Outline for

Morphology Lectures: LING 057

Harold F. Schiffman, Instructor

Content in language: ideas and their expression in speech.

We express ideas through language; we connect meaningful units into larger units (`words' ?) and these units into sentences. Morphemes have phonemic shape. They are the smallest units of meaning. When we know the phonemic system, we can then transcribe morphemes phonemically.

  1. Kinds of morphemes:

    1. Lexical: have referents in the real world, even if abstract concepts: dog, cat, truth, beauty. A non-finite set.

    2. Grammatical: have no referents, but have function in the language to express relationships in the sentence, or relationships between speech events and time and space: plural/singular, past/present/future, continuous, animate/inanimate, mass/count (nouns), person/number/ gender, etc.; `if', `so'... An almost finite set (new grammatical morphemes can come into being; old ones can become archaic.)

    3. Another distinction: free vs. bound. Free morphemes occur syntactically freely, or independently. (Perhaps this is what we mean by a `word'). Bound morphemes must always be attached as affixes to a particular position of another morphemes. E.g. the English plural { s } is always bound. The preposition ``to" is usually free (but may be bound as in ``to-day" ``to-morrow", etc.

  2. Kinds of morphology:

    1. Inflectional: regular, applies to every noun, verb, whatever or at least the majority of them. E.G. all count nouns have singular/plural distinction, all verbs have tense distinctions, etc. Tend to be very Productive, i.e. are found throughout the language; every (count) noun can be pluralized, every verb has a past tense, etc.

    2. derivational: morphemes usually change ``form class" (``part of speech"), e.g. makes a verb out of a noun, or an adjective out of a verb, etc. Not always very regular, not very productive.

      • Example: Photograph (n.) --> photograph-y (another kind of N.)
      • clear (adj.) + ance, +ity, +ness : clearance, clarity, clearness: 3 different kinds of N's

      • -ness, -hood, -ize, -dom, -ling. Likeness, likelihood (but not *likehood, *likeliness); kingdom, princeling (but not *kingling, princedom). -ize is very productive: can be added to many form classes to make verbs: potentialize, manhattanize, losangelize, maximize, miniaturize, etc.

      • nation (n.) + al (adj.) --> `national' + ize (makes a verb) `nationalize' + ation --> `nationalization' (back to a noun) ``process of making s.t. belong to the nation") + de- --> `denationalization' ``reversing the process of making s.t. belong to the nation"

  3. Homonymy: Some morphemes sound the same but have different meaning, (and may even be spelled differently). here vs. hear, there/their/they're, to/too/two, sew/sow/so. fly (noun) vs. fly (verb); [Þ] -th (ordinal marker on numerals, e.g. fifth) vs.[Þ] -th (nominalizing suffix as in width, truth).

    But some morphemes may have many synonyms/meanings that are not obvious: square: instrument; rectangle; board; product of number x 2; open place; unopened cotton flower; straight person; bundle of shingles,

  4. Empty morphs: cran of cranberry; rasp [ræz] of `raspberry' (huckle-berry, straw-berry, ...); `to' of English infinitive: what is its meaning? What is the meaning of `so' in `I know the answer and so does Mary'? What is the meaning of `ruth' in ruthless, of `couth' in uncouth? If a farm-er is one who farms, a work-er is one who works, is a butl-er one who buttles? Is an ush-er one who ushes? Ideally we want to assign each piece to some morpheme; if we can't, we don't throw it away; we call it an empty morph (i.e. is empty of obvious meaning.)

  5. Allomorphs. Pieces that are in complementary distribution. /z/, /s/ and /îz/ are allomorphs of the plural morpheme { s } in English. The other allomorphs are the `ablaut' types (foot/feet), items like oxen and children; Latin and Greek plurals (cactus/cacti; criterion/criteria); zero plurals (fish/fish; sheep/sheep), and some other things like loaf/loaves; house/houses [hauzîz]; wreath/wreaths [riÞz].

  6. How to find morphemes. Gather a corpus of data, segment (think of the segmentation process of involving your cutting up the thing with a knife or scissors) it, classify the segments. Nothing is left over! No pieces can be swept into the wastebasket! Account for everything!

  7. How morphemes occur:
    1. Follows the thing it's attached to: Suffixation: English plural
    2. Precedes the thing it's attached to: Prefixation: pre-, in-, un-, de-, ex-
    3. Infixation: ?? (rare, but may occur in Khmer) is inserted into the middle of another morpheme.
    4. Discontinuous: brother, br eth ren; ch[ai]ld, ch[I]ld-ren.
    5. Reduplication: tick-tock, ding-dong, itty-bitty, flim-flam, namby-pamby, hodge-podge, willy-nilly, teensy-weensy; common in Chinese, South and Southeast Asian languages, Japanese, etc. (But note also that some kinds of compound phrases, some of which rhyme, may not be true reduplication: lovey-dovey, artsy-fartsy, hunkey-dorey ...)

    6. Replacive: foot, feet; goose/geese, sing/sang/sung
    7. Zero: plural of sheep (fish, deer), past of hit, put
    8. Suppletive: Something totally different replaces the root (stem): past of go is went; singular of people is ... person?

  8. Grammatical Categories:

    We need to distinguish between the semantic category (which may not be overtly marked) vs. the marker itself. (the expression of the category). English singular is not marked, but plural is. But we don't say there is no singular; we recognize that the singular is zero-marked or ``unmarked". Animate/inanimate is not marked in English, but must be recognized; mass/count as a category of English nouns has no obvious mark, but has an effect in pluralization: mass nouns are not pluralized (one milk, 2 milks?) but count nouns are: one glass of milk, 2 glasses of milk.

  9. Portmanteau morphs: Sometimes a category is expressed in one part of the language, or with some items, but not with others. Person-number and gender are marked in English pronouns (I: lst. sg., we: 2nd/sg., he: 3rd/masc/sg., she: 3rd/fem/sg., they: 3rd/plural; you: 2nd person. ) but not in English nouns: only number marked in N's, except for those with biological gender (which require gender-marked pronouns in the syntax, although not in morphology). We can say that the pronoun ``I" is marked for person/number/gender but is all carried together in the one segment /ai/; we cannot segment /ai/ into 3 pieces. Therefore it is a ``portmanteau" for 3 categories.
  • Item & Process vs. Item & Arrangement.

    It is sometimes useful to contrast one view of morphology (grammar) as a set of items and their distribution (where they occur) vs. another model, where we have items and the processes (rules) that determine their distribution.

    Item and Process (I&P) sets up a base form or UF, derives other allomorphs from it. English plural: {-z}, convert it to /s/ when following voiceless consonants, insert schwa between s, c, z, s, j, s.

    Item and Arrangement (I&A) sets up the items (morphemes and allomorphs) and states their distribution.

    Harold Schiffman
    9/28/97, 13:46:23 EST 1997