Procedure of Morphemic Analysis

The procedure generally employed for the purposes of segmenting words into the constituent morphemes is the method of Immediate and Ultimate Constituents. This method is based on a binary principle, i.e. each stage of the procedure involves two components the word immediately breaks into. At each stage these two components are referred to as the Immediate Constituents (ICs). Each IC at the next stage of analysis is in turn broken into two smaller meaningful elements. The analysis is completed when we arrive at constituents incapable of further division, i.e. morphemes. In terms of the method employed these are referred to as the Ultimate Constituents (UCs). For example the noun friendlinessis first segmented into the IC friendlyrecurring in the adjectives friendly-lookingand friendlyand the -nessfound in a countless number of nouns, such as happiness, darkness, unselfishness,etc. The IC -nessis at the same time a UC of the noun, as it cannot be broken into any smaller elements possessing both sound-form and meaning. The IC friendlyis next broken into the ICs friend-and -lyrecurring in friendship, unfriendly,etc. on the one hand, and wifely, brotherly,etc., on the other. Needless to say that the ICs friend-and -lyare both UCs of the word under analysis.

The procedure of segmenting a word into its Ultimate Constituent morphemes, may be conveniently presented with the help of a box-like diagram


In the diagram showing the segmentation of the noun friendlinessthe lower layer contains the ICs resulting from the first cut, the upper one those from the second, the shaded boxes representing the ICs which are at the same time the UCs of the noun.

Morphemic Types of Words

According to the number of morphemes words are classified into monomorphic and polymorphic. Monomorphi or root-words consist of only one root-morpheme, e.g. small, dog, make, give,etc. All plmrphi words according to the number of root-morphemes are classified into two subgroups: monoradical (or one-root words) and polyradical words, i.e. words which consist of two or more roots. Monoradical words fall into two subtypes: 1) radical-suffixal words, i.e. words that consist of one root-morpheme and one or more suffixal morphemes, e.g. acceptable, acceptability, blackish,etc.; 2)radical-prefixal words, i.e. words that consist of one root-morpheme and a prefixal morpheme, e.g. outdo, rearrange, unbutton,etc. and 3) prefixo-radical-suffixal, i.e. words which consist of one root, a prefixal and suffixal morphemes, e.g. disagreeable, misinterpretation,etc.

Polyradical words fall into two types: 1) polyradical words which consist of two or more roots with no affixational morphemes, e.g. book-stand, eye-ball, lamp-shade,etc. and 2) words which containat least two roots and one or more affixational morphemes,e.g. safety-pin, wedding-pie, class-consciousness, light-mindedness, pen-holder,etc.

Derivative Relations

According to the derivative structure all words fall into two big classes: simplexes or simple, non-derived words and complexes or derivatives. Simplexes are words which derivationally cannot be segmented into ICs. The morphological stem of simple words, i.e. the part of the word which takes on the system of grammatical inflections is semantically non-motivated and independent of other words, e.g. hand, come, blue,etc.

Derivatives are words which depend on some other simpler lexical items that motivate them structurally and semantically, i.e. the meaning and the structure of the derivative is understood through the comparison with the meaning and the structure of the source word. Hence derivatives are secondary, motivated units, made up as a rule of two ICs, i.e. binary units, e.g. words like friendliness, unwifely, school-masterish,etc. are made up of the ICs friendly + -ness, un- + wifely, schoolmaster+-ish.The ICs are brought together according to specific rules of order and arrangement preconditioned by the system of the language. It follows that all derivatives are marked by the fixed order of their ICs.

The basic elementary units of the derivative structure of words are: derivational bases, derivational affixes and derivational patterns which differ from the units of the morphemic structure of words (different types of morphemes).

Derivational Bases

A derivational base as a functional unit is defined as the constituent to which a rule of word-formation is applied. It is the part of the word which establishes connection with the lexical unit that motivates the derivative and determines its individual lexical meaning describing the difference between words in one and the same derivative set, for example the individual lexical meaning of words like singer, rebuilder, whitewasher,etc. which all denote active doers of action, is signalled by the lexical meaning of the derivational bases sing-, rebuild-, whitewash-which establish connection with the motivating source verb.

Structurally derivational bases fall into three classes: bases that coincide with morphological stems of different degrees of complexity, e.g. dutiful, dutifully; day-dream, to day-dream, daydreamer; 2) bases that coincide with word-forms; e.g. paper-bound, unsmiling, unknown; 3) bases that coincide with word-grups of different degrees of stability, e ,g. second-rateness, flat-waisted, etc.

Functionally, the morphological stem is the part of the word which is the starting point for its forms, it is the part which semantically presents a unity of lexical and functional meanings thus predicting the entire grammatical paradigm. The stem remains unchanged throughout all word-forms, it keeps them together preserving the identity of the word. Thus the stems in the above-given words are ex-filmstar, unbuttonwhich remain unchanged in all the forms of each word as, e.g., ex-filmstar(O), ex-filmstar(s), ex-filmstar(s), ex-filmstar(s). Stems are characterised by a phonetic identity with the word-form that habitually represents the word as a whole (the common case singular, the infinitive, etc.).

A derivational base is the starting-point for different words and its derivational potential outlines the type and scope of existing words and new creations. The nominal base for example, hand-gives rise to nouns, e.g. hand-rail, hand-bag, shorthand, handful,to adjectives, e.g. handy,or verbs, e.g. to hand.

Derivational Affixes

Derivational affixes are ICs of numerous derivatives in all parts of speech. Derivational affixes differ from affixational morphemes in their function within the word, in their distribution and in their meaning. Derivational affixes possess two basic functions: 1) that of stem-building which is common to all affixational morphemes: derivational and non-derivational. It is the function of shaping a morphemic sequence, or a word-form or a phrase into the part of the word capable of taking a set of grammatical inflections and is conditioned by the part-of-speech meaning these morphemes possess; 2) that of word-buildingwhich is the function of repatterning a derivational base and building a lexical unit of a structural and semantic type different from the one represented by the source unit. The derivational suffix -icfor example performs bothfunctions in words like historic, economic, classicas it is applied to bases history-, economy-, class-and forms stems of words of a different part of speech. But the same suffix -icin public, comic, musicperforms only its stem-building function shaping in this case a simple stem.


There is a specific group of morphemes whose derivational function does not allow one to refer them unhesitatingly either to the derivational affixes or bases. In words like half-done, half-broken, half-eatenand ill-fed, ill-housed, ill-dressedthe ICs half-and ill-are given in linguistic literature different interpretations: they are described both as bases and as derivational prefixes. The comparison of these ICs with the phonetically identical stems in independent words illand halfas used in such phrases as to speak ill of smb, half an hour agomakes it obvious that in words like ill-fed, ill-mannered, half-donethe ICs ill-and half-are losing both their semantic and structural identity with the stems of the independent words.

Derivational Patterns

Neither bases nor affixes alone can predict all the structural and semantic properties of words the ICs of which they may be. It is the combination of bases and affixes that makes up derivatives of different structural and semantic classes. Both bases and affixes due to the distributional meaning they possess show a high degree of consistency in their selection and are collocated according to a set of rules known as derivational patterns. A derivational pattern is a regular meaningful arrangement, a structure that imposes rigid rules on the order and the nature of the derivational bases and affixes that may be brought together. A pattern is a generalisation, a scheme indicative of the type of ICs, their order and arrangement which signals the part of speech, the structural and semantic peculiarities common to all the individual words for which the pattern holds true. Patterns of derivative structures are usually represented in a generalised way in terms of conventional symbols: small letters v, n, a, d, stand for the bases which coincide with the stems of the respective parts of speech: verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, numerals; ved, ving stand for the bases which are the past and present participles respectively. In words of the long-fingeredor sit-innertype the derivational bases are represented by bracketed symbols of the parts of speech making up the corresponding collocations, for example (a+n)+ -ed, (v+d) + er.

Derivational Types of Words

According to their derivational structure words fall into two large classes: simple, non-derived words or simplexes and derivatives or complexes. Complexes are classified according to the type of the underlying derivational pattern into: derived and compound words. Derived words fall into affixational words, which in their turn must be classified into suffixal and prefixal derivatives, and conversions. Each derivational type of words is unequally represented in different parts of speech.

Comparing the role each of these structural type of words plays in the language we can easily perceive that the clue to the correct understanding of their comparative value lies in a careful consideration of: 1) the importance of each type in the existing word-stock and 2) their frequency value in actual speech.

We cannot fail to see that simple words occupy a predominant place in English. According to recent frequency counts, about 60% of the total number of nouns and 62% of the total number of adjectives in current use are simple words. Of the total number of adjectives and nouns, derived words comprise about 38% and 37% respectively while compound words comprise an insignificant 2% in nouns and 0.2% in adjectives. Thus it is the simple, non-derived words that constitute the foundation and the backbone of the vocabulary and that are of paramount importance in speech. Simple words also serve as basic parent forms motivating all types of derived and compound words. At the same time it should be pointed out that new words that appear in the vocabulary are mostly words of derived and compound structure.

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