Morphological structure of words.


A morpheme is an association of a given meaning with a given sound pattern. But unlike a woid it is not autonomous. Morphemes occur in speech only as constituent parts of words, not independent­ly, although a word may consist of a single morpheme. They are indi­visible into smaller meaningful unit. That is why the morpheme may be defined as the minimum meaningful language unit.

The term morpheme is derived from Gr morphe 'form' + -eme. The Greek suffix -eme has been adopted by linguists to denote the small­est significant or distinctive unit. (Cf. phoneme, sememe.) The morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of form.

A form is said to be free if it may stand alone without changing its meaning; if not, it is a bound form, so called because it is always bound to something else. E.g., if we compare the words sportive and elegant and their parts, we see that sport, sportive, elegant may oc­cur alone as utterances, whereas eleg, -ive, -ant are bound forms because they never occur alone. A word is, by L. Bloomfield's definition, a minimum free form. A morpheme is said to be either bound or free. This statement should be taken with caution. It means that some mor­phemes are capable of forming words without adding other morphemes: that is, they are homonymous to free forms.

According to the role they play in constructing words, morphemes are subdivided into roots and affixes. The latter are further sub­divided, according to their position into prefixes, suffixes and infixes, and according to their function and meaning, into derivational and functional affixes, the latter also called endings or outer formatives.

When a derivational or functional affix is stripped from the word what remains is a stem (or a stem base). The stem expresses the lexical and the part of speech meaning. For the word hearty and for the paradigm heart (sing.) — hearts (pl.) the stem may be represented as heart-. This stem is a single morpheme, it contains nothing but the root, so it is a simple stem. It is also a free stem because it is homonymous to the word heart.

A stem may also be defined as the part of the word that remains un­changed throughout its paradigm. The stem of the paradigm hearty — heartier — (the) heartiest is hearty-. It is a free stem, but as it consists of a root morpheme and an affix, it is not simple but derived. Thus, a stem containing one or more affixes is a derived stem. If after deducing the affix the remaining stem is not homonymous to a separate word of the same root, we call it a bound stem. Thus, in the word cordial 'proceeding as if from the heart', the adjective-forming suffix can be separated on the analogy with such words as bronchial, radial, social. The remaining stem, however, cannot form a separate word by itself, it is bound. In cordially and cordiality, on the other hand, the de­rived stems are free.

Bound stems are especially characteristic of loan words. E.g., French borrowings: arrogance, char­ity, courage, coward, distort, involve, notion, legible and tolerable. After the affixes of these words are taken away the remaining elements are: arrog-, char-, cour-, cow-, -tort, -volve, not-, leg-, toler-, which do not coincide with any semantically related independent words.

A root may be regarded as the ultimate constituent element which remains after the removal of all functional and derivational affixes and does not admit any further analysis. It is the common element of words within a word-family. Thus, -heart- is the common root of the following series of words: heart, hearten, dishearten, heartily, heartless, hearty, heartiness, sweetheart, heart-broken, kind-hearted, whole-heartedly, etc. In some of these, as, for example, in hearten, there is only one root; in others the root -heart is combined with some other root, thus forming a compound like sweetheart.

The root word heart is unsegmentable, it is non-motivated morpho­logically. The morphemic structure of all the other words in this word-family is obvious — they are segmentable as consisting of at least two distinct morphemes. They may be further subdivided into: 1) those formed by affixation or affixational derivatives consisting of a root morpheme and one or more affixes: hearten, dishearten, heartily, heartless, hearty, heartiness; 2) compounds, in which two, or very rarely more, stems simple or derived are combined into a lexical unit: sweetheart, heart-shaped, heart-broken or 3) derivational com­pounds where words of a phrase are joined together by composition and affixation: kind-hearted. This last process is also called phrasal derivation ((kind heart) + -ed)).

We shall now present the different types of morphemes starting with the root.

It will at once be noticed that the root in English is very often hom­onymous with the word. This fact is of fundamental importance as it is one of the most specific features of the English language arising from its general grammatical system on the one hand, and from its phonemic system on the other. The influence of the analytical structure of the lan­guage is obvious. The second point, however, calls for some explanation. Actually the usual phonemic shape most favoured in English is one sin­gle stressed syllable: bear, find, jump, land, man, sing, etc. This does not give much space for a second morpheme to add classifying lexico-grammatical meaning to the lexical meaning already present in the root-stem, so the lexico-grammatical meaning must be signalled by distri­bution.

In the phrases a morning's drive, a morning's ride, a morning's walk the words drive, ride and walk receive the lexico-grammatical meaning of a noun not due to the structure of their stems, but because they are preceded by a genitive.

Productive roots are roots capable of pro­ducing new words.

The above treatment of the root is purely synchronic, as we have taken into consideration only the facts of present-day English. But the same problem of the morpheme serving as the main signal of a given lex­ical meaning is studied in etymology. Thus, when approached historically or diachronically the word heart will be classified as Common Germanic. One will look for cognates, i.e. words descended from a common ancestor. The cognates of heart are the Latin cor, whence cor­dial 'hearty', 'sincere', and so cordially and cordiality; also the Greek kardia, whence English cardiac condition. The cognates outside the Eng­lish vocabulary are the Russian cepдце, the German Herz, the Spanish corazon.

To emphasize the difference between the synchronic and the diachronic treatment, we shall call the common element of cognate words in different languages not their root but their radical element.

These two types of approach, synchronic and diachronic, give rise to two different principles of arranging morphologically related words into groups. In the first case series of words with a common root mor­pheme in which derivatives are opposable to their unsuffixed and unprefixed bases, are combined, cf. heart, hearty, etc. The second grouping results in families of historically cognate words, c f. heart, cor (Lat), Herz (Germ), etc.

Unlike roots, affixes are always bound forms. The difference between suffixes and prefixes is not confined to their respective position, suffixes being "fixed after" and prefixes "fixed be­fore" the stem. It also concerns their function and meaning.

A suffix is a derivational morpheme following the stem and form­ing a new derivative in a different part of speech or a different word class, cf. -en, -y, -less in hearten, hearty, heartless. When both the un­derlying and the resultant forms belong to the same part of speech, the suffix serves to differentiate between lexico-grammatical classes by ren­dering some very general lexico-grammatical meaning. For instance, both -ify and -er are verb suffixes, but the first characterizes causative verbs, such as horrify, purify, rarefy, simplify, whereas the second is mostly typical of frequentative verbs: flicker, shimmer, twitter and the like.

A prefix is a derivational morpheme standing before the root and modifying meaning, cf. hearten dishearten. It is only with verbs and statives that a prefix may serve to distinguish one part of speech from another, like in earth n — unearth v, sleep n — asleep (stative).

It is interesting that as a prefix en- may carry the same meaning of being or bringing into a certain state as the suffix -en, c f. enable, encamp, endanger, endear, enslave and fasten, darken, deepen, lengthen, strengthen.

Preceding a verb stem, some prefixes express the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb: stay v and outstay (sb) vt. With a few exceptions prefixes modify the stem for time (pre-, post-), place (in-, ad-) or negation (un-, dis-) and remain semantically rather in­dependent of the stem.

An infix is an affix placed within the word, like -n- in stand. The type is not productive.

An affix should not be confused with a combining form. A combining form is also a bound form but it can be distinguished from an affix historically by the fact that it is always borrowed from another language, namely, from Latin or Greek, in which it existed as a free form, i.e. a separate word, or also as a combining form. They differ from all other borrowings in that they occur in compounds and derivatives that did not exist in their original language but were formed only in modern times in English, Russian, French, etc., c f. polyclinic, poly­mer; stereophonic, stereoscopic, telemechanics, television. Combining forms are mostly international. Descriptively a combining form differs from an affix, because it can occur as one constituent of a form whose only other constituent is an affix, as in graphic, cyclic.

Also affixes are characterized either by preposition with respect to the root (prefixes) or by postposition (suffixes), whereas the same com­bining form may occur in both positions. Cf. phonograph, phonology and telephone, microphone, etc.

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