Social Sciences Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

In the Linguistics field, I need help to understand the first chapter, which is "Synonymy and Morphological Analysis," of the book entitled The Foundations of Linguistics Theory: selected writings of Roy Harris. Please, any guidance, with appreciation of your assistance. 

Expert Answers info

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write5,917 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

In the first chapter of The Foundations of Linguistics Theory (edited by Nigel Love), an attempt is made to reconcile conflicting ideas of synonymy and morphological analysis. [Morphological analysis relates to meaningful elements while synonymy is a semantic sub-division relevant to lexical relations.] Based on an expanded concept of synonymity and on the introduction of synonymity statements and synonymity hypothesis, new questions arise as to the need for semantic information in defining morphological units. In turn, questions of identifying synonymous units--critically dependent upon semantic information--are complicated by the question of the relevance of that semantic information. Two questions regarding the relationship between morphological analysis and synonymity that are brought to our attention because of these complicating considerations are, as stated in Foundations of Linguistics Theory:

1. it possible to make good the claim, inherent in the procedures of non-semantically based morphology, that morphological analysis does not require a concept of synonymy?
2. ...supposing this claim to be false or irrelevant, what then is the function of a concept of synonymy in relation to morphological analysis?

This is complex material and depends upon orienting your attention to the idea that descriptive linguistics often addresses languages for which morphology and synonymity are not known. As a result, answering whether or not semantic meaning is relevant to morphology and to synonymity is fundamentally critical. A further orientation of attention required is to the idea that the study of synonyms--of units of expression that have equivalent meanings--has expanded from the consideration of single words (e.g., wrong and incorrect) to the consideration of "words, bound morphs, phrases, clauses, sentences, and sequences of sentences ... as examples of synonymous expressions" (Foundations of Linguistics Theory). Consequently, questions of the relevance of semantic meaning encompass a larger scope than under the previous concept of single word-set synonymity.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial