Notion of the morpheme. Distributional analysis in studying morphemes


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

Distributional analysis in studying morphemes Morphemes are the smallest indivisible units composite words are made of e. Morphemes form an autonomous subsystem of language units. Each morpheme has its norm of combinability with certain other morphemes...



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Notion of the morpheme. Distributional analysis in studying morphemes

Morphemes are the smallest indivisible units composite words are made of, e.g. teach-er, kill-joy. A morpheme can occur in speech only as a constituent part of the word. It may have different phonetic variants (allomorphs): decision – attention; inactive – illegal. Its meaning varies too: childish – reddish; encircle – enrich.

Morphemes form an autonomous subsystem of language units. Each morpheme has its norm of combinability with certain other morphemes, cf.: break-age, develop-ment – break-ment, develop-age. Morphemes may be homonymous (motherly - quickly), synonymous (inactive - unhappy), antonymous (useful - useless).

Meaning in Morphemes. 

Lexical meaning of morphemes may be analyzed into denotational and connotational components. The denotational meaning in affixes is more generalized than in root-morphemes, e.g. –er carries the meaning the doer of the action: reader, teacher, singer. All endearing and diminutive suffixes bear a heavy emotive charge: -ie (girlie, dearie); -ette (kitchenette). Many stylistically marked affixes are bookish or scientific: a- (amoral); -oid (rhomboid).

All suffixes and some prefixes possess grammatical (part-of-speech) meaning: -ness (emptiness) carries the nominal meaning of thigness. Root morphemes do not possess any grammatical meaning: in the root-morpheme man- (manly) there is no grammatical meaning of case and number observed in the word man.

Grammatical and lexical meanings in suffixes are blended: -er (teacher) carries the meaning thingness (noun) and the doer of the action.

In all polymorphemic words their constituent morphemes possess two more types of meaning: differential and distributional. Differential meaning distinguishes a word from all others containing identical morphemes: in the word teacher the root teach- differentiates it from other words beginning in teach (teaching). Distributional meaning is the meaning of the order and arrangement of the constituent morphemes. Distribution is the position which linguistic units may occupy in the flow of speech, or the co-occurrence of units of the same level.

Distributional analysis helps to describe the word’s meaning. In the distributional analysis at the morphemic level the study is conducted in two stages. At the first stage, the analyzed text is divided into recurrent segments consisting of phonemes called “morphs”. At the second stage, the environmental features of the morphs are established and the corresponding identifications are effected. Three main types of distribution are: contrastive, noncontrastive and complementary. The morphs are said to be in contrastive distribution if their meanings are different. Such morphs constitute different morphemes (eg. played, playing). The morphs are said to be in noncontrastive distribution if their meaning is the same (eg. burned, burnt). Complementary distribution concerns different environments of formally different morphs which are united by the same meaning, these morphs are allomorphs of the same morpheme (eg. desks, girls, glasses).

Classification of Morphemes. By the degree of their independence morphemes are classified into free and bound. Free morphemes may occur alone and coincide with word-forms or immutable words: at, by, water- (water, watery). Bound morphemes occur only in combination with other morphemes: dis- (dislike), -y (watery). Most roots are free but some are bound: cran- (cranberry). Affixes are always bound. Some morphemes occupy an intermediate position between free and bound: 1. semi-affixes: -man (postman), half- (half-eaten); 2. combining forms: tele- (television), graph (autograph);

By their frequency morphemes are classified into recurrent and unique. Recurrent morphemes are found in a number of words: sing-ing = sing- (singer, sing-song) + -ing (walking, drawing). Unique morphemes are found only in a given word: pock (pocket).

By their activity in the language affixes are subdivided into productive and non-productive. Productive affixes are used to build new words: -ism (escapism), - ize (nationalize). Non-productive affixes do not build new words: -th (growth), - ous (monotonous).

By their position in the word affixes are subdivided into prefixes and suffixes. A prefix stands before the root and modifies its lexical meaning: kind – unkind. A suffix follows the root, modifying its lexical meaning and changing the word‘s grammatical or lexico-grammatical meaning: appear (verb) – appearance (noun).


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