SAMMARY OF THE BOOK “AN INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH MORPHOLOGY: WORDS AND THEIR STRUCTURE.”
To every one, the term word is a common vocabulary. This book will make learners talk about words more confidently, express themselves clearly since they know exactly what they want to say and use the right vocabulary for them to be understood clearly. This book also aims at making the notion of word to be more precise.
Then to make the notion more precise, this book looks on words as units of meaning versus units of sentence structure. It also looks at the relationships of words, that is, either derivatively related words or inflectionally related words. It also looks on words as pronounceable entities compared to more abstract entities. Lastly the book is intended for English students but not Linguistic students.
Words are defined as meaningful building blocks of language. They are the basic units of language. Even a child starts learning how to talk by uttering just one word. Words come first and sentences later though there are some words which standout as complete sentences e.g. go! And sit! English dictionaries are used to check the spelling of words, the meaning of the word and its pronunciation.
This means that dictionaries are important in the study of words. Words are thus building blocks of sentences with unpredictable meanings hence the need for a dictionary. Sentences constitutes of word tokens. They exist as tokens of single type. This type-token kind of distinction is crucial since in dictionaries, words are the once found here but not tokens.
Onomatopoeic words are words that predict the meaning of the words.e.g animal cries. The meanings can be predicted following the sounds that make the words. But onomatopoeic words are not the same in all languages e.g. in German of French, they different. In sound symbolism, some words have with similar pronunciation tend to predict their vague meaning. Some words need not to be listed in the dictionaries because they have a predictable meanings or the words are not used completely. It is possible for a linguistic item to be a building block of syntax.
These are items which are not words or phrases but tend to have predictable meaning. This means that an item which is neither a sentence nor a phrase but has a predictable meaning. These are called idioms. There are also phrases in which words have colocationally restricted meaning. For example, in ‘white wine’ and ‘white coffee’, the word ‘white’ has colocationally restricted meaning.
Words have smaller parts called morphemes. These are minimal units of morphology, a grammar area dealing with words structure and the relationship between words with morphemes. Words can either be monomorphic i.e. words with only one morpheme or poymorphemic i.e. words with many morphemic. Morphemes can either be bound or free. Free morphemes are those that can stand on their own while bound morphemes are those that cannot stand alone. E.g. in the word, ‘helpfulness’, help is free while ful is bound.
The kinds of morpheme are root, affix or combining form. Morphemes that are the core to the word are called the root. Roots make the most contribution to a words meaning.. Prefixes and suffixes are called affix. Prefixes precede the root of a word. E,g. the word ‘enlarge’ which has –en as a prefix and large as the root. Also in the word, ‘readable’, -able is suffix. Suffixes follow the root. Affixes are generally bound. Morphemes have different pronunciations called allomorphs. E.g. cats, and dogs are allomorphs.
There are other types of bound morphemes. For a example in the word ‘cranberry’ , cran is a bound morpheme while ‘berry’ is free. ‘cran’ occurs nowhere outside this compound. This kind of bound morpheme is called cranberry morpheme. Cranberry morphemes induce curiosity in a word by trying to hide its meaning.
Morphemes can also be classified as combining forms. These are commonly scientific words derived from Greek and Latin languages. For example the word ‘electrolysis’ has two bound roots, that is, ‘electro’ and ‘lysis’. Another example is ‘ electroscope’.
Morphemes can also be identified independent of their meaning. This is done by adding the prefix ‘re’. this brings the meaning ‘again’. For example ‘re-read’. This brings about morphemes which are ‘prefix-root’ combination.
Chapter four deals with inflectional morphology which is the study of inflected forms of words. Words have variations depending on their grammatical context. Inflection can either be regular or irregular. The regular form of forming plurals is by adding suffix –s. e.g. for dog, we have dogs. Some other nouns form their plurals without adding –s. these include man which has a plural ‘men’. There are two forms of nouns, that is, singular and plural. E.g. cat and cats.
But there are some words which do not have even a plural change in their plural form. For example sheep and fish. These nouns are called zero plural. Pronouns can also be included in morphology. This is because some determiners have singular and plural contrast. The contrast is between the subject and also the non subject forms. For instance he and him are forms of ‘HE’. Verbs on the other hand has five forms. E.g. for ‘perform’ we have performed, performs, performing and perform. But may adjectives exhibit around three forms. E.g. green, greener and greenest.
Distinct root morphemes can represent one root morpheme. For a example, the words ‘go’ and ‘went’ are different roots. This phenomenon is called suppletion.the two words, ‘go’ and ‘went’ can represent each other in different grammatical contexts. Other nouns have their plural having no suffix at all of a change in vowel. There are also other words that for their plurals without being unchanged. These are called zero-plurals. For example, ‘sheep’. Still there are other nouns that exist in –s plural form whether they are in singular node or plural mode.e.g scissors. In English language, singular and plural distinction is the only distinctions that is expressed morphologically in nature.
Also, the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘ him’ are said to contrast in case. This is because, ‘he’ belongs to the nominative case and ‘him’ belongs to the accusative case. This relationship is suppletive. Some words exhibit syncretism. These are grammatical words which are different in some lexemes and for others, they are identical. This syncretism occurs with verbs which are irregular such as ‘ding’ and ‘sting’. There are also auxiliaries which are verb like words or may be verbs whose behavior belongs to grammar rather tan word formation. For example, ‘can’ and ‘must’.
Adjectives on the other hand have different forms. The forms are only three. For example, green, greener and greenest. Their difference is on the basis of comparison. Here there is addition of suffixes –er and –est. they are found in adjectives with its basic form with one syllable or two so long as the second syllable ends with a vowel.
From the words ‘preform, performed and performance, we have inflected morphology in that, these words are inflected forms of the word ‘perform’. The word perform is lexeme. This means that perform, performed and performance are inflected forms of lexeme PERFORM. There are other words where their plural is given the designation grammatical word. A good example is the word ‘raw’ which has a plural of ‘rows’.
Words are derived from other words called relatives. Some words have derivational morphology e.g. performance and perform. Words can be derived from their bases. The main word classes include nouns, adjectives an verbs. Adverbs can be derived from adjectives. Nouns can also be derived from other nouns e.g. heroine from hero. Some suffixes can be used to derive nouns from adjectives. E.g. from –ity we have equality, from -ness we have goodness. Also adjectives can be derived from other adjectives. For example from lawful we can derive unlawful.
They can also be derived from suffixes e.g. from –able we can derive reliable. On the other hand, verbs can be derived from other verbs by use of prefixes. For example from ‘enter’ we have ‘re-enter. Word classes are nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns. Each can be derived from the others. But some other nouns are zero derived. E.g., ‘fear and ‘hope’. Another method of deriving words is by conversion. This where a lexeme belonging to one class can be converted to another by without any shape change.
Adverbs can be derived from adjectives. Some adverbs are mono-morphemic in nature. These include ‘often’ and ‘soon’. Others can be derived by conversion. E.g. from ‘hard’, we have, ‘hard car’. We can also derive nouns from other nouns. For instance we can derive the noun, ‘kingship’ from the noun ‘king’.
In conclusion, words build sentences and phrases. They are thus the building blocks of any language. Words have smaller parts called morphemes. These morphemes can either be free or bound. Morphemes can also be root, affix or in combining form. Morphemes that are the core to the word are called the root. Prefixes and suffixes are called affix. Morphemes have different pronunciations called allomorphs. E.g. cats, and dogs are allomorphs. Words may either have inflectional morphology or derivative morphology.
McCarthy, Andrew Carstairs. “An Introduction to English Morphology: Words and Their Structure” page 1-65. Edinburgh University Press.