What does the term lexeme mean? What are some examples of lexeme?

4 Answers | Add Yours

payalkhullar's profile pic

Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

A lexeme is the smallest or minimal unit of lexicon in a language that bears some “meaning”. A lexeme has a morphological form, semantic content (or meaning) and a syntactic category. Lexeme is basically an abstract notion used in linguistic morphology, the concrete realisation of which is a word.

One lexeme can take up more than one inflection to form a set of many words known as inflected variants. For example, the lexeme PLAY can take up many forms like play, playingplays, and played. All of these word forms have the same basic meaning (which is denoted by an action) and, hence, will be categorised under the same lexeme. The word playing is the participle form of the verb that is used to denote the same action in continuous aspect. Likewise, the word played is used to denote the past form of the action, the word play when the subject of the verb is present first and second person or third person plural, the word plays when the subject of the verb is present third person singular in English (subject-verb agreement).

All the inflectional manifestations of the lexeme will still belong to the same syntactic category (in our example case, it is the “verb”). Note, however, that the word player won’t belong to the same lexeme PLAY. This is because the word player is a derived (and not inflected) form of play that has a different syntactic category (in this case, it is Noun).

Lexeme is not equivalent to a word or morpheme in a language. Sometimes, one lexeme can be formed of more than one word and morpheme also. For example, the lexemes like take off and put up with consist of two and three words respectively. The meaning of these lexemes can be determined by taking the constituents together, and not from the individual words taken separately.

Lexemes are the headwords that you find listed separately in a dictionary, under which all the inflected variants are included.

mimerajver's profile pic

mimerajver | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

A lexeme is the smallest semantic language unit. This may sound complicated, but in fact any word with meaning constitutes the voiced or written expression of a lexeme. What is the difference between a word and a lexeme? That the latter is an abstract notion, while the former is its materialization.

We name lexemes by their bare forms. For example, "work" is a lexeme,  but the different forms it can take -"works," "working," "worked"- are its variations.

It's necessary to bear in mind that homographs (words with the same spelling but different meanings) do not represent the same lexeme.Look at these two sentences:

Dogs bark.    

The bark of the tree was rough.

Though the word "bark" appears in both, it refers to two different lexemes, as is clear from its contextual meaning in each sentence.

criophore-753's profile pic

criophore-753 | In Training Educator

Posted on

A lexeme is the basic unit of meaning in the lexicon, or vocabulary of a specific language or culture. It may be either an individual word, a part of a word, or a chain of words, the last known as a 'catena'.

One example of a lexeme would be the word 'create'. When appearing alone, it conveys a single meaning. But when used as the stem, it can take on inflected forms such as 'created' and 'creating', which alter the grammatical function of the original stem. It can also take a on a derived form such as 'creator', which is a more distinct, though related, lexical unit. When the same lexeme appears in the form of a 'catena', or chain of words, such as the Biblical phrase, 'crown of creation' to describe mankind, one can still see its relationship with the original lexeme.

ekrieg's profile pic

ekrieg | In Training Educator

Posted on

Lexeme is the term for the basic unit of a language. Lexemes carry meaning and function as the stem or root of other words. Go, going, and gone all share the same lexeme: go. 

Often a lexeme is an individual word with inflectional forms or grammatical variants (run, runs, ran, and running share the lexeme run).

A composite or multiword lexeme is comprised of two or more lexemes that are neither predictable from their individual lexemes nor from their typical mode of combination. Some examples of this are to throw in the towel or to kick the bucket, both of which have distinct meaning apart from the individual lexemes contained within them.

We’ve answered 317,394 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question