In linguistics, morphology is the study of words, how they are formed, and their relationship to other words in the same language. It analyzes the structure of. Morphology as a sub-discipline of linguistics was named for the first time in by the German linguist August Schleicher who used the term for the study of the. Morphology is the study of how things are put together, like the make-up of animals and plants, or the branch of linguistics that studies the structure of words.
While words, along with clitics , are generally accepted as being the smallest units of syntax , in most languages, if not all, many words can be related to other words by rules that collectively describe the grammar for that language.
For example, English speakers recognize that the words dog and dogs are closely related, differentiated only by the plurality morpheme "-s", only found bound to noun phrases. Speakers of English, a fusional language , recognize these relations from their innate knowledge of English's rules of word formation. They infer intuitively that dog is to dogs as cat is to cats ; and, in similar fashion, dog is to dog catcher as dish is to dishwasher.
By contrast, Classical Chinese has very little morphology, using almost exclusively unbound morphemes "free" morphemes and depending on word order to convey meaning. Most words in modern Standard Chinese ["Mandarin"], however, are compounds and most roots are bound. These are understood as grammars that represent the morphology of the language.
The rules understood by a speaker reflect specific patterns or regularities in the way words are formed from smaller units in the language they are using, and how those smaller units interact in speech. In this way, morphology is the branch of linguistics that studies patterns of word formation within and across languages and attempts to formulate rules that model the knowledge of the speakers of those languages.
Phonological and orthographic modifications between a base word and its origin may be partial to literacy skills. Studies have indicated that the presence of modification in phonology and orthography makes morphologically complex words harder to understand and that the absence of modification between a base word and its origin makes morphologically complex words easier to understand.
Morphologically complex words are easier to comprehend when they include a base word. Polysynthetic languages , such as Chukchi , have words composed of many morphemes. The morphology of such languages allows for each consonant and vowel to be understood as morphemes , while the grammar of the language indicates the usage and understanding of each morpheme.
The discipline that deals specifically with the sound changes occurring within morphemes is morphophonology. The Greco-Roman grammatical tradition also engaged in morphological analysis. The linguistic term "morphology" was coined by August Schleicher in The term "word" has no well-defined meaning.
Generally, a lexeme is a set of inflected word-forms that is often represented with the citation form in small capitals. Eat and eats are thus considered different words-forms belonging to the same lexeme eat. Eat and Eater , on the other hand, are different lexemes, as they refer to two different concepts. Here are examples from other languages of the failure of a single phonological word to coincide with a single morphological word form. An extreme level of this theoretical quandary posed by some phonological words is provided by the Kwak'wala language.
The three-word English phrase, "with his club", where 'with' identifies its dependent noun phrase as an instrument and 'his' denotes a possession relation, would consist of two words or even just one word in many languages. Unlike most languages, Kwak'wala semantic affixes phonologically attach not to the lexeme they pertain to semantically, but to the preceding lexeme.
Consider the following example in Kwak'wala, sentences begin with what corresponds to an English verb: In other words, a speaker of Kwak'wala does not perceive the sentence to consist of these phonological words:. A central publication on this topic is the recent volume edited by Dixon and Aikhenvald , examining the mismatch between prosodic-phonological and grammatical definitions of "word" in various Amazonian, Australian Aboriginal, Caucasian, Eskimo, Indo-European, Native North American, West African, and sign languages.
Apparently, a wide variety of languages make use of the hybrid linguistic unit clitic , possessing the grammatical features of independent words but the prosodic -phonological lack of freedom of bound morphemes. The intermediate status of clitics poses a considerable challenge to linguistic theory.
Given the notion of a lexeme, it is possible to distinguish two kinds of morphological rules. Some morphological rules relate to different forms of the same lexeme; while other rules relate to different lexemes. Rules of the first kind are inflectional rules , while those of the second kind are rules of word formation. The generation of the English plural dogs from dog is an inflectional rule, while compound phrases and words like dog catcher or dishwasher are examples of word formation.
Informally, word formation rules form "new" words more accurately, new lexemes , while inflection rules yield variant forms of the "same" word lexeme. The distinction between inflection and word formation is not at all clear cut. There are many examples where linguists fail to agree whether a given rule is inflection or word formation. The next section will attempt to clarify this distinction. Word formation is a process where one combines two complete words, whereas with inflection you can combine a suffix with some verb to change its form to subject of the sentence.
A further difference is that in word formation, the resultant word may differ from its source word's grammatical category whereas in the process of inflection the word never changes its grammatical category. There is a further distinction between two primary kinds of morphological word formation: Compounding is a process of word formation that involves combining complete word forms into a single compound form.
Dog catcher , therefore, is a compound, as both dog and catcher are complete word forms in their own right but are subsequently treated as parts of one form. Derivation involves affixing bound i. The word independent , for example, is derived from the word dependent by using the prefix in- , while dependent itself is derived from the verb depend. There is also word formation in the processes of clipping in which a portion of a word is removed to create a new one, blending in which two parts of different words are blended into one, acronyms in which each letter of the new word represents a specific word in the representation i.
NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, borrowing in which words from one language are taken and used in another, and finally coinage in which a new word is created to represent a new object or concept. A linguistic paradigm is the complete set of related word forms associated with a given lexeme.
The familiar examples of paradigms are the conjugations of verbs and the declensions of nouns. Also, arranging the word forms of a lexeme into tables, by classifying them according to shared inflectional categories such as tense , aspect , mood , number , gender or case , organizes such. For example, the personal pronouns in English can be organized into tables, using the categories of person first, second, third ; number singular vs.
The inflectional categories used to group word forms into paradigms cannot be chosen arbitrarily; they must be categories that are relevant to stating the syntactic rules of the language. Person and number are categories that can be used to define paradigms in English, because English has grammatical agreement rules that require the verb in a sentence to appear in an inflectional form that matches the person and number of the subject.
Therefore, the syntactic rules of English care about the difference between dog and dogs , because the choice between these two forms determines which form of the verb is used. However, no syntactic rule for the difference between dog and dog catcher , or dependent and independent.
The first two are nouns and the second two are adjectives. An important difference between inflection and word formation is that inflected word forms of lexemes are organized into paradigms that are defined by the requirements of syntactic rules, and there are no corresponding syntactic rules for word formation.
The relationship between syntax and morphology is called "morphosyntax" and concerns itself with inflection and paradigms, not with word formation or compounding.
Above, morphological rules are described as analogies between word forms: In this case, the analogy applies both to the form of the words and to their meaning: One of the largest sources of complexity in morphology is that this one-to-one correspondence between meaning and form scarcely applies to every case in the language.
Even cases regarded as regular, such as -s , are not so simple; the -s in dogs is not pronounced the same way as the -s in cats ; and, in plurals such as dishes , a vowel is added before the -s.
These cases, where the same distinction is effected by alternative forms of a "word", constitute allomorphy. Phonological rules constrain which sounds can appear next to each other in a language, and morphological rules, when applied blindly, would often violate phonological rules, by resulting in sound sequences that are prohibited in the language in question.
Similar rules apply to the pronunciation of the -s in dogs and cats: Lexical morphology is the branch of morphology that deals with the lexicon , which, morphologically conceived, is the collection of lexemes in a language. As such, it concerns itself primarily with word formation: There are three principal approaches to morphology and each tries to capture the distinctions above in different ways:.
While the associations indicated between the concepts in each item in that list are very strong, they are not absolute. In morpheme-based morphology, word forms are analyzed as arrangements of morphemes. A morpheme is defined as the minimal meaningful unit of a language.
In a word such as independently , the morphemes are said to be in- , depend , -ent , and ly ; depend is the root and the other morphemes are, in this case, derivational affixes. More recent and sophisticated approaches, such as distributed morphology , seek to maintain the idea of the morpheme while accommodating non-concatenated, analogical, and other processes that have proven problematic for item-and-arrangement theories and similar approaches.
Morpheme-based morphology presumes three basic axioms: Morpheme-based morphology comes in two flavours, one Bloomfieldian  and one Hockettian.
For him, there is a morpheme plural using allomorphs such as -s , -en and -ren. Within much morpheme-based morphological theory, the two views are mixed in unsystematic ways so a writer may refer to "the morpheme plural" and "the morpheme -s " in the same sentence.
Lexeme-based morphology usually takes what is called an item-and-process approach. Instead of analyzing a word form as a set of morphemes arranged in sequence, a word form is said to be the result of applying rules that alter a word-form or stem in order to produce a new one.
An inflectional rule takes a stem, changes it as is required by the rule, and outputs a word form; a derivational rule takes a stem, changes it as per its own requirements, and outputs a derived stem; a compounding rule takes word forms, and similarly outputs a compound stem.
Word-based morphology is usually a word-and-paradigm approach. The theory takes paradigms as a central notion. Instead of stating rules to combine morphemes into word forms or to generate word forms from stems, word-based morphology states generalizations that hold between the forms of inflectional paradigms.
The major point behind this approach is that many such generalizations are hard to state with either of the other approaches. Word-and-paradigm approaches are also well-suited to capturing purely morphological phenomena, such as morphomes. Within the field of biology, morphology is the study of the shapes and arrangement of parts of organisms, in order to determine their function, their development, and how they may have been shaped by evolution.
Morphology is particularly important in classifying species, since it can often reveal how closely one species is related to another.
Morphology is studied within other sciences as well, including astronomy and geology. And in language, morphology considers where words come from and why they look the way they do. These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'morphology.
See more words from the same year. More Definitions for morphology. See the full definition for morphology in the English Language Learners Dictionary. Translation of morphology for Spanish Speakers.
Translation of morphology for Arabic Speakers. Encyclopedia article about morphology. What made you want to look up morphology? Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible. Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! You'll fall head over heels. Is it real life, or just fantasy? Comedian ISMO on what separates a boot from a trunk.
Comedian ISMO on the complexities of the word 'tip'. How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts. The awkward case of 'his or her'. Test your visual vocabulary with our question challenge!
Morphology definition is - a branch of biology that deals with the form and structure of animals and plants. How to use morphology in a sentence. What is. Definition of morphology - the study of the forms of things., a particular form, shape, or structure. This is the first of a sequence of lectures discussing various levels of linguistic analysis. We'll start with morphology, which deals with morphemes (the minimal.