English Morphology (part II) : Representing Word Structure

There are two things can describe the internal structure of words. The first one is the identification of each component morphemes and second is classification of these elements in terms of their contribution to the meaning and function of the larger word. The internal structure of simple and complex word contains of three basic terms which are root, base, and affixes.

Several people gave different meanings to each term, for instance, according to O’Grady, a root (or a base) carries the major component of the word’s meaning and belongs to a lexical category – noun (N), verb (V), adjective (A), or preposition (P). Meanwhile, Richards (1992) had a notion that a root is a morpheme which is the basic part of a word and which may, in many languages, occur on its own (e.g. English, man, hold, cold, rhythm). Root may be joined to other roots (e.g. manly, coldness) or combining forms (e.g. biorhythm),

On the other hand, an affix is a letter or sound, or group of letters or sounds (=a morpheme) which is added to a word, and which changes the meaning or function of the word. It is different from root; affixes do not belong to a lexical category and are always bound morphemes.

Example: ‘teacher’ à teach: a root (Verb)

-er:      an affix (a bound morpheme)

Meaning: one who teaches

Affixes are bound forms that can be added:

a)      To the prefix

Example:         un- (changes the meaning of a word to its opposite)

Kind – unkind

b)      To the suffix

Example:         -ness (changes an adjective into a noun)

Kind – kindness

c)      To the infix

Example:         getar – gemetar [Indonesian] (shows a plurality)

The base is also the root; a base is the form to which an affix is added. (O’Grady)

Example:         books à          book = base

-s = affix

Blackened à blacken = verbal base ———– black = root morpheme

-en = suffix

A stem or a base form is that part of a word to which an inflectional affix is or can be added. (Richard 1992)

Example:         the works of Shakespeare à work (stem) + -s (inflectional affix)

works (plural)

The stem of the word may be:

a)      A simple stem consisting of only 1 morpheme (root) à work

b)      A root + a derivational affix à work + -er = worker

c)      2 or more roots à work + shop = workshop

The Hierarchial Structure of Words by Fromkin

  1. Morphemes are added in a fixed order,
  2. This order reflects the hierarchical structure of the word.
  3. A word is not a simple sequence of morphemes.
  4. A word has an internal structure.

Example:         unsystematic à un-, system, -atic

Two morphological rules applied in tree diagram:

  1. Noun (root) + -atic (derivational suffix) = an adjective
  2. Un- (derivational prefix) + adjective = adjective

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