Lexicology. Word structure in Modern English


       I. The  morphological  structure  of  a  word.  Morphemes.  Types  of
          morphemes. Allomorphs.
      II. Structural types of words.
     III. Principles of morphemic analysis.
      IV.  Derivational  level  of  analysis.   Stems.   Types   of   stems.
          Derivational types of words.
           I. The morphological structure of a word.  Morphemes.  Types  of
              Morphemes.  Allomorphs.
    There are two levels of approach to the study of word- structure: the
level of morphemic analysis and the level of derivational or word-formation
    Word is the principal and basic unit of the language system, the
largest on the morphologic and the smallest on the syntactic plane of
linguistic analysis.
    It has been universally acknowledged that a great  many  words  have  a
composite nature and are made up  of  morphemes,  the  basic  units  on  the
morphemic level, which are defined as  the  smallest  indivisible  two-facet
language units.
    The term morpheme is derived from Greek morphe form + -eme. The Greek
suffix eme has been adopted by linguistic to denote the  smallest  unit  or
the minimum distinctive feature.
    The morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of form. A form  in  these
cases a recurring discrete unit of speech. Morphemes occur  in  speech  only
as constituent parts of  words,  not  independently,  although  a  word  may
consist of single morpheme. Even a  cursory  examination  of  the  morphemic
structure of English words reveals that they are composed  of  morphemes  of
different types:  root-morphemes  and  affixational  morphemes.  Words  that
consist of a root and an affix are called derived words or  derivatives  and
are produced by the  process  of  word  building  known  as  affixation  (or
    The root-morpheme is the lexical nucleus of the word;  it  has  a  very
general and abstract  lexical  meaning  common  to  a  set  of  semantically
related words constituting  one  word-cluster,  e.g.  (to)  teach,  teacher,
teaching. Besides the  lexical  meaning  root-morphemes  possess  all  other
types of meaning proper  to  morphemes  except  the  part-of-speech  meaning
which is not found in roots.
    Affixational morphemes include inflectional affixes or inflections  and
derivational affixes. Inflections carry only  grammatical  meaning  and  are
thus relevant only for the formation  of  word-forms.  Derivational  affixes
are relevant for building various types of words. They are lexically  always
dependent on the root which they modify. They  possess  the  same  types  of
meaning as found in roots, but unlike root-morphemes most of them  have  the
part-of-speech meaning which makes them structurally the important  part  of
the word as they condition the lexico-grammatical  class  the  word  belongs
to. Due to this component of their  meaning  the  derivational  affixes  are
classified into affixes building different parts of  speech:  nouns,  verbs,
adjectives or adverbs.
    Roots and derivational affixes are generally easily  distinguished  and
the difference  between  them  is  clearly  felt  as,  e.g.,  in  the  words
helpless, handy, blackness, Londoner, refill, etc.: the root-morphemes help-
, hand-, black-, London-, fill-, are understood as the  lexical  centers  of
the words, and less,  -y,       -ness,  -er,  re-  are  felt  as  morphemes
dependent on these roots.
     Distinction is also made of free and bound morphemes.
    Free morphemes coincide with word-forms  of  independently  functioning
words. It is obvious that free morphemes can be found only among  roots,  so
the morpheme boy-  in  the  word  boy  is  a  free  morpheme;  in  the  word
undesirable there is only one free morpheme  desire-;  the  word  pen-holder
has two free morphemes  pen- and hold-. It follows that bound morphemes  are
those that do not coincide  with  separate  word-  forms,  consequently  all
derivational morphemes, such as ness, -able, -er are bound.  Root-morphemes
may be both free and bound.  The  morphemes  theor-  in  the  words  theory,
theoretical, or horr- in the  words  horror,  horrible,  horrify;  Angl-  in
Anglo-Saxon; Afr- in  Afro-Asian  are  all  bound  roots  as  there  are  no
identical word-forms.
    It should also be noted that  morphemes  may  have  different  phonemic
shapes. In the word-cluster please , pleasing  ,  pleasure  ,  pleasant  the
phonemic shapes of the  word  stand  in  complementary  distribution  or  in
alternation with each other. All the representations of the given  morpheme,
that manifest alternation are called allomorphs/or  morphemic  variants/  of
that morpheme.
    The combining form allo- from Greek allos other is used in linguistic
terminology to denote elements of a group whose members together  consistute
a structural unit  of  the  language  (allophones,  allomorphs).  Thus,  for
example, -ion/ -tion/ -sion/ -ation are the positional variants of the  same
suffix, they do not  differ  in  meaning  or  function  but  show  a  slight
difference in sound form depending on the final  phoneme  of  the  preceding
stem. They are considered as variants of  one  and  the  same  morpheme  and
called its allomorphs.
    Allomorph is defined as a positional variant of a morpheme occurring in
a specific environment and so characterized by complementary description.
    Complementary distribution is said to take place, when  two  linguistic
variants cannot appear in the same environment.
    Different morphemes are characterized by contrastive distribution, i.e.
if they occur in the same environment they signal  different  meanings.  The
suffixes  able  and  ed,  for  instance,  are  different  morphemes,   not
allomorphs, because adjectives in able mean  capable of beings.
    Allomorphs will also occur among prefixes. Their form then  depends  on
the initials of the stem with which they will assimilate.
    Two or more  sound  forms  of  a  stem  existing  under  conditions  of
complementary distribution may also  be  regarded  as  allomorphs,  as,  for
instance, in long a: length n.

          II. Structural types of words.
    The morphological analysis of word- structure on  the  morphemic  level
aims at splitting the word into its constituent morphemes  the basic  units
at this level of analysis  and at determining their number and  types.  The
four types (root words, derived words, compound, shortenings) represent  the
main structural types of Modern English words,  and  conversion,  derivation
and composition the most productive ways of word building.
    According to the number of  morphemes  words  can  be  classified  into
monomorphic and polymorphic. Monomorphic or root-words consist of  only  one
root-morpheme, e.g. small, dog, make, give, etc. All polymorphic  word  fall
into two subgroups:  derived words and compound words    according  to  the
number of root-morphemes they have. Derived words are composed of one  root-
morpheme and one or more derivational  morphemes,  e.g.  acceptable,  outdo,
disagreeable, etc. Compound words are those which contain at least two root-
morphemes, the number of derivational morphemes being  insignificant.  There
can be both root- and derivational morphemes in compounds as in  pen-holder,
light-mindedness, or only root-morphemes as in lamp-shade, eye-ball, etc.
    These structural types are not of equal importance.  The  clue  to  the
correct  understanding  of  their  comparative  value  lies  in  a   careful
consideration of: 1)the importance of each type in the  existing  wordstock,
and 2) their frequency value in actual speech. Frequency is by far the  most
important factor. According to the available word counts made  in  different
parts of speech, we find  that  derived  words  numerically  constitute  the
largest class of words in the existing  wordstock;  derived  nouns  comprise
approximately 67%  of  the  total  number,  adjectives  about  86%,  whereas
compound nouns make about 15% and adjectives about 4%. Root  words  come  to
18% in nouns, i.e.  a  trifle  more  than  the  number  of  compound  words;
adjectives root words come to approximately 12%.
    But we cannot fail to perceive that  root-words  occupy  a  predominant
place. In English, according to the recent frequency counts,  about  60%  of
the total number of nouns and 62% of  the  total  number  of  adjectives  in
current use are root-words. Of the total number  of  adjectives  and  nouns,
derived words comprise about 38% and 37% respectively while  compound  words
comprise an insignificant 2% in nouns and 0.2% in  adjectives.  Thus  it  is
the root-words that constitute  the  foundation  and  the  backbone  of  the
vocabulary and that are of paramount importance in speech.  It  should  also
be mentioned  that  root  words  are  characterized  by  a  high  degree  of
collocability and a complex variety of meanings in contrast  with  words  of
other structural types whose semantic  structures  are  much  poorer.  Root-
words also serve as parent forms for  all  types  of  derived  and  compound

         III. Principles of morphemic analysis.
    In most cases the morphemic structure of words  is  transparent  enough
and  individual  morphemes  clearly  stand  out   within   the   word.   The
segmentation of words is generally carried out according to  the  method  of
Immediate and Ultimate Constituents. This method  is  based  on  the  binary
principle, i.e. each stage of the  procedure  involves  two  components  the
word immediately breaks  into.  At  each  stage  these  two  components  are
referred to as the Immediate Constituents.  Each  Immediate  Constituent  at
the next stage of  analysis  is  in  turn  broken  into  smaller  meaningful
elements.  The  analysis  is  completed  when  we  arrive  at   constituents
incapable of  further  division,  i.e.  morphemes.  These  are  referred  to
Ultimate Constituents.
    A synchronic morphological analysis is most effectively accomplished by
the procedure known as the analysis into  Immediate  Constituents.  ICs  are
the two meaningful parts forming a large linguistic unity.
    The  method  is  based  on  the  fact  that  a  word  characterized  by
morphological divisibility is involved in certain  structural  correlations.
To sum up: as we break the word we obtain at  any  level  only  ICs  one  of
which is the stem of the given word. All the time the analysis is  based  on
the patterns characteristic of the English vocabulary. As a pattern  showing
the interdependence of all the constituents segregated  at  various  stages,
we obtain the following formula:
                   un+ { [ ( gent- + -le ) + -man ] + -ly}

    Breaking a word into its Immediate Constituents we observe in each  cut
the structural order of the constituents.
    A  diagram presenting the four cuts described looks as follows:
                    1. un- / gentlemanly
                    2. un- / gentleman / - ly
                    3. un- / gentle / - man / - ly
                    4. un- / gentl / - e / - man / - ly

    A similar analysis on the word-formation level  showing  not  only  the
morphemic constituents of the word but also the structural pattern on  which
it is built.
    The analysis of word-structure at the morphemic level must  proceed  to
the stage of Ultimate Constituents. For example, the  noun  friendliness  is
first segmented  into  the  ICs:  [frendl?-]  recurring  in  the  adjectives
friendly-looking and friendly and [-n?s] found in  a  countless  number   of
nouns, such as unhappiness, blackness, sameness, etc. the IC  [-n?s]  is  at
the same time an UC of the word, as it cannot be  broken  into  any  smaller
elements possessing both sound-form and meaning.  Any  further  division  of
ness  would  give  individual  speech-sounds  which   denote   nothing   by
themselves. The IC [frendl?-] is next broken into the ICs [-l?] and  [frend-
] which are both UCs of the word.
    Morphemic analysis under the method of  Ultimate  Constituents  may  be
carried out on the basis of two  principles:  the  so-called  root-principle
and affix principle.
    According to the affix principle the splitting of  the  word  into  its
constituent morphemes is based on the identification of the affix  within  a
set of words, e.g. the  identification  of  the  suffix  er  leads  to  the
segmentation  of  words  singer,  teacher,  swimmer  into  the  derivational
morpheme  er  and the roots teach- , sing-, drive-.
According to the root-principle, the segmentation of the word  is  based  on
the identification of the root-morpheme in a word-cluster, for  example  the
identification  of  the  root-morpheme  agree-   in  the  words   agreeable,
agreement, disagree.
    As a rule, the application of these principles is  sufficient  for  the
morphemic segmentation of words.
    However, the morphemic structure of words in a number of  cases  defies
such analysis, as it is not always so  transparent  and  simple  as  in  the
cases mentioned above. Sometimes not only the  segmentation  of  words  into
morphemes, but  the  recognition  of  certain  sound-clusters  as  morphemes
become doubtful which naturally affects  the  classification  of  words.  In
words like retain, detain, contain or  receive, deceive, conceive,  perceive
the sound-clusters [r?-], [d?-] seem to be  singled  quite  easily,  on  the
other hand, they undoubtedly have nothing in common  with  the  phonetically
identical prefixes  re-, de- as found in words  re-write,  re-organize,  de-
organize, de-code. Moreover, neither the sound-cluster [r?-] or  [d?-],  nor
the [-te?n] or [-s?:v] possess any lexical or functional  meaning  of  their
own. Yet, these sound-clusters are felt as having a certain meaning  because
[r?-] distinguishes retain from  detain  and  [-te?n]  distinguishes  retain
from receive.
    It follows that all these sound-clusters  have  a  differential  and  a
certain distributional meaning as  their  order  arrangement  point  to  the
affixal status of re-, de-, con-, per- and makes one  understand  -tain  and
ceive as roots. The differential and distributional meanings seem  to  give
sufficient ground to recognize these sound-clusters  as  morphemes,  but  as
they lack lexical meaning of their own, they are set apart  from  all  other
types of morphemes  and  are  known  in  linguistic  literature  as  pseudo-
morphemes. Pseudo- morphemes of the  same  kind   are  also  encountered  in
words like rusty-fusty.

          IV. Derivational  level  of  analysis.  Stems.  Types  of  Stems.
              Derivational types of word.
    The morphemic analysis of words only defines the constituent morphemes,
determining their types and their meaning but does not reveal the  hierarchy
of the morphemes comprising the word.  Words  are  no  mere  sum  totals  of
morpheme,  the  latter   reveal   a   definite,   sometimes   very   complex
interrelation. Morphemes  are  arranged  according  to  certain  rules,  the
arrangement differing in  various  types  of  words  and  particular  groups
within the same types. The pattern of  morpheme  arrangement  underlies  the
classification of words into different types and enables one  to  understand
how new words appear in the language. These relations within  the  word  and
the interrelations between different types and classes of  words  are  known
as derivative or word- formation relations.
    The analysis of derivative relations aims at establishing a correlation
between different types and the structural patterns words are built on.  The
basic unit at the derivational level is the stem.
    The stem is defined as that part of the word  which  remains  unchanged
throughout its paradigm, thus the stem which appears in  the  paradigm  (to)
ask ( ), asks, asked, asking is ask-;  thestem  of  the  word  singer  (  ),
singers, singers, singers is singer-. It is the  stem  of  the  word  that
takes the inflections which shape the word grammatically as one  or  another
part of speech.
    The structure of stems should be described in terms of  ICs  analysis,
which at this level aims at establishing the patterns of typical  derivative
relations within the stem and the derivative correlation  between  stems  of
different types.
    There are three types of stems: simple, derived and compound.
    Simple stems are semantically non-motivated and  do  not  constitute  a
pattern on analogy with which new stems may be  modeled.  Simple  stems  are
generally monomorphic and phonetically identical  with  the  root  morpheme.
The derivational structure of  stems  does  not  always  coincide  with  the
result of morphemic analysis.  Comparison  proves  that  not  all  morphemes
relevant at the morphemic level are relevant at the  derivational  level  of
analysis.  It  follows  that  bound  morphemes  and  all  types  of  pseudo-
morphemes are irrelevant to the derivational structure of stems as  they  do
not meet requirements of double opposition  and  derivative  interrelations.
So the stem of such words as  retain,  receive,  horrible,  pocket,  motion,
etc. should be regarded as simple, non- motivated stems.
    Derived stems are built on stems of  various  structures  though  which
they are motivated, i.e. derived stems are understood on the basis   of  the
derivative relations between  their  ICs  and  the  correlated  stems.  The
derived stems are mostly polymorphic in which case the segmentation  results
only in one IC that is itself a stem,  the  other  IC  being  necessarily  a
derivational affix.
    Derived stems are not necessarily polymorphic.
    Compound stems are made up of two ICs, both of  which  are  themselves
stems, for example match-box, driving-suit, pen-holder, etc. It is built  by
joining of two stems, one of which is simple, the other derived.
    In more complex cases the result of the  analysis  at  the  two  levels
sometimes seems even to contracted one another.
    The derivational  types  of  words  are  classified  according  to  the
structure of their stems into simple, derived and compound words.

    Derived words are those composed of one root- morpheme and one or  more
derivational morpheme.

    Compound words contain at least two  root-  morphemes,  the  number  of
derivational morphemes being insignificant.

    Derivational compound is a word formed by  a  simultaneous  process  of
composition and derivational.
    Compound words proper are formed by  joining  together  stems  of  word
already available in the language.

"Lexicology. Word structure in Modern English "