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Examine the following Spanish data, given in phonetic transcription. Then identity all the morphemes that are present, and state the meaning or function of each. amigo- 'male friend' amiga- 'female friend' mucaco- 'boy' mucaca- 'girl' amigos- 'male friends' amigas- 'female friends' mucacos- 'boys' mucacas- 'girls'

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By examining that brief corpus of Spanish nouns, we are able to determine a few morphemes that are very productive in that language. First, the -a is a flexion for indicating female gender: amig-a, muchach-a, while the -o indicates either that the person is male or, in the case of plural nouns, that the noun can refer both to male and female subjects.

Through this limited corpus, we are unable to provide much more information. It is important to note that common nouns in Spanish can be flexible when they refer to people, or sexual beings (gato/gata, as in "male cat," "female cat").

But if we just paid attention to the given corpus, we could not tell that while every noun in Spanish has grammatical gender, most of them do not inflect. For example, "la cuchara," the spoon, has feminine gender while "el tenedor," the fork, has masculine gender.

Second, we can easily extract that the final -s is a plural morpheme for Spanish nouns, although we would fail to tell that certain words need another morpheme, -es: for example, ratón/ratones (mouse, mice). Again, we must note that we cannot get this information from the given corpus alone.

Last but not least, we can learn from the corpus that initial morphemes (amig-, mucac-) provide the root of the word, and thus, the meaning.

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Morphemes are smallest units of form (structure) and function (semantic or grammatical) in a language. A word can be made of one (mono-morphemic) or more morphemes (poly-morphemic). Morpheme can be of two types, i.e. bound morphemes and free morphemes. Bound morphemes cannot exist independently, but free morphemes can.

A free morpheme is generally, but not always, the root of a word, and, hence, contributes to the semantic content of the word. In the given list of Spanish words, the following morphemes form the root of the word:

amig- ‘friend’

mucac- ‘child’

Bound morphemes are generally, but not always, the inflectional or derivational markings on the base form of the word and have a grammatical function.

Looking at the given list of words, we can do a one-to-one matching of the form and the function of morphemes and make the following conclusions:

Spanish nouns are marked for gender.

o is the marking for masculine gender and a for feminine gender.

o and a are bound morphemes, as they cannot stand alone.


Similarly, Spanish nouns are marked for number.

We can say singular nouns are unmarked or have a null marker.

The plural nouns are clearly marked with the s morpheme, which is again a bound morpheme.

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