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description of the structure of a language, consisting of the sounds (see phonology); the meaningful combinations of these sounds into words or parts of words, called morphemes; and the arrangement of the morphemes into phrases and sentences, called syntax.
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the minimal meaningful part of an utterance and one of the basic units of a language system. The characteristics of morphemes are meaningfulness—morphemes convey lexical or grammatical meaning; repeatability—morphemes retain the same (or similar) meaning and the same (or similar) form when they appear in different contexts; and nonreducibility— morphemes cannot be further divided into parts having the same characteristics. The morpheme is also defined as the smallest meaningful part of a word and as a class of morphs possessing specific characteristics.

The detection of a morpheme begins with the division of utterances in a language into morphs; then, morphs similar in content and form and found in complementary or noncontrastive distribution (not causing differences of meaning) are combined into a single morpheme. For example, the Russian morpheme drug, “friend,” has the morphs drug~druzh~druz’ This level of analysis, which establishes the allomorphs of a single morpheme, is called identification. Identification is followed by the classification of the morpheme. According to their position in the language system, morphemes are divided into free morphemes capable of behaving as independent words, such as English day, German Tag, and Russian tikh; bound morphemes that occur only as part of a word, such as the plural formant -s in English days, or the adjectival ending -ii in Russian tikhii, “quiet“); and relatively bound morphemes that may occur in both free and bound form, such as Russian do, used as preposition and as prefix, in doletef do reki, “to fly up to the river.”

Morphemes are divided by function into auxiliary (affixal) and nonauxiliary (radical), of which the former are usually bound and the latter free. As a rule, the number of affixal morphemes is limited to a few dozen, while the number of radical morphemes is unlimited. Affixal morphemes are divided according to types of meaning conveyed, into derivational (word-forming), relational (word-altering, or inflectional), and relational-derivational (form-creating). The last two categories are often combined under the term “word-altering.”

Morphemes may convey meaning not only by their phonological presence in a given word but also by their absence (zero ending, zero allomorph). For example, the Russian word stol, “table,” is construed as nominative singular since it lacks the morphemic plural marker -y (Russian stoly, “tables“) as well as any relational morphemes indicating oblique case (the sign for zero ending is -#, as in stol[-#]). Most linguists regard the morpheme as a unit that correlates linguistic expression with linguistic content, that is, as a two-sided semiotic unit. Less often, the morpheme is regarded as the smallest unit of linguistic expression.


References in periodicals archive ?
These derivatives are the outcome of a change that occurred to ancient genitives and led an inflectional morpheme marking genitive case to acquire derivational meaning.
We follow Myers-Scotton (1993, 1997) in using the term system morpheme from Bolinger (1968); he applied it to both inflectional morphemes and function words.
Brown (1973) and de Villers and Villers (1973) report that the progressive marker is normally the first inflectional morpheme to appear in English monolingual children (as early as age 1;09).
Like some of the derivational morphemes, those of the type {ly} and {ing}, inflectional morphemes add no lexical meaning to the base.
On the other hand, under the assumption that morphology is what makes languages different (Chomsky 1995; Borer 1984), one expects the process of (ab)normal language acquisition of tense to be affected by the syntactic properties of the inflectional morphemes of the language the child is acquiring, as argued for in section 2.
This is probably due to the fact that inflectional and derivational morphemes appear in the postfield of the word, whereas inflectional morphemes, with the exception of the verbal prefix ge- attached to the past participle of weak verbs, do not take up the word prefield.
For example, Moerk (1980) has shown that the inflectional morphemes most often used by the parents of the Harvard children are the first to reach 90% of correct production in obligatory contexts.
The presence of inflectional morphemes was also a determiner in coda reduction, with a clear preference for reducing words that had a past tense of plural marker.
The typology of zero-derivation phenomena in Old English includes (Martin Arista, fc-a): (i) zero derivation with explicit inflectional morphemes and without explicit derivational morphemes, as in ri:dan 'to ride' > ri:da 'rider'; (ii) zero derivation without explicit or implicit morphemes, whether inflectional or derivational, as in bi:dan 'to delay' > bi:d 'delay'; (iii) zero derivation without inflectional or derivational morphemes and with ablaut, as in dri:fan 'to drive' > dra:f'action of driving'; and (iv) zero derivation with ablaut and unproductive formatives such as -m in fle:on 'to fly' > fle:am 'flight'.
Despite the fact that satisfactory descriptions of the rules and basic practice are available regarding the -(e)d ending (Celce-Murcia 1996: 252; Avery 1992: 47-48; Hewings & Goldstein 1998: 122-25), little has been said about ways specifically designed for advanced learners to cope with the pronunciation problems arising from the incorrect application of such inflectional morphemes.
We can systematically explore what the minimum and the maximum suspended material could be by combining two forms, namely (19a) and (19b), which carry several derivational and inflectional morphemes, and by suspending each affix at a time on the left conjunct.