An Introduction to Morphology


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  • In previous weeks we have looked at individual sounds. This week we are examining the next level: word formation. To get us in the mood, I have a cartoon. In the locker-room, the football team gathers. The names on the back of the players jersey’s are: He, Him, It, and You. The coach is angry, presumably because they had a bad play or a bad game, and he is scolding them: “Well, you’re playing like a bunch of amateur nouns!” The joke of course is based on word play. The players are pronouns (he, him, it etc), but the coach is looking at it as two words, ‘pro’ (someone who is skilful) and ‘noun’. The players are supposed to be skilful nouns but today they are playing like amateurs, or beginners. What allows us to construct and deconstruct words in this way?
  • This is one of the question we will try to answer today. In this lecture we will look at what is morphology, how we store and organize words, how they are structured, and then we will do some exercises in which we will deconstruct words in English and we will perform a morphological analysis on a data set from another language.
  • Morphology comes from the Greek word ‘morph’ meaning shape and ‘ology’ which means ‘study of’, therefore morphology is the study of shape or form. The term morphology is not unique to Linguistics. In geology for example, morphology means the study of the formation of land masses. This branch of linguistics is concerned with the internal structure of words and how meaningful pieces combine and recombine to form bigger more complex words. First, let’s make a distinction between word and morpheme. There is no agreed upon definition for ‘word’; we will use ‘word’ to refer to the finished/produced form, and we will use ‘morpheme’ to refer to the smaller meaningful parts that make-up a word. A morpheme can be very small, it can be an individual sound, so long as it carries meaning. The English plural ‘s’ is an example of such a small morpheme. It means that the there are more than one of the morpheme that its attached to. (cat v. cats). Everyone here has a vast knowledge of words that you started learning when you were a baby. The lexicon is your mental list of all of the morphemes you know. You continue to add to these throughout your life.
  • The lexicon stores a HUGE amount of morphemes but conversation typically happens very fast. How are our mental lists organized? And are they even organized or is it just a looong list of stuff jumbled together. Give me a word that describes this class? I will describe the class using the word ‘car’ or ‘fish’. These words are inappropriate because they are not descriptive. There must a categories in the lexicon that allows us to choose words quickly and appropriately. We may have different words in our individual lists but we will organize them by the same category types. Descriptive words are called adjectives. Some other categories are shown on my slide. Every language has lexical categories like this. In fact, ALL languages have the categories noun and verb. And some languages have sub categories. For example nouns can be divided into animate v. innanimate, by shape, or by size.
  • You have already heard about some of these categories since elementary school so I will offer only a quick review. Lets start with nouns…
  • Pronouns are probably very familiar as well, and we encountered them in our cartoon at the beginning. They replace a noun when that noun has already been mentioned in the sentence or paragraph. The other categories I have here are probably less familiar. They are sometimes referred to as function words. Determiners… Pronouns, determiners, conjunctions and prepositions are not usually the focus of morphological analysis because they are invariant in languages. They are learned once. And no new items are added to these categories. In Morphology we are concerned mainly with nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. New words are always created/added to these categories. Especially new technology terms like Facebook and Skype, but also borrowed words from other cultures like Anime (which is actually an English loan in Japanese) or sushi.
  • In addition to our ability to identify categories of words, we know the lexicon is organized because there are regular patterns for creating words. To create the adjectives brassy, chalky and needy, the morpheme ‘i’ is added to the corresponding nouns, brass, chalk and need. We can distinguish between these two kind of morphemes. The nouns are root morphemes. They belong to a lexical category, nouns, and can be used by themselves. They are also stand alone. /i/ cannot be produced on its own.
  • Morphemes like /i/ are called affixes. They attach either at the beginning, end or even inside a root. Examples… They can also attach to stems, which are roots that already have another affix attached. In addition to position, we can distinguish affixes by the function they have. Derivational …. /i/ is a derivational affix because it takes a noun and turns it into an adjective. The meaning of the resulting adjective is a property of the original noun. Inflectional….
  • There is one more feature of organization that we have to note, and it has to do with the forms that are stored in the lexicon. Only morphemes, the smallest linguistic pieces, are stored. Let’s imagine that the left column in the chart is part of the list, part of the lexicon, where we have these three nouns, cat, dog, and lake and the plural morpheme /s/. We have a total of four morphemes but we can produce up to six words. On the column on the right we have the words that could be produced by combining the plural with the nouns. There are many advantages to this type of organization. Economy, because we have to memorize only four things instead of six. This also reduces redundancy, cat and cats have the same meaning; it would be redundant to store a noun twice. The other advantage is that new words will follow the same pattern. When a new noun is introduced you will easily be able to provide the plural form. Have you heard of the Wug Test before? The researcher shows a picture of a cartoon made up animal or thing to a child and says “this is a wug/bap” and then prompts the child to give the plural of the newly introduced word by showing them a picture of more than one of the same character. The child has to complete the sentence “there are two ____.” the plural form is always provided correctly by the child. What about irregular forms like ox? There would have to be a separate entry for ‘oxen’. Also, you would never hear a plural adjective. E.g. softs. Because the morpheme /s/ is specified for what it attaches to, it only attaches to nouns.
  • (Exlanation of pictures) In the words: crank, cranky, less and taste less, how many morphemes? (5) (by vote) How many roots? (3) How many affixes? (2) /less/ in the word ‘tasteless’ is an affix, we know this because we can attach it to other nouns to produce adjectives: nameless, faceless, etc. However it is also appearing by itself as the word ‘less’ and we know that affixes can never surface alone, they are bound morphemes. A distinction must be made between the root ‘less’ and the morpheme /-less/.
  • ‘ un’ has two meanings: undo, where the affix attaches to verbs, and not, where the affixes is attaching to adjectives. There would be two entries in the lexicon.
  • In the next slides we will look at word derrivations.
  • First we deconstruct the word into morphemes. Then locate root, and attach affixes. In this case the order is closest to the root attaches first. At each level a new word is created and we mark the category of that word in square brackets.
  • As before, we start by locating the root. Now we have a choice in which affix can attach first: /re/ or /ation/. ‘reinterpret’ is a word and ‘interpretation’ is also a well formed word, so we cannot decide yet. Let try first by going left-to-right, and attach /re/. Attach /ation/ to the resulting word and we derive the correct word ‘reinterpretation’. Explanation of bracket notation…
  • What happens if we attach /ation/ first? The result is a noun and you cannot/re/ a noun. The affix /re/ only attaches to verb, it means to do again. The derivation fails. The first derivation is the correct one.
  • There are also cases where there are two ways of attaching affixes, both correct. We call these ambiguous. Explain brackets… differences highlighted in red.
  • Just like Phonological analysis, morphological analysis is better understood if I show it to you rather than talk about it. I will outline the steps then I will guide you through one.
  • Kujamaat Joola is a language in west Africa. Explanation of chart… Since I have already grouped the words for you, the next step is to look within each group to identify the repeating form, the affix. We don’t know whether this language typically uses prefixes, infixes, suffixes, or all three, we look everywhere in the word for repeating segments. ‘k’ repeats at the beginning of each word. This could be our affix. We write it down or highlight it.
  • Then we do that same with plural and we notice that ‘u’ repeats at the beginning of each word with the exception of the first word ‘bone’. We might have allomorphs of the plural morpheme ‘w’ and ‘u’. We write them down.
  • Then we check across groups for each pair of words. The non alternating segments are the roots. We notice that we also have the allomorphs /ka/ and /ke/ and write them down also.
  • If the question asks you to give the underlying for you would then do a phonological analysis.
  • An Introduction to Morphology

    1. 1. Morphology Oct 19, 2011
    2. 2. Contents What is Morphology? Organization in the lexicon Structure of derived words Morphological Analysis
    3. 3. What is morphology? The study of form or shape Internal structure of words How meaningful pieces of language combine and recombine to form words Morpheme – the smallest linguistic unit that can carry meaning Lexicon – the mental dictionary
    4. 4. Organization in the lexicon How do we know the lexicon is organized?  Certain words fit into certain categories  The words ‘fish’ or ‘cat’ are inappropriate for describing the color of something, for example, but ‘blue’ fits. Lexical categories: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, determiner, preposition, conjunction  All languages have nouns and verbs  Other languages may have additional sub-categories such as animate and inanimate nouns.
    5. 5. Lexical Categories Noun  refers to a person, place or thing Verb  indicates occurrence or performance of an action, or the existence of a state or condition Adjective  describes a noun or pronoun Adverb  modifies a verb, another adverb, or an adjective (e.g. very, slowly, etc.)
    6. 6. Continued… New words get added to these categories all the time, either because of new products and technologies, or word borrowing
    7. 7. Lexical Categories Pronoun  replaces a noun when that noun has already been mentioned Determiner  also called ‘articles’, modify a noun (e.g. a, the, their, etc.) Conjunction  connects/coordinates words, phrases, or sentences Preposition  indicates the relationship of one word to another
    8. 8. Continued… New words rarely get added to these categories. These are function words which serve to piece meaning together and are rarely changed.
    9. 9. Organization in the lexicon Regular patterns for creating new words Brass > brassy Chalk > chalky Need > needy /Noun/ + /i/ > [Adjective] /brass/ is a root morpheme
    10. 10. Affixes /-i/ is an affix  Suffix, prefix, or infix?  /-i/ is a suffix  /un-/, as in ‘undress’, is a prefix  Infixes attach inside a word. For example, in Tagalog [sulat] (wrote) becomes [sumulat] (one who wrote). An affix can attach to a root or a stem (a root with one or more affixes) Derivational affix – creates a new word of related meaning, can change the lexical category of the root or stem. Inflectional affix – does not change meaning or lexical category of word; has grammatical function (e.g. plural /-s/, past tense /-ed/)
    11. 11. Organization in the Lexicon One lexical entry per morpheme Lexicon ( 4 morphemes) Words produced (6) /cat/ [cat], [cats] /dog/ [dog], [dogs] /lake/ [lake], [lakes] /-s/ Advantages: economy, novel forms will also follow the same pattern E.g. This is a wug. These are two _____. (Berko, 1958)
    12. 12. Summary TableRoots AffixesBelong to a lexical category Specified for lexical category that they can combine withCan appear by themselves (free Cannot appear by themselves (boundmorphemes) morphemes) Derivational or inflectional Can attach at the beginning, end or inside a word They are productive (they can attach to a large subset of morphemes to create new words)
    13. 13. Exercise 1Count the number of root sand affixes in the words: crank,cranky, less, tasteless. Provide rationale.
    14. 14. Exercise 2 Should /-un/ be analyzed as one morpheme or two morphemes (/-un/1 and /-un/2)? Undress Unusable Unspeakable Untie
    15. 15. Structure of derived words governmental
    16. 16. Structure of derived words [Adj] [N] root [V] govern -ment -al
    17. 17. Structure of derived words reinterpretation
    18. 18. Structure of derived words [N] [V] [V] re- interpret -ation [[re [interpret]V ] V ation] N
    19. 19. Structure of derived wordsIf the morpheme /ation/ attaches to the noun first, the result is anoun .The affix /re/ only attaches to verbs and means to performan action again. The derivation cannot go further, the derivationfails. [N] [V] re- interpret -ation
    20. 20. Ambiguous Derivations Uncomfortably[[un [[comfort]N abl]A] A ly] Adv[un [[[comfort]N abl] A ly] Adv ] Adv
    21. 21. Morphological analysis Identify affixes  From groups by lexical category or grammatical from  Look within a group for repeating segments (affixes)  Look across groups for non-alternating segments Solve for underlying form of allomorphs, if any  Follow steps for phonological analysis
    22. 22. Exercise 3 Kujamaat Jóola  Identify all affixes and allomorphs, if any. Singular N Plural N English kɔ:l wɔ:l bone kaƞag uƞag fin kəsinsiƞ usinsiƞ basket kapɔt upɔt pot kajata ujata frog kasankɛn usankɛn language
    23. 23. Exercise 3 Look within Singular N Plural N English kɔ:l wɔ:l bone kaƞag uƞag fin kəsinsiƞ usinsiƞ basket kapɔt upɔt pot kajata ujata frog kasankɛn usankɛn language
    24. 24. Exercise 3 Look accross Singular N Plural N English kɔ:l wɔ:l bone kaƞag uƞag fin kəsinsiƞ usinsiƞ basket kapɔt upɔt pot kajata ujata frog kasankɛn usankɛn language
    25. 25. Exercise 3 Kujamaat Jóola Allomorphs of the singular morpheme: [k-], [ka-], [kə-] Allomorphs of the plural morpheme: [w-], [u-]
    26. 26. Thank you! Leave a comment if you have any questions or would like additional exercises