a large number of syntactic constituents. Each morpheme may correspond to several such elements, which do not have to form a "subtree"....

       -leafs are "nano" morpho-syntactic features


Given the definition of morpheme as "the smallest meaningful unit" Nanosyntax
Nanosyntax
Nanosyntax is an approach to syntax in which syntactic parse trees are built up out of a large number of syntactic constituents. Each morpheme may correspond to several such elements, which do not have to form a "subtree"....

 aims to account for idioms where it is often an entire syntactic tree which contributes "the smallest meaningful unit." An example idiom is "Don't let the cat out of the bag" where the idiom is composed of "let the cat out of the bag" and that might be considered a semantic morpheme, which is composed of many syntactic morphemes. Other cases where the "smallest meaningful unit" is larger than a word include some collocations such as "in view of" and "business intelligence" where the words together have a specific meaning.

The definition of morphemes also play a significant role in the interfaces of generative grammar in the following theoretical constructs;
  • Event semantics The idea that each productive morpheme must have a compositional semantic meaning (a denotation
    Denotation
    This word has distinct meanings in other fields: see denotation . For the opposite of Denotation see Connotation.*In logic, linguistics and semiotics, the denotation of a word or phrase is a part of its meaning; however, the part referred to varies by context:** In grammar and literary theory, the...

    ), and if the meaning is there, there must be a morpheme (null or overt).
  • Spell-out The interface where syntactic/semantic structures are "spelled-out" using words or morphemes with phonological content. This can also be thought of as lexical insertion into the syntactics

Linguistics

  • Null morpheme
    Null morpheme
    In morpheme-based morphology, a null morpheme is a morpheme that is realized by a phonologically null affix . In simpler terms, a null morpheme is an "invisible" affix. It is also called a zero morpheme; the process of adding a null morpheme is called null affixation, null derivation or zero...

  • Word stem
    Word stem
    In linguistics, a stem is a part of a word. The term is used with slightly different meanings.In one usage, a stem is a form to which affixes can be attached. Thus, in this usage, the English word friendships contains the stem friend, to which the derivational suffix -ship is attached to form a new...

  • Hybrid word
    Hybrid word
    A hybrid word is a word which etymologically has one part derived from one language and another part derived from a different language.-Common hybrids:The most common form of hybrid word in English is one which combines etymologically Latin and Greek parts...

  • Alternation (linguistics)
    Alternation (linguistics)
    In linguistics, an alternation is the phenomenon of a phoneme or morpheme exhibiting variation in its phonological realization. Each of the various realizations is called an alternant...

  • Theoretical linguistics
    Theoretical linguistics
    Theoretical linguistics is the branch of linguistics that is most concerned with developing models of linguistic knowledge. The fields that are generally considered the core of theoretical linguistics are syntax, phonology, morphology, and semantics...

  • Marker (linguistics)
    Marker (linguistics)
    In linguistics, a marker is a free or bound morpheme that indicates the grammatical function of the marked word, phrase, or sentence. In analytic languages and agglutinative languages, markers are generally easily distinguished. In fusional languages and polysynthetic languages, this is often not...

  • Morphological parsing
    Morphological parsing
    Morphological parsing, in natural language processing, is the process of determining the morphemes from which a given word is constructed. It must be able to distinguish between orthographic rules and morphological rules...


Lexicology

  • Greek morphemes
    Greek morphemes
    - Common morphemes :- References :* , Khoff, Mountainside Middle School* , Keith M. Denning, Brett Kessler, William R. Leben, William Ronald Leben, Oxford University Press US, 2007, 320pp, p. 127, ISBN 9780195168020 at Google Books...

  • Lexeme
    Lexeme
    A lexeme is an abstract unit of morphological analysis in linguistics, that roughly corresponds to a set of forms taken by a single word. For example, in the English language, run, runs, ran and running are forms of the same lexeme, conventionally written as RUN...

  • Grammeme
    Grammeme
    A grammeme in linguistics is a unit of grammar, just as a lexeme is a lexical unit and a morpheme is a morphological unit.More specifically, a grammeme is a value of a grammar category. For example, singular and plural are grammemes of the category Grammatical number, noun and verb are grammemes of...

  • Morphophonology
    Morphophonology
    Morphophonology is a branch of linguistics which studies, in general, the interaction between morphological and phonetic processes. When a morpheme is attached to a word, it can alter the phonetic environments of other morphemes in that word. Morphophonemics attempts to describe this process...

  • Chereme
  • Grapheme
  • Phoneme
    Phoneme
    In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

  • Sememe
    Sememe
    A sememe is a semantic language unit of meaning, correlative to a morpheme.A sememe is a proposed unit of transmitted or intended meaning; it is atomic or indivisible. A sememe can be the meaning expressed by a morpheme, such as the English pluralizing morpheme -s, which carries the sememic...

  • Floating tone
    Floating tone
    A floating tone is a morpheme or element of a morpheme that contains no consonants, no vowels, but only tone. It cannot be pronounced by itself, but affects the tones of neighboring morphemes....


External links