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Structural Types of English Words

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Words are made up of morphemes. A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of a word. We distinguish root morphemes and affixational morphemes. The very term “morpheme” is of the Greek origin (morphe – form). Can morphemes occur in speech as separate independent units? They can, if a word consists of a single morpheme: he can, pen, walk. But upon the whole morphemes are not autonomous. They occur in speech as consistent parts of words. Word is the basic unit of a given language. The approach to the study of the vocabulary in this country is lexicocentrical. Any word is a semantic, grammatical and phonological unit and is fully autonomous. Words are minimal free forms.

Different morphemes play different roles in constructing words. Root morphemes carry the lexical meaning of the word making it the semantic centre. Affixational morphemes fall into functional morphemes (inflexions, grammatical formants) and derivational morphemes.

Functional morphemes are dealt with in grammar and they are few in Modern English: Ns (es), Ns, Ns’, -er, -est, Vs, Ves, -ing, -ed, -t, -n (en).

Lexicology deals with derivational affixes. They may be treated from the point of view of word-building (in what way they derive new words) and from the point of view of word-structure (what role they play in the structure of the word, as a structural unit).

As far as the morphemic composition of words is concerned we distinguish monomorphemic and polymorphemic words. I, bad, tree, go – are monomorphemic words representing the root morpheme only.

Teacher, loveableness, irreproachful, bookshop – are polymorphemic words consisting of root morphemes and affix, morphemes or two root morphemes.

Affixational derivational morphemes are subdivided into prefixes, suffixesandinfixes. An affix before the root-morpheme is called a prefix: re-presentation, un-willingly, im-possible, en-circle and that following the root-morpheme – a suffix: walk-er, yellow-ish, symbol-ism, fellow-ship. Affixes possess the part-of-speech meaning.

Structurally we distinguish free morphemes and bound morphemes. Bound morphemes function only as parts of words: -ness, -ate, -hood, de-. Bound morphemes among roots are presented by –ceive (conceive, deceive), theor- (theory, theoretical).

Infixes (n in stand) are not productive in English.

When we remove from a word all functional affixes (inflexions) we receive a stem (основа слова). The stem expresses both lexical and part-of-speech meaning. It is the part of a word which remains unchanged through its paradigm. A paradigm is a system of grammatical forms of the word.

Stems may be simple (root stems), derived (beautiful) and compound (handbag).

A stem containing one and more affixes is called a derived stem.

When we remove derivational affixes from the stem we receive the root of the word – the common element of words within a word family: hand, handy, handiwork, handicraft, handful, free-handed, red-handed, handbag, handcuffs.

The morphlogical structure of the English language is such that the majority of words are root ones. It is the influence of the analytical structure of the language.

For that reason it is difficult to say to what part of speech words belong. Word meaning can be modified by affixes (ad+fixus-L.). Affixes express lexico-grammatical meanings and serve to build new words. Prefixes modify the meaning of words while by the addition of the suffix not only the meaning is modified but the word itself is transferred to another part of speech.

cf.: honest-dishonest, carry-miscarry, archaic-pseudoarchaic, VS clever-cleverness, present-presentation, work-worker, achieve-achievable.

From the point of view of the morphological structure of English words we distinguish:

1) Simple words (root-words) where the root coincides with the stem in form;

2) Derived words (derivatives) where the meaning of the root, the lexical nucleus is modified by the potential meaning of suffixes;

3) Compound words where two or more stems are fused into semantic and structural whole.

4) Compound derivatives or derivational compounds constituted by two or more stem-morphemes (roots) modified by an affix.

Simple or root words predominate in speech communication, as we see from average talk and reading. Root words are the most frequent lexical units in English. Without special frequency counts the high frequency value of the so-called “functional words” (prepositions, articles, conjunctions, pronouns) is evident. As to the notional words 60 % of the total number of nouns and 68,7 % of the total number of adjectives used in Modern English are root words. In dictionaries, however we find 18 % of nouns and 12,4 % of adjectives.

Derived words (38 % of nouns and 12,4 % of adjectives) are, above all structural types. In dictionaries derived nouns constitute 67 % of all the nouns, 86,3 % of adjectives are derived words.

Compound words do not possess a high frequency value – 2 % of nouns and 0,21 % of adjectives. The number of compound words is steadily growing in the language. Thus, prof. Mühler states that in 1943 there were 48 compound words with “fire”, in 1960 – 61.

As all the words of the English language are divisible it is possible to carry out 3 levels of analysis of word structure.

I. Morphemic analysis states the number of morphemes in a word and their types.

Thus un-believe-bal-ness consists of 4 morphemes: one root morpheme and 3 affix morphemes.

II. Derivational or structural word-formation analysis shows the structural correlation of the word with other words, the structural patterns or rules on which we build words. We present structurally correlative words in a set of binary oppositions. Each second element of these oppositions may be derived from the corresponding first elements; white = yellow = red

whitish = yellowish = reddish

We may observe from proportional oppositions that ish is their distinctive feature. Any other word built according to this pattern contains this component common to the whole group.

III. Analysis into Immediate Constituents.

Immediate Constituents are any of the two meaningful parts forming a larger linguistic unity. Any word (not a simple one) is characterized by morphological divisibility. The analysis into IC reveals the history of the word and its motivation (we play back the process of its construction). Let’s take, for example, remacadamized (road). The analysis is binary and at each stage we may split the word into 2 constituent parts only:

I. remacadamize + ed II. re + macadamize

or re+macadamized macadamize + ed

III. macadamize

macadam + ize

Breaking the word into ICs we observe in each cut the structural order of its constituents.

Finally the Ultimate Constituents will look this way:

re + macadam + ize + ed.

If the analysis is carried out correctly its results will coincide with the result of morphemic analysis.

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