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that part of the system of a natural language dealing with the structure of its word forms; the branch of linguistics that studies this part of a language system.
As a linguistic discipline, morphology includes two main divisions: the study of word formation (derivation) and the study of word inflection (the study of paradigms). Morphology often also includes morphophonemics. General, or theoretical, morphology is distinguished from descriptive morphology, the study of the morphology of specific languages. The basic morphological unit is the morph, the minimal segmental sign of a natural language, that is, a sign represented by a chain of phonemes and not replaceable by other signs; in general, a morph is part of a word form that in turn may comprise one or several morphs. Every morph represents a specific morpheme.
The task of general morphology consists in solving four basic problems. First is the enumeration and study of the nonradical meanings expressed within word forms in different languages and the development of a theory of such meanings, known as morphological meanings. Morphological meanings (and their corresponding categories) are divided, on the one hand, into semantic and syntactic (determined by syntactic relations in the sentence), and, on the other hand, into word-forming and word-altering, or word-inflecting. For example, word-forming semantic meanings include diminutivization (Russian nos, “nose,” nosik, “little nose“) and “place where” (chitat’ “to read,” chitaVnia, “reading room“). Word-forming syntactic meanings include verbal nouns (perestraivat’ “to rebuild,” perestroika, “rebuilding“) and adjectives derived from nouns (nos, “nose,” nosovoi, “nasal“). Word-altering semantic meanings include number in nouns (nos, “nose,” nosy, “noses“) and tense and aspect in verbs (chitaet, “is reading,” chital, “was reading,” odevalsia, “was getting dressed, odelsia, “got dressed“). Word-altering syntactic meanings include gender, number, and case in adjectives.
The second task is the enumeration and study of the means employed in different languages to express various meanings within word forms and the development of the theory of these means, called morphological means. Five main classes of morphological means are known. They are divided into segmental, that is, bound to morphs (see below: a-d), and suprasegmental, that is, bound only to prosodic morphological units (see below: e):
(a) compounding, including root-, stem-, and word-compounding (Russian blok-skhema, “flow-chart,” and zheltoburyi, “yellowish-brown“; French
(b) affixation, including prefixation (Russian posiVnee, “a little stronger“), postfixation (Russian chita-tel’, “reader,” nos-y, “noses“), infixation (Latin vi-ci, “I conquered,” vi-nco, “I conquer“), interfixation (Russian beton-o-meshalka, “concrete mixer“), circumfixation (German ge-sag-t, “said“, from sagen, “to say“), and transfixation (Arabic r-a-sm, “drawing,” r-u-s-u-m, “drawings“);
(c) modification (alteration of the signifier [signifiant] of a morph), including alternation (English “tooth“—“teeth“) and reduplication (Indonesian karangan, “article,” karangan-karangan, “articles“);
(d) conversion (alteration of the syntax of a morph), as in English “to cook” and “the cook“;
(e) suprafixation (expression of meaning by a particular prosodic phenomenon, such as tone or stress).
The third task is the enumeration and study of the possible formal and semantic relationships between word forms or their parts, such as synonyms and homonyms (Russian brak, “marriage,” and brak, “waste,” “spoilage“), and the study of word formation (Russian nos, “nose,” nosik, “little nose“; spa-t’, “to sleep,” spa-l’nia, “bedroom“).
Fourth is the development of a general theory of morphological models, to be created from the study of individual morphological systems. This general theory would include the construction of a system of concepts, the establishment of criteria for the morphological divisibility of word forms, and the determination of the types of morphological laws.
The task of specialized [descriptive] morphology is to create, on thebasis of general morphological principles, the morphological model of a given language. The model should reflect the rules and patterns existing in the minds of the speakers of the language, and should represent a system of rules providing the correlation between the signifier of any word form and its specialized abstract description, or deep-morphological representation.
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Bloomfield, L. lazyk. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from English.)
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I. A. MEL’CHUK