Morphological structure of English words

Free and bound forms of morphemes. Morphological classification of words. Aims and principles of morphemic and word-formation analysis. Analysis into immediate constituents. Derivational and functional affixes. Classification of affixe, allomorphs.

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If we describe a wоrd as an autonomous unit of language in which a particular meaning is associated with a particular sound complex and which is capable of a particular grammatical employment and able to form a sentence by itself, we have the possibility to distinguish it from the other fundamental language unit, namely, the morpheme.

A morpheme is also an association of a given meaning with a given sound pattern. But unlike a word it is not autonomous. Morphemes occur in speech only as constituent parts of words, not independently, although a word may consist of a single morpheme. Nor are they divisible into smaller meaningful units. That is why the morpheme may be defined as the minimum meaningful language unit.

The term morpheme is derived from Gr morphe `form' + - eme. The Greek suffix - erne has been adopted by linguists to denote the smallest significant or distinctive unit. (Cf. phoneme, sememe.) The morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of form. A form in these cases is a recurring discrete unit of speech.


A form is said to be free if it may stand alone without changing its meaning; if not, it is a bound form, so called because it is always bound to something else. For example, if we compare the words sportive and elegant and their parts, we see that sport, sportive, elegant may occur alone as utterances, whereas eleg-, - ive, - ant are bound forms because they never occur alone. A word is, by L. Bloomfield's definition, a minimum free form. A morpheme is said to be either bound or free. This statement should bе taken with caution. It means that some morphemes are capable of forming words without adding other morphemes: that is, they are homonymous to free forms.

According to the role they play in constructing words, morphemes are subdivided into roots and affixes. The latter are further subdivided, according to their position, into prefixes, suffixes and infixes, and according to their function and meaning, into derivational and functional. affixes, the latter also called endings or outer formatives.

When a derivational or functional affix is stripped from the word, what remains is a stem (or astern base). The stem expresses the lexical and the part of speech meaning. For the word hearty and for the paradigm heart - hearts1 the stem may be represented as heart-. This stem is a single morpheme, it contains nothing but the root, so it is a simple stem. It is also a free stem because it is homonymous to the word heart.

A stem may also be defined as the part of the word that remains unchanged throughout its paradigm. The stem of the paradigm hearty - heartier - (the) heartiest is hearty-. It is a free stem, but as it consists of a root morpheme and an affix, it is not simple but derived. Thus, a stem containing one or more affixes is a derived stem. If after deducing the affix the remaining stem is not homonymous to a separate word of the same root, we call it abound stem. Thus, in the word cordial `proceeding as if from the heart', the adjective-forming suffix can be separated on the analogy with such words as bronchial, radial, social. The remaining stem, however, cannot form a separate word by itself, it is bound. In cordially and cordiality, on the other hand, the derived stems are free.

Bound stems are especially characteristic of loan words. The point may be illustrated by the following French borrowings: arrogance, charity, courage, coward, distort, involve, notion, legible and tolerable, to give but a few.2 After the affixes of these words are taken away the remaining elements are: arrog-, char-, cour-, cow-, - tort, - volve, not-, leg-, toler-, which do not coincide with any semantically related independent words.

Roots are main morphemic vehicles of a given idea in a given language at a given stage of its development. A root may be also regarded as the ultimate constituent element which remains after the removal of all functional and derivational affixes and does not admit any further analysis. It is the common element of words within a word-family. Thus, - heart - is the common root of the following series of words: heart, hearten, dishearten, heartily, heartless, hearty, heartiness, sweetheart, heart-broken, kind-hearted, whole-heartedly, etc. In some of these, as, for example, in hearten, there is only one root; in others the root - heart is combined with some other root, thus forming a compound like sweetheart.

The root word heart is unsegmentable, it is non-motivated morphologically. The morphemic structure of all the other words in this word-family is obvious - they are segmentable as consisting of at least two distinct morphemes. They may be further subdivided into:

1) those formed by affixation or affixational derivatives consisting of a root morpheme and one or more affixes: hearten, dishearten, heartily, heartless, hearty, heartiness;

2) compounds, in which two, or very rarely more, stems simple or derived are combined into a lexical unit: sweetheart, heart-shaped, heart-broken or3) derivational compounds where words of a phrase are joined together by composition and affixation: kind-hearted. This last process is also called phrasal derivation ( (kind heart) + - ed)).

There exist word-families with several tmsegmentable members, the derived elements being formed by conversion or clipping. The word-family with the noun father as its centre contains alongside affixational derivatives fatherhood, fatherless, fatherly a verb father `to adopt' or `to originate' formed by conversion.

We shall now present the different types of morphemes starting with the root.

It will at once be noticed that the root in English is very often homonymous with the word. This fact is of fundamental importance as it is one of the most specific features of the English language arising from its general grammatical system on the one hand, and from its phonemic system on the other. The influence of the analytical structure of the language is obvious. The second point, however, calls for some explanation. Actually the usual phonemic shape most favoured in English is one single stressed syllable: bear, find, jump, land, man, sing, etc. This does not give much space for a second morpheme to add classifying lexico-grammatical meaning to the lexical meaning already present in the root-stem, so the lexico-grammatical meaning must be signalled by distribution.

In the phrases a morning's drive, a morning's ride, a morning's walk the words drive, ride and walk receive the lexico-grammatical meaning of a noun not due to the structure of their stems, but because they are preceded by a genitive.

An English word does not necessarily contain formatives indicating to what part of speech it belongs. This holds true even with respect to inflect able parts of speech, i. e. nouns, verbs, adjectives. Not all roots are free forms, but productive roots, i. e. roots capable of producing new words, usually are. The semantic realisation of an English word is therefore very specific. Its dependence on context is further enhanced by the widespread occurrence of homonymy both among root morphemes and affixes. Note how many words in the following statement might be ambiguous if taken in isolation: A change of work is as good as a rest.

The above treatment of the root is purely synchronic, as we have taken into consideration only the facts of present-day English. But the same problem of the morpheme serving as the main signal of a given lexical meaning is studied in etymology. Thus, when approached historically or diachronically the word heart will be classified as Common Germanic. One will look for cognates, i. e. words descended from a common ancestor. The cognates of heart are the Latin cor, whence cordial `hearty', `sincere', and so cordially and cordiality, also the Greek kardia, whence English cardiac condition. The cognates outside the English vocabulary are the Russian cepдце, the German Herz, the Spanish corazon and other words.

To emphasise the difference between the synchronic and the diachronic treatment, we shall call the common element of cognate words in different languages not their root but their radical element.

These two types of approach, synchronic and diachronic, give rise to two different principles of arranging morphologically related words into groups. In the first case series of words with a common root morpheme in which derivatives are opposable to their unsuffixed and unprefixed bases, are combined, сf. heart, hearty, etc. The second grouping results in families of historically cognate words, сf. heart, cor (Lat), Herz (Germ), etc.

Unlike roots, affixes are always bound forms. The difference between suffixes and prefixes, it will be remembered, is not confined to their respective position, suffixes being “fixed after" and prefixes “fixed before” the stem. It also concerns their function and meaning.

A suffix is a derivational morpheme following the stem and forming a new derivative in a different part of speech or a different word class, сf. - en, - y, - less in hearten, hearty, heartless. When both the underlying and the resultant forms belong to the same part of speech, the suffix serves to differentiate between lexico-grammatical classes by rendering some very general lexico-grammatical meaning. For instance, both - ify and - er are verb suffixes, but the first characterises causative verbs, such as horrify, purify, rarefy, simplify, whereas the second is mostly typical of frequentative verbs: flicker, shimmer, twitter and the like.

If we realise that suffixes render the most general semantic component of the word's lexical meaning by marking the general class of phenomena to which the referent of the word belongs, the reason why suffixes are as a rule semantically fused with the stem stands explained.

A prefix is a derivational morpheme standing before the root and modifying meaning, cf. hearten - dishearten. It is only with verbs and statives that a prefix may serve to distinguish one part of speech from another, like in earth n - unearth v, sleep n - asleep (stative).

It is interesting that as a prefix en - may carry the same meaning of being or bringing into a certain state as the suffix - en, сf. enable, encamp, endanger, endear, enslave and fasten, darken, deepen, lengthen, strengthen.

Preceding a verb stem, some prefixes express the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb: stay v and outstay (sb) vt. With a few exceptions prefixes modify the stem for time (pre-, post-), place (in-, ad-) or negation (un-, dis-) and remain semantically rather independent of the stem.

An infix is an affix placed within the word, like - n - in stand. The type is not productive.

An affix should not be confused with a combining form. A combining form is also a bound form but it can be distinguished from an affix historically by the fact that it is always borrowed from another language, namely, from Latin or Greek, in which it existed as a free form, i. e. a separate word, or also as a combining form. They differ from all other borrowings in that they occur in compounds and derivatives that did not exist in their original language but were formed only in modern times in English, Russian, French, etc., сf. polyclinic, polymer; stereophonic, stereoscopic, telemechanics, televi-sion.combining forms are mostly international.

Descriptively a combining form differs from an affix, because it can occur as one constituent of a form whose only other constituent is an affix, as in graphic, cyclic.

Also affixes are characterised either by preposition with respect to the root (prefixes) or by postposition (suffixes), whereas the same combining form may occur in both positions. Cf. phonograph, phonology and telephone, microphone, etc.


A synchronic description of the English vocabulary deals with its present-day system and its patterns of word-formation by comparing words simultaneously existing in it.1

If the analysis is limited to stating the number and type of morphemes that make up the word, it is referred to as morphemic. For instance, the word girlishness may be analysed into three morphemes: the root - girl - and two suffixes - ish and - ness. The morphemic classification of words is as follows: one root morpheme - a root word (girl), one root morpheme plus one or more affixes - a derived word (girlish, girlishness), two or more stems - a compound word (girl-friend), two or more stems and a common affix - a compound derivative (old-maidish). The morphemic analysis establishes only the ultimate constituents that make up the word (see p.85).

A structural word-formation analysis proceeds further: it studies the structural correlation with other words, the structural patterns or rules on which words are built.

This is done with the help of the principle of oppositions (see p.25), i. e. by studying the partly similar elements, the difference between which is functionally relevant; in our case this difference is sufficient to create a new word. Girl and girlish are members of a morphemic opposition. They are similar as the root morpheme - girl - is the same. Their distinctive feature is the suffix - ish. Due to this suffix the second member of the opposition is a different word belonging to a different part of speech. This binary opposition comprises two elements.

А соrrelatiоn is a set of binary oppositions. It is composed of two subsets formed by the first and the second elements of each couple, i. e. opposition. Each element of the first set is coupled with exactly one element of the second set and vice versa. Each second element may be derived from the corresponding first element by a general rule valid for all members of the relation (see p.26). Observing the proportional opposition:

girl child woman monkey spinster book

girlish childish womanish monkeyish spinsterish bookish

it is possible to conclude that there is in English a type of derived adjectives consisting of a noun stem and the suffix - ish. Observation also shows that the stems are mostly those of animate nouns, and permits us to define the relationship between the structural pattern of the word and its meaning. Any one word built according to this pattern contains a semantic component common to the whole group, namely: `typical of, or having the bad qualities of. There are also some other uses of the adjective forming `ish, but they do not concern us here.

In the above example the results of morphemic analysis and the structural word-formation analysis practically coincide. There are other cases, however, where they are of necessity separated. The morphemic analysis is, for instance, insufficient in showing the difference between the structure of inconvenience v and impatience n; it classifies both as derivatives. From the point of view of word-formation pattern, however, they are fundamentally different. It is only the second that is formed by

impatience n = patience n = corpulence n impatient a patient a corpulent a

The correlation that can be established for the verb inconvenience is different, namely:

inconvenience v = pain v = disgust v = anger v = daydream v

inconvenience n pain n disgust n anger n daydream n

Here nouns denoting some feeling or state are correlated with verbs causing this feeling or state, there being no difference in stems between the members of each separate opposition. Whether different pairs in the correlation are structured similarly or differently is irrelevant. Some of them are simple root words, others are derivatives or compounds. In terms of word-formation we state that the verb inconvenience when compared with the noun inconvenience shows relationships characteristic of the process of conversion. Cf. to position where the suffix - tion does not classify this word as an abstract noun but shows it is derived from one.

This approach also affords a possibility to distinguish between compound words formed by composition and those formed by other processes. The words honeymoon n and honeymoon v are both compounds, containing two free stems, yet the first is formed by composition: honey n + moon n > honeymoon n, and the second by conversion: honeymoon n> honeymoon v (see Ch.8). The treatment remains synchronic because it is not the origin of the word that is established but its present correlations in the vocabulary and the patterns productive in present-day English, although sometimes it is difficult to say which is the derived form.

The analysis into immediate constituents described below permits us to obtain the morphemic structure and provides the basis for further word-formation analysis.


A synctironic morphological analysis is most effectively accomplished by the procedure known as the analysis into immediate constituents (IC's). Immediate constituents are any of the two meaningful parts forming a larger linguistic unity. First suggested by L. Bloomfield1 it was later developed by many linguists.2 The main opposition dealt with is the opposition of stem and affix. It is a kind of segmentation revealing not the history of the word but its motivation, i. e. the data the listener has to go by in understanding it. It goes without saying that unmotivated words and words with faded motivation have to be remembered and understood as separate signs, not as combinations of other signs.

The method is based on the fact that a word characterised by morphological divisibility (analysable into morphemes) is involved in certain structural correlations. This means that, as Z. Harris puts it, “the morpheme boundaries in an utterance are determined not on the basis of considerations interior to the utterance but on the basis of comparison with other utterances. The comparisons are controlled, i. e. we do not merely scan various random utterances but seek utterances which differ from our original one only in stated portions. The final test is in utterances which are only minimally different from ours. "3

A sample analysis which has become almost classical, being repeated many times by many authors, is L. Bloomfield's analysis of the word ungentlemanly. As the word is convenient we take the same example. Сomparing this word with other utterances the listener recognises the morpheme - un - as a negative prefix because he has often come across words built on the pattern un - + adjective stem: uncertain, unconscious, uneasy, unfortunate, unmistakable, unnatural. Some of the cases resembled the word even more closely; these were: unearthly, unsightly, untimely, unwomanly and the like. One can also come across the adjective gentlemanly. Thus, at the first cut we obtain the following immediate constituents: un - + gentlemanly. If we continue our analysis, we see that although gent occurs as a free form in low colloquial usage, no such word as lemanly may be found either as a free or as a bound constituent, so this time we have to separate the final morpheme. We are justified in so doing as there are many adjectives following the pattern noun stem + - ly, such as womanly, masterly, scholarly, soldierly with the same semantic relationship of `having the quality of the person denoted by the stem'; we also have come across the noun gentleman in other utterances. The two first stages of analysis resulted in separating a free and a bound form:

1) un~ + gentlemanly,

2) gentleman + - ly. The third cut has its peculiarities. The division into gent-+-lemon is obviously impossible as no such patterns exist in English, so the cut is gentle - + - man. A similar pattern is observed in nobleman, and so we state adjective stem+ man. Now, the element man may be differently classified as a semi-affix (see § 6.2.2) or as a variant of the free form man. The word gentle is open to discussion. It is obviously divisible from the etymological viewpoint: gentle < (O) Fr gentil < Lat gentilis permits to discern the root or rather the radical element gent - and the suffix - il. But since we are only concerned with synchronic analysis this division is not relevant.

If, however, we compare the adjective gentle with such adjectives as brittle, fertile, fickle, juvenile, little, noble, subtle and some more containing the suffix - lei-He added to a bound stem, they form a pattern for our case. The bound stem that remains is present in the following group: gentle, gently, gentleness, genteel, gentile, gentry, etc.

One might observe that our procedure of looking for similar utterances has shown that the English vocabulary contains the vulgar word gent that has been mentioned above, meaning `a person pretending to the status of a gentleman' or simply'man', but then there is no such structure as noun stem + - le, so the word gent should be interpreted as a shortening of gentleman and a homonym of the bound stem in question.

To sum up: as we break the word we obtain at any level only two IC's, 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 (which may differ from their actual sequence). Furthermore we shall obtain only two constituents at each cut, the ultimate constituents, however, can be arranged according to their sequence in the word: un-+gent-+-le+-man+'ly.

A box-like diagram presenting the four cuts described looks as follows:



















We can repeat the 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, this may be carried out in terms of proportional oppositions. The main requirements are essentially the same: the analysis must reveal patterns observed in other words of the same language, the stems obtained after the affix is taken away should correspond to a separate word, the segregation of the derivational affix is based on proportional oppositions of words having the same affix with the same lexical and lexico-grammatical meaning. Ungentlemanly, then, is opposed not to ungentleman (such a word does not exist), but to gentlemanly. Other pairs similarly connected are correlated with this opposition. Examples are:

ungentlemanly ___ unfair __ unkind __ unselfish gentlemanly fairkindselfish

This correlation reveals the pattern un - + adjective stem.

The word-formation type is defined as affixational derivation. The sense of un - as used in this pattern is either simply `not', or more commonly `the reverse of, with the implication of blame or praise, in the case of ungentlemanly it is blame.

The next step is similar, only this time it is the suffix that is taken away:

gentlemanly __ womanly _ scholarly gentlemanwoman scholar

The series shows that these adjectives are derived according to the pattern noun stem + - ly. The common meaning of the numerator term is `characteristic of (a gentleman, a woman, a scholar).

The analysis into immediate constituents as suggested in American linguistics has been further developed in the above treatment by combining a purely formal procedure with semantic analysis of the pattern. A semantic check means, for instance, that we can distinguish the type gentlemanly from the type monthly, although both follow the same structural pattern noun stem + - ly. The semantic relationship is different, as - ly is qualitative in the first case and frequentative in the second, i. e. monthly means `occurring every month'.

This point is confirmed by the following correlations: any adjective built on the pattern personal noun stem+-/# is equivalent to `characteristic of or `having the quality of the person denoted by the stem'.

gentlemanly - *having the qualities of a gentleman

masterly - shaving the qualities of a master

soldierly - shaving the qualities of a soldier

womanly - shaving the qualities of a woman

Monthly does not fit into this series, so we write: monthly ±5 having the qualities of a month.

On the other hand, adjectives of this group, i. e. words built on the pattern stem of a noun denoting a period of time + - ly are all equivalent to the formula `occurring every period of time denoted by the stem':

monthly > occurring every month hourly > occurring every hour yearly > occurring every year

Gentlemanly does not show this sort of equivalence, the transform is obviously impossible, so we write:

gentlemanly - occurring every gentleman

The above procedure is an elementary case of the transformational analysis, in which the semantic similarity or difference of words is revealed by the possibility or impossibility of transforming them according to a prescribed model and following certain rules into a different form, called their transform. The conditions of equivalence between the original form and the transform are formulated in advance. In our case the conditions to be fulfilled are the sameness of meaning and of the kernel morpheme.

E. Nida discusses another complicated case: untruly adj might, it seems, be divided both ways, the IC's being either un-+truly or un-true+-ly. Yet observing other utterances we notice that the prefix un - is but rarely combined with adverb stems and very freely with adjective stems; examples have already been given above. So we are justified in thinking that the IC's are untrue+-ly. Other examples of the same pattern are: uncommonly, unlikely.1

There are, of course, cases, especially among borrowed words, that defy analysis altogether; such are, for instance, calendar, nasturtium or chrysanthemum.

The analysis of other words may remain open or unresolved. Some linguists, for example, hold the view that words like pocket cannot be subjected to morphological analysis. Their argument is that though we are justified in singling out the element - et, because the correlation may be considered regular (hog:: hogget, lock:: locket), the meaning of the suffix being in both cases distinctly diminutive, the remaining part pock - cannot be regarded as a stem as it does not occur anywhere else. Others, like Prof. A.I. Smirnitsky, think that the stem is morphologically divisible if at least one of its elements can be shown to belong to a regular correlation. Controversial issues of this nature do not invalidate the principles of analysis into immediate constituents. The second point of view seems more convincing. To illustrate it, let us take the word hamlet `a small village'. No words with this stem occur in present-day English, but it is clearly divisible diachronically, as it is derived from OFr hamelet of Germanic origin, a diminutive of hamel, and a cognate of the English noun home. We must not forget that hundreds of English place names end in - ham, like Shoreham, Wyndham, etc. Nevertheless, making a mixture of historical and structural approach will never do. If we keep to the second, and look for recurring identities according to structural procedures, we shall find the words booklet, cloudlet, flatlet, leaflet, ringlet, town let, etc. In all these - let is a clearly diminutive suffix which does not contradict the meaning of hamlet. A.I. Smirnitsky's approach is, therefore, supported by the evidence afforded by the language material, and also permits us to keep within strictly synchronic limits.

Now we can make one more conclusion, namely, that in lexicological analysis words may be grouped not only according to their root morphemes but according to affixes as well.

morphological structure english word

The whole procedure of the analysis into immediate constituents is reduced to the recognition and classification of same and different morphemes and same and different word patterns. This is precisely why it permits the tracing and understanding of the vocabulary system.


Lexicology is primarily concerned with derivational affixes, the other group being the domain of grammarians. The derivational affixes in fact, as well as the whole problem of word-formation, form a boundary area between lexicology and grammar and are therefore studied in both.

Language being a system in which the elements of vocabulary and grammar are closely interrelated, our study of affixes cannot be complete without some discussion of the similarity and difference between derivational and functional morphemes.

The similarity is obvious as they are so often homonymous (for the most important cases of homonymy between derivational and functional affixes see p.18). Otherwise the two groups are essentially different because they render different types of meaning.

Functional affixes serve to convey grammatical meaning. They build different forms of one and the same word. A word form, or the form of a word, is defined as one of the different aspects a word may take as a result of inflection. Сomplete sets of all the various forms of a word when considered as inflectional patterns, such as declensions or conjugations, are termed paradigms. A paradigm has been defined in grammar as the system of grammatical forms characteristic of a word, e. g. near, nearer, nearest; son, son's, sons, sons'.

Derivational affixes serve to supply the stem with components of lexical and lexico-grammatical meaning, and thus form4different words. One and the same lexico-grammatical meaning of the affix is sometimes accompanied by different combinations of various lexical meanings. Thus, the lexico-grammatical meaning supplied by the suffix - y consists in the ability to express the qualitative idea peculiar to adjectives and creates adjectives from noun stems. The lexical meanings of the same suffix are somewhat variegated: `full of, as in bushy or cloudy, `composed of, as in stony, `having the quality of, as in slangy, `resembling', as in baggy, `covered with', as in hairy and some more. This suffix sometimes conveys emotional components of meaning.

E. g.: My school reports used to say: “Not amenable to discipline; too fond of organising," which was only a kind way of saying: “Bossy." (M. Dickens) Bossy not only means `having the quality of a boss' or `behaving like a boss'; it is also a derogatory word.

This fundamental difference in meaning and function of the two groups of affixes results in an interesting relationship: the presence of a derivational affix does not prevent a word from being equivalent to another word, in which this suffix is absent, so that they can be substituted for one another in context. The presence of a functional affix changes the distributional properties of a word so much that it can never be substituted for a simple word without violating grammatical standard. To see this point consider the following familiar quotation from Shakespeare:

Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.

Here no one-morpheme word can be substituted for the words cowards, times or deaths because the absence of a plural mark will make the sentence ungrammatical. The words containing derivational affixes can be substituted by morphologically different words, so that the derivative valiant can be substituted by a root word like brave. In a statement like I wash my hands of the whole affair (Du Maurier) the word affair may be replaced by the derivative business or by the simple word thing because their distributional properties are the same. It is, however, impossible to replace it by a word containing a functional affix (affairs or things), as this would require a change in the rest of the sentence.

The American structuralists B. Bloch and G. Trager formulate this point as follows: “A suffixal derivative is a two-morpheme word which is grammatically equivalent to (can be substituted for) any simple word in all the constructions where it occurs. "1

This rule is not to be taken as an absolutely rigid one because the word building potential and productivity of stems depend on several factors. Thus, no further addition of suffixes is possible after - ness, - ity, - dom, - ship and - hood.

A derivative is mostly capable of further derivation and is therefore homonymous to a stem. Foolish, for instance, is derived from the stem fool - and is homonymous to the stem foolish - occurring in the words foolishness and foolishly. Inflected words cease to be homonymous to stems. No further derivation is possible from the word form fools, where the stem fool - is followed by the functional affix - s. Inflected words are neither structurally nor functionally equivalent to the morphologically simple words belonging to the same part of speech. Things is different from business functionally, because these two words cannot occur in identical contexts, and structurally, because of the different character of their immediate constituents and different word-forming possibilities.

After having devoted special attention to the difference in semantic characteristics of various kinds of morphemes we notice that they are different positionally. A functional affix marks the word boundary, it can only follow the affix of derivation and come last, so that no further derivation is possible for a stem to which a functional affix is added. That is why functional affixes are called by E. Nida the outer formatives as contrasted to the inner formatives which is equivalent to our term derivational affixes.

It might be argued that the outer position of functional affixes is disproved by such examples as the disableds, the unwanteds. It must be noted, however, that in these words - ed is not a functional affix, it receives derivational force so that the disableds is not a form of the verb to disable, but a new word - a collective noun.

A word containing no outer formatives is, so to say, open, because it is homonymous to a stem and further derivational affixes may be added to it. Once we add an outer formative, no further derivation is possible. The form may be regarded as closed.

The semantic, functional and positional difference that has already been stated is supported by statistical properties and difference in valency (combining possibilities). Of the three main types of morphemes, namely roots, derivational affixes and functional affixes (formatives), the roots are by far the most numerous. There are many thousand roots in the English language; the derivational affixes, when listed, do not go beyond a few scores. The list given in “Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary” takes up five pages and a half, comprising all the detailed explanations of their origin and meaning, and even then the actual living suffixes are much fewer. As to the functional affixes there are hardly more than ten of them. Regular English verbs, for instance, have only four forms: play, plays, played, playing, as compared to the German verbs which have as many as sixteen.

The valency of these three groups of morphemes is naturally in inverse proportion to their number. Functional affixes can be appended, with a few exceptions, to any element belonging to the part of speech they serve. The regular correlation of singular and plural forms of nouns can serve to illustrate this point. Thus, heart:: hearts; boy:: boys, etc. The relics of archaic forms, such as child:: children, or foreign plurals like criterion:: criteria are very few in comparison with these.

Derivational affixes do not combine so freely and regularly. The suffix - en occurring in golden and leaden cannot be added to the root steel-. Nevertheless, as they serve to mark certain groups of words, their correlations are never isolated and always contain more than two oppositions, e. g. boy:: boyish, child:: childish, book:: bookish, gold:: golden, lead:: leaden, wood:: wooden. The valency of roots is of a very different order and the oppositions may be sometimes isolated. It is for instance difficult to find another pair with the root heart and the same relationship as in heart:: sweetheart.

Knowing the plural functional suffix - s we know how the countable nouns are inflected. The probability of a mistake is not great.

With derivational affixes the situation is much more intricate. Knowing, for instance, the complete list of affixes of feminisation, i. e. formation of feminine nouns from the stems of masculine ones by adding a characteristic suffix, we shall be able to recognise a new word if we know the root. This knowledge, however, will not enable us to construct words acceptable for English vocabulary, because derivational affixes are attached to their particular stems in a haphazard and unpredictable manner. Why, for instance, is it impossible to call a lady-guest - a guestess on the pattern of host:: hostess? Note also: lion:: lioness, tiger:: tigress, but bear:: she-bear, elephant:: she-elephant, wolf:: she-wolf; very often the correlation is assured by suppletion, therefore we have boar:: sow, buck:: doe, bull:: cow, cock:: hen, ram:: ewe.

Similarly in toponymy: the inhabitant of London is called a Londoner, the inhabitant of Moscow is a Muscovite, of Vienna - a Viennese, of Athens - an Athenian.

On the whole this state of things is more or less common to many languages; but English has stricter constraints in this respect than, for example, Russian; indeed the range of possibilities in English is very narrow.russian not only possesses a greater number of diminutive affixes but can add many of them to the same stem: мальчик, мальчишка, мальчишечка, мальчонка, мальчуган, мальчугашка. Nothing of the kind is possible for the English noun stem boy. With the noun stem girl the diminutive - ie can be added but not - ette, - let, - kin / - kins. The same holds true even if the corresponding noun stems have much in common: a short lecture is a lecturette but a small picture is never called a picturette. The probability that a given stem will combine with a given affix is thus not easily established.

To sum up: derivational and functional morphemes may happen to be identical in sound form, but they are substantially different in meaning, function, valency, statistical characteristics and structural properties.


Another essential feature of affixes that should not be overlooked is their combining power or valenсу and the derivational patterns in which they regularly occur.

We have already seen that not all combinations of existing morphemes are actually used. Thus, unhappy, untrue and unattractive are quite regular combinations, while seemingly analogous *unsad, *UN-FALSE, *unpretty do not exist. The possibility of a particular stem taking a particular affix depends on phono-morphological, morphological and semantic factors. The suffix - ance/-ence,1 for instance, occurs only after b, t, d, dz, v, l, r, m, n: disturbance, insistence, independence, but not after s or z: condensation, organisation.

It is of course impossible to describe the whole system. To make our point clear we shall take adjective-forming suffixes as an example. They are mostly attached to noun stems. They are: ~ed (barbed), - en (golden), - ful (careful), - less (careless), - ly (soldierly), - like (childlike), - y (hearty) and some others. The highly productive suffix - able can be combined with noun stems and verbal stems alike (clubbable, bearable). It is especially frequent in the pattern un - + verbal stem + - able (unbearable). Sometimes it is even attached to phrases in which composition and affixation are simultaneous producing compound-derivatives (unbrushoffable, ungetatable). These characteristics are of great importance both structurally and semantically.

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