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 Please explain why allomorphs are different phonemic realizations of the same...

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rozh | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted April 24, 2013 at 1:12 AM via web

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 Please explain why allomorphs are different phonemic realizations of the same morpheme with examples?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 24, 2013 at 5:03 PM (Answer #1)

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The Greek combining form "allo-" as it is used in the word allomorph means other or "a related set" that is "related to" a morph. A "morph" is each of the smallest, indivisible units of meaning that compose a morpheme, a typical word.

For example, when we break down the word inanimate, the indivisible morphs with distinct meaning comprising the morpheme are in- anim -ate. Each morph has a purpose (prefix, root, suffix). The root here is from Middle English "animat" from Latin animātus. The root of ME animat is "anima" and is a Latin verb with an -a ending. The Latin suffix -ate is used with Latin verbs with -a endings to form adjectives that later came to also be used as nouns and verbs.

So the morphs (indivisible units of meaning) are in- anima- and -ate. Usage of -a verbs and -ate suffixes changes the orthographic expression to the final form of {in- anim -ate}.

Now, to explain the word "allomorph." When we condition words, either phonologically or morphologically, there is a change that we make to the root of the word which may make it either look or sound different in its plural and past tense forms. However, allomorphs never change the meaning of the word; they change only the sound (the realization) of the word. Meaning is simply not the role of allomorphs in language; they do not deal with semantics (meaning) at all.

Some classical examples of allomorphs that we hear every day are:

Tense: Past tense morphemes that sound different but mean the same:

  • dated- you can hear the -ed
  • dragged- you can only hear the -d, although there is an -ed ending as well.
  • dashed- you hear the -t sound

Plurals: The sound of certain -s sounds are different but mean the same.

  • dogs (phonetic "z" ending)
  • legs - typical "s" sound
  • lashes - "es" sound

Irregular morphemes: These refer to morphologically conditioned allomorphs.

  • child-children
  • tiger-tigress
  • emperor- empress

Therefore, these changes that do not change meaning are considered as different phonemic realizations--allomorphic sounds--of the same morpheme and constitute no change in meaning.

Sources:

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