Morphosyntax 1

Morphosyntax 1 – Lecture 1 – Introduction to English Morphology
The study of language:
- linguistics
- psychology
- anthropology
- sociology
- philosophy
- etc.
Language is a part of a larger semiotic system
Every language has a structure – modes (speech, writing) + conventions (linguistic, of
The structure of a language is described in rules (grammar) and principles (pragmatics)
linguistic competence
importance of context – linguistic, social,…
Rules of grammar:
- Phonetics/Phonology - the smallest unit of structure in language, the phoneme
- Morphology - the smallest unit of meaning in language, the morpheme
- Syntax - the largest level of structure is the clause
- Semantics - the meaning of individual words (lexical semantics) and the ability of
words to refer to points in time or individuals in the external world (deixis)
grammaticality X acceptability of a sentence
Morphology – terminology:
 Morpheme - the minimal linguistic sign, it is the smallest component of a word
which contributes to its meaning
 Morph - the realization (in phonemes or in letters) of a morpheme
 allomorphs – alternative forms which carry the same meaning but have different
 Classification of Morphemes: Free (root, base, stem) X Bound
Bound - derivational (lexical) or inflectional (grammatical)
- words can contain more than one base – compounds
Some stems are rather bound than free: Clitic - syntactically independent objects that act
as if they were morphologically or phonologically part of a neighboring word (collapsing
together of common words): don’t, I’ll, what‘s
Bound morphemes:
 inflectional - morphemes that indicate some kind of grammatical relationship
- always a suffix
 derivational - can change the meaning of a word or its part of speech
a sufix or a prefix
inflections in English:
s – 3rd sg.; plural; possesive case
ing – ing participle
ed – past simple; past participle
er – comparative form of Adj
est – superlative form of Adj
derivational morphemes – much larger class – see the file on affixes
 Productivity:
- Inflections are highly productive - they can be regularly placed on any eligible base
Eg: plural and possessive -s can be placed on any noun
- Derivational affixes are much less productive - they cannot uniformly be attached to
a potentially eligible base
Eg: -able - highly productive to turn verb to adjective (catchable, walkable,
hittable, touchable, sellable)
But -th can be used on only a very small number of adjectives or verbs to
create a noun (warmth, truth, growth X *coolth, *niceth, *smallth)