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What is morphology? What are morphs/allomorphs and morphemes? What's the difference...

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What is morphology? What are morphs/allomorphs and morphemes? What's the difference between them?

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Morphology is the study of the words and their structure.  Morphology focuses on the various morphemes that make up a word.  A morpheme is the smallest unit of a word that has meaning, so basically it referring to prefixes, suffices, and root words which all have their own independent definitions.

For example:

morph means to change

logy - is the study or science of

A morph is the phonetic realization of that morpheme, or in plain English, the way it sounds.

An allomorph is an example of a morph.  It examines an individual morpheme more closely looking at its various phonologies, or sounds.

For example:

  • [-s] as in [hQts] 'hats'
  • [-z] as in [d&u0254;gz] 'dogs'
  • [«z] as in [bŒks«z] 'boxes'


Hope this helps,



ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

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Before I begin with the definition of the linguistics term in regards to morphology, it's important to understand that there are MANY types of morphology (of biology, of folklore, of astronomy, etc.).  Because your question is found under the linguistics topic, however, it is that particular definition I will focus upon.

Quite simply morphology is the study of the changing structure of word forms in a particular language.  Even simpler, it's the study of morphemes. (More on that in a moment.)  It will involve studying the root words, parts of speech, affixes, syllables, etc. 

Similarly, a morpheme is a particular type of linguistic unit a few of which are above:  root words, parts of speech, syllables, etc.  Each word can have a few different morphemes; therefore, a morpheme is the smallest part of a word that can have it's own definition.

Further, the way a particular morpheme "sounds" in a particular language is called a morph.  An allomorph is simply a more specific term for a morph.  An allomorph will examine a morpheme more closely and look at the specifics of each sound found within.


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