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16. 11. 2006 Morphology- Words and their parts


16. 11. 2006 Morphology (1) – Words and their parts held by Dr. Thorsten Trippel

Components of Words

Word formation

  • simplex words

  • derived words

  • compound words

Definition of the word „word“

Collection of proposals in the lecture

  • combination of letters that make sense or have a special meaning

  • consists of letters

  • carries meaning

  • can be spoken

  • simple unit of language

  • written sound

  • used to form sentences

  • ...


  • We know what a word is (!)

  • words make up sentences ( sentences: syntax)

  • pronunciation with speech sound

  • speech sounds= phonemes= phonology

  • meaningful (sub)structure of words

  • structure of words= morphology


  • The study of the formation of words

  • MORPHEMES: The smallest unit of a unit that carries meaning. A word can be comprised of one or more morphemes

  • try: attempt to do something

  • try + „in the past“ : tried

  • try + „at the moment“ : trying

Identify the meaningful units of the following words:

Identify -> ident – ify

the -> the

meaningful -> mean- ing – ful

units -> unit-s

of -> of

the -> the

following -> follow- ing

words -> word-s

maybe -> may-be

some -> some

more -> more

complicated -> complicat- ed

example -> example

using -> use- ing

witchcraft -> witch- craft

to -> to

find -> find

terms -> term-s

Basic concepts in morphology

Simple word

  • consists of only one morpheme.

  • Example: boy, man, radio, book, paper, magnet, house, compute

Complex word

  • contains more than one morpheme (i.e. ≥2 morphemes).

  • Example: computer, boys, radio-recorder, bookshelf, magnetize, acidfree

Task: Find words

Find at least 20 simple words

  • boy

  • mother

  • table

  • father

  • desk

  • lamp

  • pupil

  • shoe

  • house

  • mouse

  • cat

  • dog

  • tiger

  • water

  • food

  • book

  • play

  • paper

  • shoe

  • pen

Find at least 20 complex words

  • rainbow

  • boys

  • shoes

  • teddy bear

  • pencil- case

  • bookshelves

  • ice cream

  • sunshine

  • raindrop

  • orange juice

  • birthday

  • table cloth

  • necklace

  • computer

  • wallpaper

  • cups

  • pre- prepared

  • teacher

  • description

  • establishment

  • similarities

Which of them are similar?

  • Sunshine – raindrop ( 2 nouns/ simplex words each)

  • boys – shoes ( simplex word + plural „s“ )

  • description – similarities ( simplex word + affix)


  • Can you describe the similarity?

  • Many complex words are built in the same way


Can you find a relation between some of

your simple words and complex words?

  • Boy – boys ( simple word – simple word plus plural s)



Free morpheme

  • can occur as a simple word.

  • Example: boy, man, radio,...

Bound morpheme

  • can only occur in connection with other morphemes. Example: -s, -ion, un-, -ize, ...


  • Variant forms of a morpheme

  • Example: a -- an, plural -s /s/ -- /Iz/ -- /z/

Task: free and bound morphemes

Make a list of 20 free morphemes

  • -> see list of simple words


Find bound morphemes

  • -s, -ion, -ize, -ment, -ism, -al, ...

Structure of words

several parts

root: carries the meaning

  • unbelievable: believe

affixes: other parts [bound morphemes]

prefix: affixes that attach before the root

suffix: affixes that attach after the root

  • example: In unbelievable “un” is a prefix and “able” a suffix.

base: form to which an affix is attached

Hierachy of concept


/   ............   \

root ..........    affix

....................../ .../ .....\.... \

...........................prefix .circumfix infix suffix

Task: complete the sentences!

Every word contains a ___base_______

A morpheme that is also a word is called a

____free morpheme_______________

A morpheme that needs a root to make up a word

is called a __bound morpheme______________

An affix in front of a base is called a _prefix_____,

behind a base it is called a _suffix_____

Both, simple words and complex words can be

the _base______ for a more complex word.

Every _root___ is a _base____, but not every _base___ is a


Processes of forming words



Other processes involved

  • inflection

Compounds – at least two roots

nouns combine with

  • nouns (fire engine),

  • adjectives (greenhouse),

  • verbs (swimming suit) and

  • prepositions (afterthought)

verbs combine with

  • adjectives (dry clean),

  • verbs (breakdance)

  • prepositions (underestimate)

adjectives combine with

  • prepositions (ingrown)

  • adjectives ( red hot)

Constituents of compounds


  • second part of compound

  • word class

modifier: specifies the compound


Find other compounds in English with a head that is a

  • noun ( rain drop)

  • verb (role – playing)

  • adjectives (cherry- red)

Find other compounds in English with a modifier that is a

  • noun (sunshine)

  • verb ( playground)

  • adjectives ( red skin)

  • prepositions ( over joy)

30.11.06 20:10

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