Week 9  Module 4 Lesson 4.1.2 Morphology: Morphemes

"They gave it me,'" Humpty Dumpty continued thoughtfully, as he crossed one knee over the other and clasped his hands round it, "they gave it me -- for an unbirthday present."

"I beg your pardon?" Alice said with a puzzled air.

"I'm not offended," said Humpty Dumpty.

"I mean, what is an un-birthday present?"

"A present given when it isn't your birthday, of course."

(Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1872),Chapter 6

Humpty Dumpty's got the right idea. An UN-birthday -- presents all 365 days of the year! He obviously is well aware that the prefix un- means "not," as further shown in the following pairs of words:

desirable

undesirable

likely

unlikely

inspired

uninspired

happy

unhappy

developed

undeveloped

sophisticated

unsophisticated

Webster's Third New International Dictionary lists about 2,700 adjectives beginning with un-. If we assume that the most basic unit of meaning is the word, then what do we say about parts of words like un-, which has a fixed meaning: un- means "not." So un + desirable = not desirable and un + likely = unlikely, and so on.

The smallest unit of meaning is a morpheme. It may be a word, like boy, desire, gentle, and man. Words are called free morphemes. Other morphemes - un-, -ish, -ly, dis-, and -ment - are never words by themselves but are always parts of words. These affixes are bound morphemes. We know whether each affix preceded or follows other morphemes. Thus, un- and pre- (as in premeditate, prejudge) are prefixes -- they occur before other morphemes. Morphemes such as -er (as in singer, performer, reader) and -ing (as in sleeping, running, climbing) are suffixes, following other morphemes.

morpheme

=

minimal unit of meaning

free morpheme

=

words, can stand alone and make sense

bound morpheme

=

affixes, need to be connected to free morphemes


one morpheme

boy (1 syllable)

 

desire, lady, water (2 syllables)

 

crocodile (3 syllables)

 

salamander (4 syllables) or more

two morphemes

boy + ish

 

desire + able

three morphemes

boy + ish + ness

 

desire + able + ity

four morphemes

gentle + man + li + ness

 

un + desire + able + ity

More than four 

un + gentle + man + li + ness

 

anti + dis + establish + ment + ari + an + ism

 

Activity

Mod 4 Activity 1 Identifying Morphemes

With what you know about free morphemes (words) and bound morphemes (affixes), you should be able to look at English words and then break them up into their morphemes. Follow these directions to complete this activity successfully:

  1. Review the information on free and bound morphemes. Here's some additional practice: Practice 1 Identifying Morphemes

    • prefix 

    • dogs 

    • trusted 

    • replacements 

    • crying 

    • governmental

    • grandmothers

    • milder 

    • bicycle

    • environmentally 

    • contemplation 

    • linguistic   (check your answers)

  2. If you're unsure of what prefixes and suffixes are, try this online resources on prefixes and suffixes with self-scoring exercises from Long Island University.

  3. Download, print, and work on Mod 4 Activity 1 (.doc) on identifying morphemes. You will have just one chance to submit your answers in the quiz tool.

 

 


Affixes - prefixes, suffixes, infixes, and circumfixes

Affixes are bound morphemes (meaning they can't stand alone like words can) that we add to free morphemes to create new words. Let's take a look now at the four kinds of affixes with examples from languages of the world. 

Prefixes

Suffixes

Infixes

Circumfixes 

Bound morphemes which occur only before other morphemes.
Examples:
un- (uncover, undo)
dis- (displeased, disconnect),
pre- (predetermine, prejudge)

Bound morphemes which occur following other morphemes.
Examples:
-er (singer, performer)
-ist (typist, pianist)
-ly (manly, friendly)

Bound morphemes which are inserted into other morphemes.

Bound morphemes that are attached to a root or stem morpheme both initially and finally.


Prefixes and Suffixes

Morphemes are the minimal units of meaning in all languages, and many languages have prefixes and suffixes. But languages may differ in how they deploy their morphemes. A morpheme that is a prefix in one language may be a suffix in another language. 

For example, in English the plural morpheme -s is a suffix (e.g. boys, machines, papers.) In Isthmus Zapotec, spoken in Mexico, the plural morpheme ka- is a prefix:

zigi

"chin"

kazigi

"chins"

zike

"shoulder"

kazike

"shoulders"

 

 

 

 

Try
this

Practice 2: Plural forms in Isthmus Zapotec

In the table above, we can see that to make the plural in Isthmus Zapotec, we add the prefix ka- in front of nouns.

Apply the plural rule in Isthmus Zapotec by supplying the answers below.

diaga

"ear"

_________

"ears"

ne

"foot"

_________

"feet"

benda

"fish

_________

"fishes"

_________

"dog"

kabiku

"dogs"

_________

"bee"

kabizu

"bees"

_________

"woman"

kaguna

"women"

Check your answers

Languages also differ in what meanings they express through affixation. In Karuk, an endangered language of Northwestern California, adding -ak to a noun forms the locative adverbial meaning "in":

ikrivaan

"house

ikrivaamak

"in a house"

In Russian, the suffix -shchik added to a noun is similar in meaning to the English suffix -er in words like reader, teenager, Londoner, racer, and first grader. The Russian suffix, however, is added to nouns only, as shown in these examples:

atom

"atom"

atomshchik

"atom-warmonger"

baraban

"drum"

barabanshchik

"drummer"

kalambur

"pun"

kalamburshchik

"punner"

beton

"concrete"

betonshchik

"concrete worker"

lom

"scrap"

lomshchik

"salvage collector"


Infixes

Some languages also have infixes, morphemes that are inserted into other morphemes. Bontoc Igorot, spoken in the Philippines, uses infixes, as illustrated by the following:

Noun/Adjective

Verb

fikas

"strong"

fumikas

"to be strong"

kilad

"red"

kumilad

"to be red"

ngitad

"dark"

ngumitad

"to be dark"

 

Try 
this

Practice 3: Infixes in Bontoc Igorot

Apply the infixes rule in Bontoc Igorot by supplying the answers below. 

 

fusul

"enemy"

_________

"to be an enemy"

pusi

"poor"

_________

"to be poor"

_________

"small"

fumanig

"to be small"

_________

"cloud"

lumifo

"to be cloudy"

Check your answers

 

We have infixes in English, too, but they tend to be infixed full-word obscenities into another word, usually into adjectives or adverbs. The most common infix in America is the word fuckin' and all the euphemisms for it, such as friggin', freakin', flippin', and bloody (and its euphemism, bloomin', British), as in un + fuckin' + believable and fan + funckin' + tastic, I'm not o + fuckin' + kay (in the song, "I'm not Okay" by the group My Chemical Romance.) 


Circumfixes

Some languages have circumfixes, morphemes that are attached to a base morpheme both initially and finally. In Chickasaw, a Muskogean language spoken in Oklahoma, the negative is formed with both a prefix ik- and the suffix -o. The final vowel of the affirmative is dropped before the negative suffix is added. Examples of this circumfixing are:

Affirmative

Negative

chokma

"his is good"

ik + chokm + o

"he isn't good"

lakna

"it is yellow"

ik + lakn + o

"it isn't yellow"

 

Try 
this

Practice 4: Circumfixes in Chickasaw

Apply the circumfixes rule for Chickasaw by supplying the answers below. 

 

Affirmate

Negative

palli

"it is hot"

_________

"it isn't hot"

tiwwi 

"he opens (it)"

_________

"he doesn't open (it)"

pisa

"he sees (it)"

_________

"he doesn't see (it)"

apa

"he eats (it)"

_________

"he doesn't eat (it)"

homma

"it is red"

_________

"it isn't red"

haklo

"he hears (it)"

_________

"he doesn't hear (it)"

Check your answers


Root Words (also called stems)

Complex words consist of a root and one or more affixes. A root is a content morpheme that cannot be analyzed into smaller parts. Seen another way, the root is what's left when all prefixes and suffixes have been removed. Some examples are paint in painter, read in reread, and ling in linguistic. A root may or may not be a stand alone word (ling isn't). Root words can be combined with prefixes and suffixes to create new words. In this basic course, the words "root" and "stem" are used interchangeably because, while not identical, they are linguistically similar in meaning.
 

Root

Stem

Non-affix lexical content morphemes that cannot be analyzed into smaller parts  (ex.) cran (as in cranberry), act, beauty, system, etc.

  • Free Root Morpheme: run bottle, phone, etc.

  • Bound Root Morpheme: receive, remit, uncouth, nonchalant, etc. 

  • When a root morpheme is combined with affix morphemes, it forms a stem. 

  • Other affixes can be added to a stem to form a more complex stem. 

  

Just
for
fun

Fun with Morphology

  1. Visit YouTube for the Disney cartoon clip for the unbirthday party. You can also listen to the same clip in Brazilian Portuguese (Disney has since yanked versions of the song in Russian, in Finnish, and in Polish. Bummer - they were fun.)

  2. Increase your vocabulary with these websites.

  1. Learn about English's Latin (and Greek) roots with this easy to understand info plus lists of Latin and Greek roots and affixes from Infoplease.

  2. Comprehensive List of Root Words Prefixes, and Suffixes and what each means (.pdf) from College of the Redwoods.

  3. Now you can actually win at Scrabble with your new knowledge of roots and stems. Play a free Scrabble-like game online at MSN games or at Pogo.

 

 


back to Lesson 4.1.1

On to Lesson 4.1.3


Ling 102/WI Introduction to the Study of Language, University of Hawai'i - Leeward Community College
Professor Pat Kamalani Hurley

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