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Morphological Analysis

Updated on November 30, 2012
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An important branch of linguistics is morphology, which is a component of mental grammar that deals with word formation patterns and studying morphemes. Morphemes are the smallest linguistic unit of a language that has meaning and cannot be further divided. Morphemes are important in our linguistics studies because it’s significant to understand that words can have their own internal structures, and it’s possible to identify and distinguish information about the morphological structure of words, even if they’re not our native language.

I am going to consider the branch of linguistics known as morphology because it deals with the structure of words, and how they are formed.. By examining and referring to Language Files, I will be able to identify exactly what morphemes are and extract information from the structure and formation of words.

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I am now going to look at additional data to provide more information in regards to morphemes. By examining morphological evidence of the words below, I will be able to provide insight to the structure of words, and perhaps challenge some commonly held beliefs about verbs, and nouns.

Words

swell

melody

unthinkable


In grade school, we were taught that nouns were people, places and things, and verbs were action-words. However, in linguistics, we examined words that didn’t fit these profiles of nouns and verbs, and found that there is a more accurate way to find if words fit in these two word classes.

Firstly I will examine “swell” and determine if it is a verb. Looking at the data in sentences (1) through (5), we can see if it fits in the verb word class.

(1) The finger swells.

(2) Her throat swelled up.

(3) Her head is swelling up.

(4) *The toe has swellen.

(5) The toe has swelled.


Since the word “swell” has taken the inflectional affix –s, the past tense affix –ed, the progressive aspect affix –ing, and the past-participle affix –ed, we can conclude that “swell” is a verb, even if it didn’t take the past-participle ending –en. However, it is possible to make swell take the past-participle ending –en, like in sentence (6).

(6) The toe has swollen.


With or without this, it was easy to conclude that “swell” is a verb.

Now, we are going to determine if “swell” is also a noun by looking at the sentences (7) through (9).

(7) The swells in the ocean are extra big today.

(8) The swell’s height wasn’t more than a foot.

(9) The swells’ average height is about eight feet.


Noticing that the word swell can take the plural –s, and possessive –‘s and –s’, it can be concluded that swell can act as a noun.

Next, I will examine the word “melody” and test to see if it is a verb, noun, both or neither. In the sentences (10) through (14) I will see if “melody” can take the inflectional affixes.

(10) *She melodys/melodies a song.

(11) *He melodied that song yesterday.

(12) *She is melodying in the hallway.

(13) *She has melodyen/melodien that piano song.

(14) *She has melodied the harmonica.


Judging from the sentences above, the word “melody” does not fit into the word class of verbs. In sentence (10), “melody” cannot take the 3rd person singular present –s ending. Nor can it take the past tense ending –ed, progressive aspect ending –ing, nor either of the past participles, both –en and –ed.

Even though “melody” is not a verb, it may be a noun. By examining the sentences (15) through (17), we will be able to determine if “melody” can fit into the noun class.

(15) The melodies sound beautiful in that song.

(16) The melody’s sounds lifts the hearts of the people who hear it.

(17) The melodies’ tunes on that cd are fun and up-beat.


“Melody” was able to take the plural –s and both the possessive –‘s and –s’ and from this I can conclude that it is a noun.

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Lastly I will look at the word “unthinkable”, and see if it can take the noun and verb endings. Firstly, I will examine if attaching the inflectional affixes will prove that “unthinkable” is a verb, in sentences (18) through (22).

(18) *He unthinkables the movie ending.

(19) *She unthinkabled the books characters.

(20) *She is unthinkabling through math class.

(21) *She has unthinkablen in her younger years.

(22) *She has unthinkabled the conversation with her mother.


Clearly, from sentences above, it’s easy to see that “unthinkable” is not a verb. It does not take the take the 3rd person singular present –s ending or the past tense ending –ed, progressive aspect ending –ing, or either of the past participles, both –en and –ed.

Now, I can examine if perhaps “unthinkable” can fit into the noun category by looking at sentences (23) through (25).

(23) *The unthinkables have bad endings.

(24) *The unthinkable’s mind cannot be bothered.

(25) *The unthinkables’ collective mind is worth nothing.


Sentences (23) through (25) were very tough to think of. They do not take the inflectional affixes that would make “unthinkable” a noun. In sentence (23), “unthinkable” cannot take the plural –s and in sentences (24) and (25) it cannot take the possessive –‘s and –s’. It can be concluded that unthinkable is not a noun, nor is it a verb.

By examining the morphological evidence for the words above we could see what certain morphemes meant in terms of word class, and that the structure of a word is important.

Although “unthinkable” is not a noun, this may not always be the case since language is always changing. Word classes such as nouns and adjectives are subject to change readily. I’ll examine the data in (26) to further look into this idea.

(26) In an English-speaking culture re-examining its ideas about race, class, gender, sexuality and disability, some new terms catch on and some do not. For example, adjectives such as African Americans, Nuyorican (=New York Puerto Rican), differently-abled (to describe a person with a disability), pancreatically challenged (to describe a person with diabetes) caught on. But in the same culture, the gender-neutral pronoun thon, to replace the third person singular pronouns “he” and “she” did not catch on.


Our culture readily accepts changes in our language- we adapt new nouns and adjectives easily, and probably every-day. For instance, facebook is a new verb/noun that has entered our language through our culture. We accommodate our language to our culture, as if they’re one entity. However, pronouns are not subject to change readily, and not as easily influenced by our culture as are other word classes. Pronouns is a very limited group, and it takes a long time for a culture to accept new words into this word class. Same goes for conjunction words or determiners. These are closed word classes, where no new words can be added (at least, not for a very long time). These classes contain a small amount of words in comparison to verbs and nouns.

Implications

Morphemes are important in the identification and analysis of a language- whether it be our own native language, or a language we’ve never heard spoken before. By examining some Turkish data, analyzing a few words from the English language, and taking a look at the influence of culture on morphemes, I was able to provide insight towards what morphemes are, the importance of morphology, as well as distinguishing a way to identify sentence structure.

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