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2. MORPHEMIC STRUCTURE OF THE WORD

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MORPHEMIC STRUCTURE OF THE WORD

The morphological system of language reveals its properties through the morphemic structure of the word. Morphology as part of the grammatical theory faces the two segmental units: the morpheme and the word. The morpheme is identified as part of the word, the functions of the morpheme are effected only as the corresponding constituent functions of the word as a whole. For instance, the form of the verbal past tense is built up by means of the dental grammatical suffix: train-ed [-d]; publish-ed [-t], meditate-ed [-id].

The morpheme is a meaningful segmental component of the word; the morpheme is formed by phonemes; as a meaningful component of the word it is elementary (i.e. indivisible into smaller segments as regards its significative function).

The word is a nominative unit of language; it is formed by morphemes; it enters the lexicon of language as its elementary component (i.e. a component indivisible into smaller segments as regards its nominative function). Together with other nominative units the word is used for the formation of the sentence – a unit of information in the communication process.

In traditional grammar the study of the morphemic structure of the word was conducted in the light of the two basic criteria: positional criterion (the location of the marginal morphemes in relation to the central ones) and semantic or functional criterion (the correlative contribution of the morphemes to the general meaning of the word). The combination of these two criteria in an integral description has led to the rational classification of morphemes that is widely used both in research linguistic work and in practical language teaching.

In accord with the traditional classification, morphemes are divided into root-morphemes (roots) and affixal morphemes (affixes). The roots express the concrete, “material” part of the meaning of the word, while the affixes express the specificational part of the meaning of the word; the specifications being of lexico-semantic and grammatico-semantic character.

The roots of notional words are classical lexical morphemes.

The affixal morphemes include prefixes, affixes, and inflexions. Of these, prefixes and lexical suffixes have word-building functions, together with the root they form the stem of the word; inflexions (grammatical suffixes) express different morphological categories.

The root is obligatory for any word, while affixes are not obligatory. Therefore one and the same morphemic segment of functional status, depending on various morphemic environment, can be used now as an affix, now as a root, e.g.:

Out – a root-word (preposition, adverb, verbal postposition, adjective, noun, verb);

Throughout – a composite word in which –out serves as one of the roots;

Outing – a two-morpheme word in which out- is a root, and –ing is a suffix;

Outlook, outline – words in which out- serves as a prefix;

Look-out, time-out – words in which –out serves as a suffix.

As a result of the distributional analysis (the analysis of the environment of a unit), different types of morphemes have been discriminated.

On the basis of the degree of self-dependence, “free” morphemes and “bound” morphemes are distinguished. Bound morphemes cannot form words by themselves, they are identified only as component segmental parts of words. As different from this, free morphemes can build up words by themselves, i.e. can be used “freely”. For instance, in the word handful the root hand is a free morpheme, while the suffix –ful is a bound morpheme.

On the basis of formal presentation, “overt” morphemes and “covert” morphemes are distinguished. Overt morphemes are genuine, explicit morphemes building up words; the covert morpheme is identified as a contrastive absence of morpheme expressing a certain function. The notion of covert morpheme coincides with the notion of zero morpheme in the oppositional description of grammatical categories. For instance, the word-form clocks consists of two overt morphemes: one lexical (root) and one grammatical expressing the plural. The one- morpheme word-form clock, since it expresses the singular, is also considered as consisting of two morphemes, i.e. of the overt root and the covert (implicit) grammatical suffix of the singular. The usual symbol for the covert morpheme employed by linguists is the sign of the empty set: Ø.

On the basis of segmental relation, “segmental” morphemes and “supra-segmental” morphemes are distinguished. Interpreted as supra-segmental morphemes are intonation contours, accents, pauses.

On the basis of grammatical alternation, “additive” morphemes and “replacive” morphemes are distinguished. Interpreted as additive morphemes are outer grammatical suffixes, since, as a rule, they are opposed to the absence of morphemes in grammatical alternation, e.g. look + ed, small + er, etc. In distinction to these, the root phonemes pf grammatical interchange are considered as replacive morphemes, since they replace one another in the paradigmatic forms, e.g. dr-i-ve – dr-o-ve – dr-i-ven; m-a-n – m-e-n, etc.

On the basis of linear characteristic, “continuous” (or “linear”) morphemes and “discontinuous” morphemes are distinguished. By the discontinuous morpheme, opposed to the common, i.e. uninterruptedly expressed, continuous morpheme, a two-element grammatical unit is meant which is identified in the analytical grammatical form comprising an auxiliary word and a grammatical suffix. These two elements, as it were, embed the notional stem; hence, they are symbolically represented as follows:

Be … ing – for the continuous verb forms (e.g. is going);

Have … en – for the perfect verb forms (e.g. has gone);

Be … en – for the passive verb forms (e.g. is taken).

It is easy to see that the notion of morpheme applied to the analytical form of the word violates the principle of the identification of morpheme as an elementary meaningful segment: the analytical “framing” consists of two meaningful segments, i.e. of two different morphemes. On the other hand, the general notion “discontinuous constituent” (or unit) is quite rational and can be helpfully used in linguistic description in its proper place.

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