What is the difference between a word and a morpheme ?

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A word in linguistics is the smallest content that can convey meaning. A word can always stand on its own and maintain its meaning. For example the  word “historical” can stand alone and has the meaning of a past event.

In linguistics a morpheme is the smallest component of a word that has a semantic meaning. When looking at semantic meaning you are looking at the smallest linguistic sound within a word that has meaning. For example when looking at “prehistorical” the morpheme would be “pre” meaning “before” in terms of the word history.

As opposed to a word a morpheme may or may not stand alone. We saw that the word “historical” can stand alone and has meaning. “Pre” is a morpheme in “prehistorical” however “pre” cannot stand alone. This is not always the case however as there are instances in which they can stand alone and maintain their meaning and context. 

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A morpheme is a unit of language, but not necessarily a word.

A morpheme might be a word, or might be part of a word.  It is "a small unit of language that contains meaning."  A morpheme that is not a word would be an affix.  An affix is a prefix or a suffix.  A prefix appears at the beginning of a root word, and an affix appears at the end of a word.

An example of a morpheme is –ed.  This is a suffix.  If you put it on the root word talk, for example, it will become talked.  It changes the meaning of the word.  Yet –ed is not a wordby itself. 

Consider the morpheme house.  It can be part of a word, like doghouse.  It can also be a small word by itself.

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