Morpheme. Derivation morphemes and inflection morphemes
Most word-forming morphemes are ambiguous, that is, they do not with
certainty point to any definite part of speech but leave some choice which has
to be decided by other criteria. The morpheme is one of the central notions
of grammatical theory, without which no serious attempt at grammatical
study can be made. Definition of a morpheme is not an easy matter, and it
has been attempted many times by different scholars. Without going into
particulars of the discussions that have taken place, we may briefly define
the morphemesas the smallest meaningful units into which a word form
may be divided.
For instance, if we take the form writers, it can be divided into three
morphemes: (1) writ, expressing the basic lexical meaning of the word, (2) -er-,expressing the idea of agent performing the action indicated by the root of
the verb, (3) -s, indicating number, that is, showing that more than one
person of the type indicated is meant. Similarly the form advantageously
can be divided into three morphemes: advantage + ous + ly, each with a
special meaning of its own.
Two additional remarks are necessary here: (1) Two or more
morphemes may sound the same but be basically different, that is, they may
be homonyms. Thus the -er morpheme indicating the doer of an action as in
writer has a homonym — the morpheme -er denoting the comparative
degree of adjectives and adverbs, as in longer. Which of the two
homonymous morphemes is actually there in a given case can of course only
be determined by examining the other morphemes in the word. Thus, the
morpheme -er in our first example, writer, cannot possibly be the morpheme
of the comparative degree, as the morpheme writ- to which it is joined on is
not the stem of an adjective or adverb, and so no comparative degree is to
be thought of here.
(2) There may be zero morphemes, that is, the absence of a
morpheme may indicate a certain meaning. Thus, if we compare the forms
book and books, both derived from the stem book-, we may say that while
books is characterised by the -s-morpheme as being a plural form, book is
characterised by the zero morpheme as being a singular form.
In grammar, we are of course concerned with the grammatical, or
structural, meaning of morphemes: we do not here study the meanings of root
morphemes, which are necessarily lexical, and as to derivation morphemes, i.
e. those which serve to build words, we are only interested in them in so far as
they are grammatically relevant, and that is the case if they show that the
word belongs to a certain part of speech, and if they serve to distinguish one part of
speech from another. This grammatical significance of derivation morphemes, if it
is there at all, is always combined with their lexical meaning. For instance, if
we take this pair of words: write v. and writer n., the derivative morpheme -er
has a grammatical significance, as it serves to distinguish a noun from a verb,
and it has its lexical meaning, as the lexical meaning of the noun writer is
different from that of the verb write.
Inflection morphemeshave no lexical meaning or function. There is not
the slightest difference in the way of lexical meaning between live and lived, or between house and houses. However, an inflection morpheme can acquire a
lexical meaning in some special cases, for instance if the plural form of a noun
develops a meaning which the singular form has not; thus, the plural form
colours has a meaning, 'flag', which the singular form colour has not. These are
cases of lexicalisation.
Date: 2015-12-17; view: 2084