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As its root suggests, morphology is the study of how words change—not historically (that is diachronic linguistics), but how the form of a word is changed by its inflections, it prefixes, its suffixes, etc. For example, when regular verbs are put in the past tense, the inflection “-ed” is added and the present-tense “s” is dropped (He walks to the store vs. He walked to the store) Other verbs are “irregular” (He goes to the store vs. He went to the store.) Why is that? And why are some verbs “irregular”? This is a simple case of morphological inquiry. Many other linguistic variations are more complicated, and English is a lightly inflected language compared to, for example, Latin. Some linguists spend their entire professional lives studying the morphology of words. One listing of specialties in the discipline lists “lexical morphemes, inflectional morphemes, derivational morphemes, free morphemes, bound morphemes” as a partial list. If we remember that a word starts with a morpheme “root,” or stem, that take morphemic add-ons. Prefixes and suffixes are self-explanatory; more difficult are morphemes that change pronunciations—for example, why does the extra “s” in “dessert” cause us to emphasize the second syllable?

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