Morphology

Table of Contents

    Coinage of the term ‘morphology’ is generally attributed to great German novelist, poet, philosopher and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). The term is used both in biology and linguistics. Morphology was incorporated as a sub-discipline in linguistics by August Schleider, a German linguist who used the term to signify the formation of words. Morphology is the holistic study of the structure and form of living organisms in biology; whereas in linguistics it refers to the formation of words and their structural meaning in the broader language context.

    In a language, a word or morpheme is the smallest unit carrying a grammatical meaning and function. Morphemes are of two types:

    • Bound morphemes: These words/morphemes do not possess any meaning of their own and must be joined with other words to derive a proper meaning. For example: Un-faith-ful,  The prefix- un and suffix -ful are bound morphemes which acquire meaning after being joined with the word ‘faith’.
    • Free morphemes: These words function as a proper morpheme with a meaning of their own in the language. For example: cat, house, run etc.

    There are two following types of morphology:

    • Derivational morphology: In this case, bound morphemes such as –cation , -ify or –ly (suffixes) are added to root word in order to derive meaning which changes the syntactic category of the root word. For instance: pure and –ify makes purify which means ‘to make pure’ whereas pure and-fication makes purification which refers to the process of making pure.
    • Inflectional morphology: It uses bound morphemes to act as grammatical markers to indicate tense, number, comparison or possession without changing the syntactic category of the root word. Suffixes such as –s denotes the relationship between verb and third-person subject and plurality; –ed signifies the time (tense). For example: Josh danced signifies the past tense of the given activity.