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Morphological Structure of English Words

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Paradigm is a set of language forms which are possible alternatives at every point of a selectional axis of language structure. Example: un-, im-, in-, dis- make a paradigm Inflectional paradigms refer to all word-forms which share the same grammatical meaning but differ in their endings. Example: toy-toys. Lexical paradigms refer to sets of words which share the same root morphemes. Example: like, likely, liking Syntagmatic relations of words and morphemes within a word are the relations realized in the flow of speech. They define the word-meaning through its interrelation with other words in the flow of speech.

Word is the smallest language unit that has a definite morphological structure and meaning and that can be used in isolation – a rule-of-thumb definition Word is any sequence of letters bounded on either side by a space or punctuation mark – orthographic definition Word-form is a form which is an orthographic or phonological representation of a lexeme. Word-based morphology is a theory which states that all word-formation processes are word-based. Principles upon which a word can be defined:

  1. writing principle – an orthographic definition of a word
  2. pronunciation – a word is an uninterrupted sequence of sounds between potential pauses
  3. combinatory principle – a word is a unit which can freely combine with other units of the same order
  4. semantic criterion – a word is a unit that has a particular meaning
  5. the criterion of historical continuity – a word can be defined as that something that one generation passes on to another as a word.

Grammatical words are pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, articles and auxiliary verbs. These words constitute a closed class and their number is finite. They are also known as functional words, functors and empty words.

Lexical words include nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs. These words carry high information content and are syntactically structured by the grammatical words. They are open class words and their number is potentially unlimited. They are also known as full or content words. Empty morph refers to a surplus word-building element that doesn’t realize any morpheme. When the number of morphs exceeds the number of morphemes represented, we are dealing with empty morphs. Example: addition-al

Unique morph is the one which only occurs in a single combination of morphemes. They are also called cranberry morphs because the first element in “cranberry” is said to be unique. Example: strawberry, raspberry.

Replacive morph is the replacement of a phoneme or a sequence of phonemes in one word-from with a different phoneme or a sequence of phoneme in corresponding word- from. Example: foot-feet, man-men, ring-rang-rung.

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Morphological Structure of English Words. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from
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