Topic II. The Morphological Structure of the English Word
1. The morphological structure of the English word.
2. The structural types of English words.
3. The morphemic analysis of the word.
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The fundamental unit of language is a word.Being the most elementary unity of sound and meaning a word nevertheless falls into smaller meaningful structural units which are calledmorphemes.Morphemes do not occur as free forms but only as constituents of words. Yet they possess meanings of their own.
The notion and the term“morpheme” was suggested by Beaudouin de Courtenay in 1881. The word morpheme is one more term which linguistics owes to Greek [(morphe – “form” + the Greek suffix -eme which denotes the smallest unit or the minimum distinctive feature (Cf.: phoneme, sememe, lexeme, grammeme, opposeme)].
From the semantic point of view all morphemes are divided into two large classes: root morphemes (or roots) and affixational morphemes (or affixes). The root is the primary element of the word, its basic part which conveys its fundamental lexical meaning. For example, end- and boy- are the roots in the following groups of words: end, ending, endless, unending, endlessly, endlessness and boy, boyhood, boyish. There exist many root morphemes which coincide with root words, e.g. man, son, desk, tree, red, black, see, look, serve, etc.
The affixes, in their turn, fall into prefixes which precede the root (e.g. unhappy, rewrite, discover, impossible, misbehavior, etc.) and suffixes which follow the root (e.g. friendship, peaceful, worker, teaching, realize, calmly, etc.). The affixes in the above examples are derivational affixes serving to make new words and conveying lexico-grammatical meaning.
It should be mentioned that prefixes in Modern English are always derivational (e.g. read – reread, arrange – disarrange, happy – unhappy, ’’convenience – inconvenience, etc.). As for suffixes, they are either inflectional or derivational. Inflectional suffixes (or inflections) are morphemes serving to make different forms of one and the same word and conveying grammatical meaning, e.g. love – loves – loved, live – lives – lived, pavement – pavements, word – words. Inflectional suffixes are studied by grammar.
The part of the word without its inflectional suffix is called a stem.Stems that coincide with roots are known as simple stems,e.g. boy’ s, trees, roads, books; reads, looks, seems, etc. Stems that contain a root and one or more affixes are derived stems,e.g. teacher’s, misfires, governments, etc. Вinary stems comprising two simple or derived stems are called compound stems, e.g. machine-gunner’s, school-boyish, etc.
From the structural point of view morphemes fall into 3 types: free morphemes, bound morphemesandsemi-bound morphemes.
A free morpheme can stand alone as a word, e.g. friendly, friendship (cf.: a friend); boyish, boyhood (cf.: a boy). So, a free morpheme, is, in fact, a root.
Bound morphemesoccur only as constituent parts of words, e.g.
a) depart, enlarge, misprint, dishonest, unhappy;
b) freedom, greatly, poetic, beautiful, greenish;
c) conceive, perceive, deceive, receive; exsist, desist, subsist, resist; interior, exterior, ulterior; conclude, occlude, preclude, include, exclude.
Bound morphemes are, in fact, of three types: prefixes, suffixesand bound bases. Bound basesare morphemes which serve as stems for derivation but which never occur as free forms, e.g. structure, construct, destruct, etc.
Semi-bound morphemes can function both as affixes and as free morphemes, i.e. words. E.g. after, half, man, well, self and after-thought, half-baked, chairman, well-known, himself.
Positional variants of a morpheme occurring in a specific environment are called allomorphs.Thus, for instance, the allomorphs of the prefix in- (insane, insensitive, intransitive, involuntary) are il- before l (illogical, illegal, illegible, illegitimate), im- before bilabials: b, m, p (imbalanced, immobile, immaterial, impossible, imperfect, impenetrable) and ir- before r (irregular, irrational, irrational, irresolute, irresponsible).